Thursday, December 29, 2016

Focus Your POV For More Powerful Writing

In the world of writers, a lot has been said about POV - Point of View. This refers to which character's "head we’re in”, whose thoughts we're privy to at any given moment.

My personal rule of thumb for novel writing is stay in one POV per scene, or better yet, per chapter. I even prefer this in what I also read.

I have enjoyed classic literature that fully embraces the omniscient POV in the same way I would enjoy hearing a narrator tell a great story. But other than that, I find “head-hopping” so distracting that I can’t concentrate on what I’m reading.

Many years ago I came across a scene in a book written by a famous author. It went something like this:


      Sara read the French wine list and held back a gasp when she saw the exorbitant prices. Over the top of his menu, Ben watched Sara, hoping he had impressed her with his choice of restaurant.

      The waiter arrived with the couple’s water, noting the expensive watch on the man’s wrist, and silk dress the woman wore. “I’ll give you two a few more moments before I take your order.” 


Three sentences, three points of view. Crazy, right?

The scene goes on like this for a while and then out of nowhere we no longer know what Ben is thinking. Apparently the author suddenly needed to withhold some info from us. It was a cheap trick, arbitrary and amateurish. I read no further.

I vowed to never head-hop. Yes, if I’m writing from the hero’s point of view, I can’t tell the reader right then what is also on the heroine’s mind. The hero gives us some clues as he observes her, but otherwise I, and the reader, will need to wait until the next scene or chapter to fully find out what the heroine is thinking.

Writing from one POV takes more time and patience, but it builds tension and gives impetus to the story

How important is POV to you as a writer? As a reader?

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