is POV and How Do I Get One?
what is POV?
of View is the way the story is told, through
that narrator’s point of view. You can have omniscient
which is basically the narrator is all-knowing
and all-seeing. The narrator can tell you that
the protagonist doesn’t see the bad guy
hiding behind the door. Why would the narrator
tell you (the reader) this? It creates
suspense - you know what could happen and
you’re wondering if it will, if the
protagonist will figure it out, if the
protagonist will get attacked, etc. Omniscient
gives the author a lot of ability to inform
the reader of things. Think of it as a
god-view of the story where the narrator knows
everything and can tell you everything.
light craft bobbed along the waves of the
, calm for once, toward the distant horizon,
its passengers immobile on the deck, their
skin burnt a searing red by five days at sea.
They wouldn’t last much longer. But
surprisingly, one of them stirred.
person POV. He said, she did, etc. This
kind of writing is how most fiction is
written, but nothing is set in stone and first
person has become more prevalent recently.
Third person takes you into the characters’
heads. Purists say you can’t switch POV in a
scene, but there is another class of thought
that you can. I say, if the scene merits
knowing both characters’ (or more) POV, then
go with it, but make sure it’s a seamless
writing third person, usually, if you’ve
built your characters’ voices well enough,
you don’t need dialogue tags for them. If
each has a distinctive speech/thought pattern,
as each of us does, you should be able to
“hear” the character’s voice. Also, when
writing from that character’s narration, be
aware of unnecessary words such as “John
felt, John knew, John realized, he thought,
etc.” Why? Because if John is telling the
story, we know that John felt it or realized
it or saw it by virtue of the fact that he’s
narrating it. Conversely, you can’t have
John narrate something he’s not aware of. If
John is the hero and he doesn’t know
there’s a bad guy behind the door, you
opened the door and fumbled with the light,
completely unaware that Lex Luthor waited just
behind the door.
opened the door and fumbled with the light. He
had a thing about entering darkened
apartments. That, and the fact that the hairs
on the back of his neck were standing up.
With this, you get his uneasiness, but
he doesn’t know why - nor do you, so
you’re right there with him wondering
what’s going to happen. Or you could have
him enter the apartment completely oblivious
to the threat, which will then surprise the
heck out of the reader - if that’s what the
author wants to do with that scene, then
be aware of what a character can and can’t
lifted the rock. Bingo. The box with the
coins. He reached in. This was it. His blue
eyes widened. He was set for life.
can’t see his eyes widen, so he can’t
narrate that. He also isn’t going to think “my
blue eyes widened.” Most of us rarely
think about the color of our eyes and
certainly not in that context. We don’t say,
blue eyes are really tired.” We say, “My
eyes are tired. I should have gotten more
be cognizant of what the character would know
for their age/gender/life station/experience.
Princess Leia is not going to think about her
Manolo Blahniks. Little Orphan Annie won’t
want a Rolex and the eight-year-old telling
the nice police lady what she saw isn’t
going to say, “The perpetrator jumped into
his Porsche 944 and sped off like a bat out of
hell.” (Okay, I’m being cheeky, but you
get the idea.)
words, like felt, saw, realized, recognized,
knew, etc., remove you from the deep POV you
want to create. It sets us back from the
action, whereas, if you just give us the
thought, we’re right there in the
characters’ heads. See the difference in the
two sentences below:
watched Kal as he bent over his work,
sweating. She realized he needed to have this
talk. She knew she sure did.
bent over his work, sweating. He needed to
talk to her. She needed him to.
the second example, we’re actually in Dana’s head,
not Kal's, empathizing with her, feeling her desperation
as she sees Kal’s and it pulls the reader
into the story more. You want your reader
invested in your characters and their story so
they (the readers) can’t put the book down.
You give a reader the chance to put the book
down, and they can go to sleep for the night.
They might not pick it up again. But, invest
them in the story/characters and even if they
have to put the book down, it will prey on
their mind and they’ll pick it up at the
first opportunity. This is hooking the reader
and the way to get them reading all of your
stuff, and, therefore, creating the demand for
more of your stuff.
person POV now. First person is “I.”
a naked man in my kitchen.
thought registers just as the terse, “Who
are you?” has me spinning around faster than
a figure skater on speed.
mean, really. A naked man. In my kitchen.
person has its constraints: you can only have
“I” narrate what “I” knows. “I”
can’t know that on the opposite side of
town, a clothing designer is out to thwart her
view of the naked man by designing a wardrobe
just for him. (Okay, being facetious here, but you get my drift.)
“I” isn’t in anyone else’s head.
isn’t to say you can’t switch POV in a
first person story. Julie Kenner does an
awesome job in The Givenchy Code of
doing first person for the heroine and third
for the hero. Others have done first person
from several characters - it’s all in the
as I’ve said, allows you to have the reader
connect with your characters. It allows you to
SHOW more about the characters without
telling. For example, look at how much more we
learn about our narrator in the second
sat in the boardroom as everyone filed in.
All the department heads chose their special
seat at the table, awaiting her presentation.
She knew they thought she couldn’t do it.
And she knew she’d show them.
the geeks filed by her, taking their
pre-destined seats at the boardtable - the
freaking knights of the corporate round table.
Well, she’d show them she wasn’t some
blonde bimbo who filled out a sweater. All her
life she’d been fighting that image and won.
She was going to once more.
get her contempt at their perception and how
she feels about them in the second one,
whereas the first is more scene setting -
you’re removed from what she’s
feeling/thinking. The second gives us a
physical description and from her thought we
can see her determination and strength of
POV lends itself to showing instead of
telling. The actual thought a character has is
much more powerful than the character telling
what that thought is.
put her hands on her hips and wondered just
who the hell he thought he was to ask her what
she was doing in the kitchen.
put her hands on her hips. Who the hell did he
think he was? What did he mean, what was she
He'd hired her, for pete's sake!
get more “oomph” from the second one and
if you write the novel that way, you’ll draw
the reader in more.
things to know about POV - you don’t need to
underline internal thought. If we’re in that
character’s POV then that’s their
thought/their narrative. When should you
underline it? When the character hears voices
- supernatural, his/her conscience, a
particularly wistful memory/thought…
punctuation and sentence structure to show
feeling rather than telling us.
Her legs were…wobbly?
“I WON’T!” She ran and ran and ran after
"Um... Oh." Great. Freaking great.
good way to transition from one person's POV
to another's is to do something like this:
Character A's speech/internal monologue.
Narrative/action that isn't POV specific.
Character B's reaction/thought.
not a scientific method, but a generalization.
poured her heart into the kiss, surrendering
to him, letting him take what he needed.
Kal answered her body's plea with his, leaning
into her, over her. His arms tightened. (this
could be either's POV - nonspecific)
"Dana..." God, she felt better than
he remembered. Hell. He was an ass. How could
he let anything get between them? Between
continue the scene from there in his POV.
is a device to not only tell the story, but to
convey the story. Emotions, that gut reaction,
that’s what connects with the reader. This
is one more tool in your arsenal.
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