My #MidWeekPOV – January 13, 2016

POV

I’m looking forward to starting this new feature, and have several topics in mind already that I hope you’ll all enjoy, and will want to pass along. I hope I don’t start off by getting into trouble with my first post. Gleep. But here it is.

Today, my POV is about . . . ready? . . . POV’s! In your books, specifically.

I’m always surprised when I hear people say they hate a book with different Points of View. Why, I wonder? Surely as they read, they wonder what’s going on in the heads of each character? Of course, it would be difficult (and probably annoying) to read a book that featured the thoughts of everybody in the story, but there’s likely plenty of room to include the thoughts of a few of the main characters. So, I’ll say it right now: I love a book that lets me see into the minds of more than one person, especially if it lets me see what the villain of theΒ  piece is thinking, now and then. Multiple points of view can enrich a story on every level for me.

This doesn’t mean a book has to have them. I’ve read entire series where the only brain I’ve been let into is the main character, and I’ve loved them. So that’s all well and good. But if a book does have multiple POV’s, and they’re done well, then that’s a whole ‘nuther kind of fun. However, the writer has to be careful not to confuse the reader, and therein lies the trick.

Here are the two keys for me. It is essential that I always know whose head I’m in, and that the person whose POV I’m enjoying never says anything they couldn’t possibly know.

In other words, when an author switches from one character’s thoughts to another, it should be very, very clear that we are “visiting” a new mind. A writer should never change horses in mid-stream, and that means they need to use a device to delineate when someone new is taking over the story. And the easiest way to do that is to start a new chapter, or at the very least, a new scene, when changing POV’s. The new chapter will be set apart automatically, and a new scene needs to be set apart as well. I like to use a divider of some sort when I’m changing scenes, usually just a pretty dingbat or a series of asterisks. Something that clearly marks the end of one scene and the beginning of another.

If you are careful to make sure it’s clear when you change POV’s, you’ll keep the reader from becoming confused. And then you just have to watch that you don’t have your characters thinking or saying something they wouldn’t know or be able to see themselves. For instance, if John is your new POV, you can’t write “John’s remarkable brown eyes reflected the firelight.” John can’t see his own eyes, remarkable or not, so he can’t know they are reflecting the firelight. That’s an observation that would be made by whoever John is talking to, and wouldn’t be in John’s mind. Therefore, don’t say it when writing from John’s POV.

And there you have it. If you are careful to set off your changes in points of view, you can use them to give your readers a wider picture of your story, and let them be engaged more closely with your various characters, especially your main two. Just be careful to delineate between each switch, and not to include things your character couldn’t possibly know or see.

If you’ve never tried writing from more than POV, I recommend giving it a chance, and see how you like it. It’s not something you have to do, but I think it’s a good idea for a writer to know how to do it in a way that works. Hopping back and forth between minds in one scene or conversation is a real bad idea, but doing multiple POV’s correctly is fun and entertaining. Hope you’ll give it a try now and then.

Β Do note, please, that none of the above refers to Omniscient POV. I find very few books where that is done well, as it is apparently quite difficult. I’m simply talking about changing from your protagonist’s point of view to another character.

And that’s My #MidWeekPOV for today. Just one author’s Point of View forΒ  your consideration.

33 thoughts on “My #MidWeekPOV – January 13, 2016

  1. Good post Marcia. I comletely agree with your point about ‘jumping’ between POV’s. I took a huge gamble with my latest novel, OWEN (about Owen Tudor). I’d just read Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ and decided to experiment with first-person present-tense. I wanted to achieve that feeling of being part of the action, rather than a distant observer. Some reviewers say they struggles at first, others that they didn’t even notice until they were half way through the book! (It is now an Amazon UK best seller, so my ‘gamble’ has paid off.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, congratulations on your success, Tony! That’s marvelous!!

      I love to see multiple POV’s in a book, and I also love at least the main character being written in first person. I sometimes struggle, too, with present tense, and find it somewhat limiting to write, but I’ve seen it done well, and I’m guessing yours is, or your book wouldn’t be a best seller. I’m adding it to my TBR pile, btw, and will be interested to see how you’ve managed it. Sometimes you have to take a gamble or two so that your work stands out from everyone else’s.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment here, and if you are interested in sharing an excerpt from Owen with our followers, please let me know. Would be happy to have you put it up, and let everyone share far and wide. Have a great day!

