The Page a Day Writers Group

The POV Blues

Posted on: November 26, 2009

I’m constantly learning something new about the world of writing, but I have to say, learning how to keep my POVs in check, has been my most challenging lesson.  POV, also known as Point of View, is critical to any fiction story.  It is through the view point of your characters that your story is told.  If not done well, moving from one POV to the next can easily confuse your reader.  You might start out in one character’s head, but suddenly share the thoughts of another, making your reader wonder ‘What just happened here?’  This is also known as “head hopping.”

Some authors can get away with switching POVs within a scene, but most of us shouldn’t try it.  The last thing you want is to bamboozle your reader and have them reading a portion of your novel several times, not because they’re enjoying it, but because you’ve lost them. Too many view points or poor transitions from one view to the next, can easily ruin a story.

It’s good to limit your POV switches to either scenes and in some cases chapters.  Virginia Farmer, author of several romance novels, offers a few suggestions on how to make your POV transitions smooth. 

  • Write an entire chapter in one character’s view point
  • Write an entire scene in one character’s view point and then insert a paragraph break to signal your reader to the shift.
  • Signal with the character’s name, or indicate clearly that there is a POV shift.

 Whichever process works best for you, be consistent; keep that same method throughout your story.  Though I use at least two POVs, the heroine’s and the hero’s, I typically write an entire scene in one character’s point of view.  To keep myself from falling into the POV blues and from “head hopping” I zone in on the character whose view point I want to capture during a particular scene.  What they think, see, smell, hear or can touch – it’s all about them.

 For me, having more than one point of view gives my readers an opportunity to know what’s going on with other characters in the story and get their perspective on the situation.  But the most important part is mastering the use of point of view, which in turn will create wonderful, fulfilling stories that keep readers turning the pages.

 Sharon C. Cooper


1 Response to "The POV Blues"

Great post, Sharon. I think many of us suffer from the POV blues (though I myself am an admitted and committed ‘head hopper’).

Some authors will do the scene over again from another character’s POV to solve their head hopping jones. In “The Robber Bride”, Margaret Atwood did several of the scenes from each characters’ POV which proves the point that perspective on life is everything!

Thanks for the input!

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!


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