Point of View

A writing topic recently discussed in two of my chapter email loops is point of view (POV). This is a subject that causes a lot of controversy among writers because everyone does it differently. In the world of romance writing there are certain "rules," though I'm not even sure who came up with these rules. Bestselling authors get away with writing the way they want and ask, "Rules? What rules? When I started, I switched POV anytime I wanted and still do." Some switch POV five or ten times in one page, even within one sentence. New or unpublished authors are stuck in the trap of having to follow the rules of one POV per scene (or no more than one switch in POV per scene) or get terrible contest scores back and rejections from editors and agents. Neither method is wrong, just a preference. And your placement in the publishing world dictates which rules you can break.

Words associated with different kinds of POV are...
head-hopping: switching multiple times from heroine's head to hero's head to secondary character's head within a page.
omniscient POV: viewing the scene from a God-like perspective where you know all.
deep POV: being deep inside one person's psyche for a long stretch. Knowing only what that person knows and taking in info from their perceptions. Having their thoughts and filtering everything through their mind.
first person: when the POV character is from the "I" perspective.
third person: when the POV character is a he or she.

There is no right or wrong way to do POV so long as you do it well. I am a POV purist up to a point. When I'm in one POV, I stay there for a while, like say, half a scene. I don't head-hop nor enjoy reading books that head-hop every paragraph because it's distracting and I'm always conscious I'm reading. It prevents me from getting that fantasy escape, probably because I know the "rules". Before I started writing, head-hopping didn't bother me.

I used to put a scene break anytime I changed pov, mid-scene or whatever because other writers told me I had to. Well, I stopped doing that (probably because someone said I should, ack, rules!) and I like the way I do the pov changes now much better with no scene break. I try to use the Suzanne Brockman method of switching. I think she's the one who teaches it. Wondering what this is? She can explain it much better than I can, but basically it's where you have a section deep in one character's pov, then you write a line or two of almost omniscient POV, or neutral POV, (you're in no one's head.) This can feature a setting detail or something, describing what a secondary character or walk-on is doing, then you slip into the other character's head with the next sentence while the reader was distracted. And use the character's name with the first sentence in his/her head. So it's like taking a camera from one person's shoulder, lifting it up and placing it on the other person's shoulder, except going deeper than a camera because you know the character's thoughts.

I love doing hero POV. I think it's a lot of fun and I've been told it's one of my strengths. My books are about 50/50 with hero/heroine. I also do villain POV in my last two novel manuscripts, and that has been an interesting learning experience. My short stories are first person from one POV only, usually the heroine.

To decide when to switch POV or whose POV to use in a scene, I use gut instinct. Whichever seems more interesting and fitting. Whoever has the most at stake. If a scene isn't working from one character's POV, I'll go back and rewrite the scene in the other character's POV. I find this often fixes scenes that just feel wrong, especially if it's a big conflict scene and both characters need strong motivation. Sometimes in order for a certain character to remain sympathetic, it needs to be in their POV so their motivation is clear to the reader.

How do you feel about POV?


Lexi said...

Ugh, POV? I'm sorry. I didn't read your whole post. My eyes glazed over.

Um, I have a hard time reading a book now if the writer head-hops. I used to do it. I'm like you. If the scene isn't working, I'll rewrite it from another POV and that usually works. I use the extra line of space between POV's, but I'm trying to coach myself to switch smoothly within the scene.

Hey, thanks for the link!

Liz Falkner said...

I don't really think about POV so much anymore. When I first started writing, it was such a big thing. I tend to be more of a purist, of sorts. LOL. I'll stay in a character's head for a while, but I have been known to switch in the middle of a scene using a transition device such as Suzanne Brockman uses.

My current WIP has a villain's POV as well and it's been a joy to write.