      Like

  2. I absolutely agree with what you say in your post. Omniscient POV was especially used by classic authors. No longer in use.
    I like to read/write books presenting more POVs. But, as you point, it should be clear whose POV you are in. Head-hopping is confusing and will make the reader leave aside the book. (Not always – I have in mind Nora Roberts’s novels that abound in head-hopping and I see there’s no problem with it.) My editor would make a fit if I wrote like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that head-hopping is not the best way to go , and frankly, I find it disturbing every time. I remember the last Nora Roberts I read. I was enjoying the story, but that skipping back and forth through various minds was extremely distracting for me.

      Some people still try using Omniscient POV, though I’m not sure they are doing it on purpose. It seldom works for me.

      Nice to see you here, today, Carmen. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m one of those people who usually prefers one point of view. Why? Most authors do multiple points of view very badly, so I end up really only liking reading one character’s point of view and rushing through the others’ chapters to get back to the protagonist I enjoy. This is especially true if the author includes chapters from the villain’s POV — I very rarely want to spend much time in a psychopath’s mind.

    That said, well-done multiple POV is really excellent. I think the trick is to have a save-the-cat moment for each character whose point of view you follow so the reader is fully invested in each one, and also to have them all deeply intertwined so the reader is thinking about each POV character all the time. A shared goal (or antithetical goals) can provide this effect, and so can the classic his-chapter, her-chapter romance-novel structure.

    I still like first-person, single points of view best, though. The depth, in my opinion, more than makes up for the lack of breadth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As always, your comments provide lots of food for thought, Aimee. I agree that not everyone has the multiple POV thing down well. But when it IS done well, it is by far my favorite approach, especially in lengthy books (like epic fantasy, for instance). Sometimes I really NEED to know what other characters are up to and why. And since I enjoy a good love story woven through the rest of the tale, I especially like to know what the hero AND the heroine are thinking and doing.

      Having said that, my favorite Urban Fantasy of all time, The Dresden Files, is written entirely from Harry Dresden’s POV, and I’m not tired of his mind after fifteen books. Of course, Harry’s mind is not quite like anyone else’s, and the world he’s coping with is wildly entertaining, so that might be a factor. At any rate, I’m not put off by a single POV book, at least not for that one reason. But I’m far more entertained when the book expands itself to include other characters. And I’m more engaged in them, as well.

      One thing I do find works beautifully for me is for the main character’s POV to be first person, and the rest, third. That keeps the protagonist’s thoughts and actions set apart, and gives them more importance, I think. Of course, there are as many opinions on things like this as there are readers. This is just my own, and should be taken as such.

      Like

  4. I wrote my current novel from three POV and it was been challenging, but the story was definitely enriched by having all those thoughts come out. I’m at the beginning stage of querying agents. I’m hoping they appreciate the different POV!

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI, Marie! How exciting that you are in the query process. Best of luck to you with that. Your book is getting closer and closer to the top of my TBR pile, and I’m looking forward to it. With the setting here in central Florida, I’m sure it’s going to be lots of fun to read.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and good for you for trying multiple POV’s. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I know that other authors might disagree, but “head-hopping” is annoying in a book. In one sentence, you’re in the heroine’s mind; the next, the hero’s. Expedient, perhaps. The best choice? Probably not.

    Writing in first person can train an author to experience the world through one set of eyes at a time. When I’m approaching the next segment of a multiple-viewpoint story, I ask myself which character would be the best vehicle for the part. Who stands to gain or lose the most? How will he/she move the story forward and engage the reader?

    Volumes have been written about POV. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules, there are guidelines authors can follow to improve the flow of communication. “Omniscience” robs a story of its tension and mystery. It’s better to put in that little bit of extra effort than it is to cut corners…

    Great post, Marcia! Thanks for allowing me to participate in the conversation.

    Liked by 3 people

    • In no way do I ever advocate head-hopping. I agree, It confuses the reader and is annoying in the extreme. At least to me. But well defined POV’s set apart as new chapters or scenes really add to my enjoyment of a book. Yes, there should be one main character, and I thoroughly enjoy that character’s POV being in first person. But hopping straight from one mind to another simply doesn’t work, even when it’s done intentionally. (More often, it’s an accident, or done by someone who doesn’t understand the proper structure for using multiple POV’s. That makes it even worse.)

