Monday, September 6, 2010

Point of View. Again.

I'm editing yet another manuscript where the author's point of view hops all over the place and I'm perplexed. Why is this happening?

Is there any way I can help writers understand this concept or learn this technique? What do you need to know? What don't you understand?

Because I'm getting cranky, people. Really, really cranky. To the point where, if I see even a shade of headhopping, I'm going to start rejecting manuscripts without a second thought. I don't want to do that, though. I'd really rather see if I can teach what needs to be taught and help writers--especially new writers--get published. I'm tired of trying to teach and edit at the same time. It's distracting me from the other things, like plot holes and grammar mistakes.

My attitude is becoming; "if you think you're advanced enough to be published, you'd better have a good understanding of point of view. Your homework should be done. You should be well-learned in your craft already. If you're not, go back to work until you get it. I'm here to edit your manuscript, not do a seminar for you." Grrr. (I should change back to Lighthearted Writer, Darkhearted Editor. Seriously. Grumble.)

But I don't like that attitude. I'm a teacher at heart and I want to help. Please, my few but wonderful readers, send your writer friends here and tell them to leave their questions about point of view in the comments, or send them to if they find they can't access the comment feature. Tell them all questions are good questions (as long as they pertain to the subject, of course). Tell me: What don't you understand? What do you need to know? Why don't you understand why you can't see one scene in multiple points of view?

The thing is, I remember being a new writer and joining a critique group.When they told me I needed to learn point of view, I went to the library (this was in the days before Google) and looked for books about it. I found one. And it didn't help. Instead, my patient crit partners taught me point of view.

It's a strange thing, really. It's so difficult to understand until that lightbulb moment, yet so simple once you get it. So--how can I help you turn on your lightbulb?


  1. I don't have a question, but it's not because I think I'm an expert about POV. Nothing of the kind. :-) When I took an online RWA class, I submitted an excerpt and the instructor pointed out that I "headhopped." Yes, it was brutal to hear, but she gave me a great tip. Pretend you are that character. Get inside the character's head. That way you can only see, hear, and know what the character experiences. It was difficult at first. Hell, I won't lie; it still is. Because it's not just knowing what POV to be in, it's knowing "why." And I'm sure I'm still messing up somewhere, but at least I try to be more conscious of it. Of course, this was deep POV. "The Power of Point of View" is on my reading list for this month.

    Happy writing!

  2. The way I do it, I write a chapter from one character's point of view. If I need another perspective, then I bring it in later, in it's own right, possibly reflecting on what just happened.
    That's not to say the lines sometimes blur, and I have to go back over a scene to fix it, but it definitely helps me to keep my head in the right place.
    And yes.
    Slip into the character's shoes. If you (the character) can't see it, then don't bring it in.

  3. I will admit that POV was a mystery for me at first. In much of the 'old' romances I used to read, there was head-hopping everywhere. I thought that was the way to write. LOL Imagine my surprise when I received my first round of edits! Today, POV is one of the things I look for when reviewing, editing, or critiquing. It drives me nuts!

    Have a Sparkling Day!

  4. There's a lightbulb?!

    PoV is a constant issue for me. It's like my fingers want to write omniscient when I want to write limited. ;)


  5. Luckily they caught my head-hopping with the first short story I submitted to the Critters Workshop. I've been cured since then but now find myself struggling to enjoy **good** omni 3rd person authors. Can't win.

  6. Well, see? Everyone (except YOU, Adam --keep writing first person, you'll be fine) seems to have a handle on it.

    What do writers need to know or learn in order to keep their point of view from hopping all over the place?

  7. So... The published and soon to be published novellas, the sequel to Reaper and the first of a trilogy that I'm editing should all be ditched? :-(


  8. I practiced by writing in first person, then editing the scene to third person. It helped me to learn to focus on that one character that's the scene's POV. I also get a little bit method with it now, too, making notes about what's going on in the character's head and what I want to accomplish with the scene, and even playing music that fits the character. I think all this has helped me improve with third person but I won't know for sure until someone reads what I'm working on now.

    The thing I still have trouble with is figuring out who has the most to lose in a scene, because I know that person should be the POV character. Sometimes I have to write a scene twice because I realize - no, it's the other character who has the most to lose here.

  9. It's funny, I'm so aware of it that when I run across it with some of my favorite authors it jars me out of the story for a moment. I do agree though, it's an "ah ha!" moment when it clicks into place and you realize it and wonder why the hell didn't I get this before?


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