Monday, December 5, 2016

A Crash Course in POV: Part Two by Annette M. Irby

Camera lens and focus*

Last month, we began our series on POV (point of view). You can read that post here. Welcome to part two. As promised, I’ve included several definitions to help us navigate POV as we write. 

Every scene requires a POVC (point-of-view character). At the beginning of each scene, ground us in the POVC’s perspective so we can: 1) view the setting; 2) feel the POVC’s feelings; 3) care to keep reading; and 4) not have characters materializing on the page.

From that chosen POVC, describe the setting as the scene opens. If certain other characters are present, and our POVC knows it, show us. One of the mistakes I often see is characters materializing suddenly because the author didn’t show us who was present. Readers might think: where did he come from?

To help ground readers in one character’s perspective, you’ll first need to decide which character to choose for the scene you’re writing. To do this, ask: which character has the most to lose? Choose that character as your POVC and then leverage that emotion/angst/tension for a satisfying reading experience.

Now, here are some definitions:

Omniscient POV: Describing a scene from a third-party’s perspective. This is when writers do not choose a main character through which to give us the narrative. Like we discussed last month, omniscient POV was once commonplace. Currently the trend is purist POV (see definition below). One of the biggest problems with omniscient POV, besides the fact that this technique isn’t what today’s readers expect from new fiction, is that it reads like author intrusion. Oftentimes, it comes across as sounding opinionated, and/or it reads like non-fiction (in a fiction manuscript). Most readers are turned off by author intrusion and/or reader feeding. Omniscient POV also distances readers from the MCs’ (main characters’) experience and emotions, which will mean having a less satisfying fiction reading experience.

Purist POV: Remaining in one character’s perspective for an entire scene or chapter. Only give what the point-of-view character would experience with his/her five senses, and how that person interprets what’s happening around him/her.

Head hopping: This is when a writer switches between POVCs within a single scene or chapter, without using a scene break symbol. Once you commit to your scene’s POVC, stay in that person’s head.

Collective POV: This is my own term, and I use it to refer to sharing more than one characters’ experiences at one time, like: they all felt better once the lights came back on. This writer has told us how everyone feels, rather than staying in one character’s POV. A better way to say this would be to say: Everyone sighed with relief, OR everyone seemed to feel better…

Multiple POV: This is when a book is written through several POVCs’ experiences, like an ensemble cast. This is fine, so long as each chapter or scene is written in one POVC’s perspective.  

One more tip: your POVC’s gender influences how they tell their parts of the story. Let their dialogue and inner monologue be in their gender’s voice.

Are there exceptions to these guidelines? Sure. Each genre has its own “rules.” Just know, when an agent or acquisitions editor sits down with your manuscript, they’ll be looking for the basics in your writing technique, including POV.

Your turn: Do you have any questions about POV? Have you learned a few tricks that help you stay aware of who your POVC is for a given scene or chapter? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. 

Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has three published books and 
runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing
See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.

Photo credit: the awesome people at Pixabay.