      I particularly like knowing what one character is doing or thinking at the same time as another character. Perhaps after two characters have been introduced to each other for the first time. It’s often fun to “hear” what one person took away from the meeting, and contrast it with a scene that tells us what another person took from the same meeting. If done right, that can be a lot of fun, and can give readers a deeper insight into who these two people really are.

      Nope, no hard and fast rules as to whether to use one POV or multiple. Just some pretty good guidelines on how to do multiple POV’s well, and avoid confusing your readers.

      Good to hear your thoughts today, Linda! Thanks, as always, for all you contribute to this blog! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve read many books where more than one POV is used, and I enjoy them. They provide a different perspective on the story. My novels are a mixture: sometimes multiple POVs and sometimes singular. It all depends on the story.

    Multiple POVs have been around forever, so imagine my surprise when I was reading reviews and found some readers hate them. Some take it as a very negative aspect of a book and run it down. But it’s not negative–unless a writer is head-hopping from one character to another in one scene. It is just another way to write a book.

    Personally, I set limits on the number of POVs within a story to two or three. Short stories have only one. Each of my fantasy novels “Shadows in the Stone” and “Scattered Stones” has three each. It allows me to share information about the plot with readers without letting a main character know.

    I do as you suggest: change scenes or start another chapter to switch POVs. This way it is clear whose head we are in.

    It’s good that you are discussing POV. I’ve read many drafts by new writers who don’t understand it. I believe all new writers suffer from head-hopping when they first start writing. It’s just one step to writing well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I couldn’t have said it better, Diane! I agree with everything you’ve written. And I remember being just as surprised the first time I read a comment (on Goodreads, no less, where you’d think some might know better) on how horrible multiple POVs were. One person commented on how rude it was, and she was referring to a book I’d read, so I knew it had been done very well. I was appalled. And woe be unto anyone who disagreed with these folks, who blamed the whole concept on ignorance of the authors in question, and fads. Fads? I think not. Gleep.

      There are some out there who will use any excuse to run down books. Maybe they think poor reviews make them look insightful and intelligent. I don’t know. But my grandmother always said, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” That’s why I quit leaving negative reviews a couple of years ago. I realized there were plenty of people out there to do it for me, and I could just concentrate on reviewing books I wanted to share with others. And I certainly would never have left a poor review because I preferred a single POV in my books. That’s just a subjective preference, and not an indication of bad writing. (At least, not if it’s done well.)

      Believe me, my editor will call me on it pretty quickly if I write a single line that isn’t part of what my POV character would know or see. Nothing beats careful revision, and sharp editors. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts today. This discussion has been pretty interesting, I must say. I’ve enjoyed it.

      Like

  7. Great post, Marcia, covering one of the favourite topics of my writer’s group, particularly when we have a newbie and they don’t understand how to handle viewpoint. You’ve written a concise post about it, and made it really clear. πŸ˜€
    Head hopping is a big no-no for me; if I start reading a book like that I usually don’t finish. I did read one recently in Omniscient, and that took some effort as I really don’t care for it, almost as much as I dislike present tense! Having said that, I’ve enjoyed books in both formats, they just have to be particularly well done to pull it off.
    I’ve always written with multiple POV’s, usually three to a book, until I decided to tackle Urban Fantasy, and one of the conventions there is first person single viewpoint (at least, in the opinion of most literary agents). I found it a fascinating challenge to develop the plot clearly for the reader, whilst working within the limits of what only one character would know.
    Going back to my Epic Fantasy series, (after experiencing Game of Thrones and its mega-multi viewpoints), I’ve expanded the number of VP characters I’m handling, and that’s a new challenge too! I began with six, then decided it was too unwieldy, took out two and gave them their own, separate novella, and settled on four in the main book. Like you, I’ve really enjoyed showing the same scene from more than one VP, to show how differently individuals might interpret the same circumstances.
    I do enjoy the challenge of expanding my writing skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you weighed in on this, Deb. Wow, six POV’s? Daunting, indeed! I usually work with two or three, but in Swamp Ghosts, I juggled four. However, one, in particular, was never more than 2 or 3 paragraphs, when an unidentified character was out getting up to no good. My heroine was first person, and given the most importance. It was really her story. But I wanted to stress what a genuinely good person the main male character was, so I let folks into his mind here and there, too. I’ve been told it worked well, though that might be beginner’s luck. But I probably wouldn’t ever do four again.

      Also, in response to something said earlier, just because you might get a peek into the “villain’s” head now and then, doesn’t necessarily mean the writer is going to give away key points to the mystery. I like to raise more questions than I answer with that peek, when I can.

      I have to agree that I have trouble with anything written in the present tense. To me, it often sounds contrived. BUT, like you, I’ve read it done well on occasion, and enjoyed it. I’d rather read present tense coming from a strong writer than past tense coming from a weak one, for sure. So there’s a lot of latitude, and plenty of room for good writers to break a few rules (mine, or in general) and get away with it.

      I’m really enjoying hearing from everyone on this subject. Thanks for taking the time to comment! πŸ™‚

      Like

      • I realised early on that adding the villain’s POV in a limited way was a great addition, and I’ve done it again in this book. I don’t think the book would be half the story is it without that, even though, like you, his bits are pretty short compared to the other characters.
        And I’ve noticed how you’ve handled your VPs in Swamp Ghosts – I’m reading it right now…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, wow. Now I’m nervous! 😯 I think of you as reading so many things on an epic scale, it’s hard for me to picture you reading my little love story. Okay, yeah, deranged serial killer, and lots of reptiles, but still. Not a dragon in sight. Nor a prince or mage. Gleep. Crossing my fingers that you enjoy it, anyway. (It has absolutely no redeeming social value, you know. But it does have a lot of Florida in it and a very good looking and good-hearted hero. If you like those sorts of things.) πŸ˜€

          Liked by 1 person

            • Pinned all over my Inspiration Board!!! Hahahahahahaha. I swear, I’ve known several men very like Gunn. Only shorter. And less well built. And maybe not quite as handsome. Or as nice. (snort!) Oh, that’s right. They were nothing like Gunn at all! πŸ˜€

              My first book had a very troubled man in it, and I thought it would be interesting to write about an extremely nice one, affable and well-liked, who was also drop-dead gorgeous, but was genuinely a good soul. So I made the woman the basket case, instead. Ha!

              And all joking aside, I once knew a man very like that, though sadly, he was already taken when I met him. And his wife didn’t look like she’d deal well with anyone trying to usurp his affections. So I merely observed from afar, and a lot of Gunn comes from what I saw in him. I think he was a one-off, though. I never met another like him. 😦

              Like

    • Thanks, Deb. Me, I just think there are a lot of ways to tell a tale, and multiple points of view is a valid one, done right. I love it. But as I mentioned, I’ve also loved many books written from a singular one, as well. Mostly, it depends on the skill of the writer, and how well they manage to get me invested in each character. Multiple POVs usually does that better, for me, but either way will work, done right. And condemning all stories told from multiple POVs just seems silly.

      Just my own take on it. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is very interesting Marcia, particularly as I have always found writing POV issues hard. I finally got round to getting my novel critiqued and it has been such a worthwhile thing to do, I just wish I’d done this ages ago. Soon I will be editing it with a view to self publishing. You’ll be interested to know that there are more than one POV in the novel, even though the majority of the story is told via the eyes of the main protagonist Amelina. Hope I get there in the end, writing is such a long road, so much harder than I ever imagined, I just have to keep on going….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree. Jumping is a no-no and done correctly multiple POV’s should be fine. I did, however, find it disconcerting reading a book recently when the author switched back and forth (by chapter) from first person point of view for the protagonist to third person for the rest. Just didn’t work well for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, and I’m just the opposite. That’s my favorite approach. The fantasy I’m reading right now, in fact, does exactly that. Every chapter featuring the protagonist is first person, lending it strength and importance (to me), and every chapter featuring one of the secondary characters is 3rd person. And of my own 4 novels, only one is told completely in 3rd person. The rest are done just this way, because I enjoy it so much. It works very well, I think, but again, this is one of those subjective things.

      As with genres and writing styles, what works for one reader doesn’t work for another, and it’s all good. As long as it’s done well, of course.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Good to hear from you.

      Like

Looking forward to hearing what YOU think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s