What’s Your View On Point Of View?

Point of View? Something else I have to consider? When will I ever finish these books?

Some of my characters are frustrated. Specifically, those from Summer at the Crossroads. They’re tired of waiting for me to finish Death Out of Time, the book I think would find the “biggest” audience for a new writer.

They forced me to look at their manuscript again. They read the beta review comments for the other book, and they’re afraid readers will point out similar problems. Their biggest concern? Point of view (POV).

The book is written in 3rd person, limited omniscience. We get into several characters’ heads while telling the story. We’re not limited to one character’s perspective.

The potential problem is that, as written, we can be in two characters’ heads in one scene. Some readers really dislike that. Others don’t mind. In this manuscript, one character always dominates the scene. But sometimes we get a glimpse into another character’s thoughts—never in the same paragraph, though. That is bad writing. But I have some paragraphs where we get into another character’s head.

If this was a traditional book, moving from beginning to end with one set of characters, I would clean this up without a second thought. But it’s not. We meet our “main” character, Catherine Donnelly, in the opening chapter. Then we spend 1/3rd of the book with an alternate self, Katharine Donnelly, in another universe. Then we spend a chapter with Catherine again. Then it’s her alternate Kathryn Donnellan for another section. Back to a chapter with Catherine. Then we get the story of alternate Katarina O’Donnell. And we finish with Catherine for a chapter.

Are you still with me? I hope so. Early test readers enjoyed it.

In this format, I can’t give too many characters major POV roles. But I think glimpses of other characters’ thoughts beyond the few mains help flesh out the story. Will a reading audience agree with me, though? Or would this be too distracting? Here’s a sample to show what I have in this draft. It’s part of one scene where Katharine is the main POV character.

Katharine worked from home in early August, writing up a National Science Foundation report on the abbreviated field season in Guatemala when the doorbell rang. Her old advisor stood at the door.

“Kendall, come on in! Why didn’t you call?”

Kendall Jenkins grinned as he hugged her. “Come on, Kat. You know how much I love to surprise people.”

Katharine laughed as she had him sit down. After she poured iced tea and sliced some baklava, she joined him in the living room. He had aged since she saw him last year, but he was in his late seventies. Had it really been twenty-five years since they met?

“So what brings you here? Is everything okay?”

Kendall smiled when he saw the baklava. Back in their field days together, he feared Katharine would go through withdrawal at the beginning of the season without her favorite sweet. He picked up a small plate while Katharine prepared to serve dessert. But a lifetime’s career led him to turn it in his hands and study the pattern and form of the modern ceramic.

Katharine watched affectionately as she waited for him to finish his examination. Still the archaeologist, even after all this time, she thought.

You see where we slip into Kendall’s head for a few sentences, giving us some insight into Katharine.

I reworked this so that Kendall’s thoughts became dialogue. He teases Katharine about her love of baklava. But I can’t do that elsewhere. For example, a Russian embassy officer isn’t going to tell State Department officer Kathryn Donnellan why he’s questioning her in a certain way. But being in his head at key points lets readers see the bigger picture of the story.

I’d really appreciate your opinions on whether this works or is too distracting. And I’m just as interested in opinions from readers who aren’t writers as I am from writers.

So here’s a first for the blog—a poll where you can share your views. Of course, I’d also love comments with more details if you’d like to leave one.

Thank you for participating! Your thoughts will help me (and the characters) make this book the best it can be.

No Fireworks Photos

On a side note, our county canceled all fireworks displays for the 4th of July. Too many people were still without electricity from June 29th’s derecho, and more than 140 signal lights were still out. They didn’t want to overburden emergency services or risk major accidents on the roads. A wise precaution. But it means no fireworks photos like I’d hoped. I’ll try again next year. Maybe Mother Nature will cooperate then.

69 thoughts on “What’s Your View On Point Of View?

  1. Third person point of view is fine. There are many instances where you get to “see” the antagonists thoughts as well as the protagonists houghts in many books. The standard way to do that is by having speperate chapters that focus on each seperately, thus giving them the spotlight; But there are times when it works together such as the imagnary fight scene in the movie, “Sherlock Holmes -Game of Shadows”.

    It’s a tool that works well. Don’t be afraid to use it.

    • Hi, Gene, thanks for commenting. This book is so different, I really appreciate your thoughts. Most agent/editor advice says don’t slip into a second character’s head within a single scene, but I see a lot of traditionally published books by agent-represented authors that do it. No confusion there, right?

      I’m curious how the comments and votes will fall on this one! :)

  2. Can I tell you once again how enlightening you are?!?

    I have read voraciously since 3rd grade, yet not until finding your blog did I ever once think about the mechanics and strategy of storytelling. Might some of these techniques been explained in a class? Somehow, I graduated from a Jesuit college without taking any courses from the English Dept! (actually strike that! I know how it happened: the-radical-at-heart Jebbies threw out core curriculum the year I got to campus! It was the ’70s! :roll: )

    Anyhow please excuse this longwinded way of saying,” thanks for being my first writing teacher!” I look forward to learning more!

    Have a great weekend!

    • Aw, I’m blushing over here! :) I wish I would’ve paid a bit more attention to those mechanics before I dived in to writing. :D From what other writers have said, their muses don’t like to work that way, either. So I shouldn’t feel too bad.

      It’s funny, now that I’ve started writing, I find myself reading in two different ways. Part of my brain looks at those mechanics and strategies to see if they’re working well, and can I pick up any pointers. But another part also better appreciates the hard work it took to write a good book. Talent is only one piece of the puzzle!

      I hope you’ll find more entertainment and education in upcoming posts. :) I’m learning a lot about gardening from your blog, too. So when my husband and I do finally buy another house, I know where some ideas will come from. :)

  3. As a reader, I see no problem at all. AND, I’m looking forward to the finished book. It looks fascinating! How do you keep so many worlds moving along? Never mind, I’ll find out when it’s published!

    • Thanks, Margarita! Good notes—it requires good notes! The Muse couldn’t give me a simple, straightforward story for my first novel. Oh, no. She gave me this one. Catherine has a lay interest in cosmology and string theory. And she’ll talk with a friend about that to introduce this idea of hers…. Don’t worry! We don’t go into real detail about string theory, just Catherine’s idea about how it could explain vivid dreams and deja vu….

      I’ve just got to finish the darn thing. Oh, wait…. There’s the other one I’m supposed to finish first. The one I think would be more marketable…. Somehow, I will get this done! :D

  4. I didn’t take the poll, because my choice would be: “No, it’s not distracting to me, but proceed with caution when trying to find representation or a publisher.” There. How’s that for a poll response? I guess where I’m coming from is that it’s hard enough for a first-timer to get published, and from what I’ve read, if we don’t do it “by the book,” then we only make it that much harder. This isn’t always true, however, but unless one’s an established author, an agent or editor may read through some pages, see a switch in POV within the same scene, and decide the author doesn’t “know” the rules, even though in your case, that’s not how it is at all.

    Here’s my own personal experience: one agent read the first chapter of my manuscript years ago, said the story was interesting, but a thriller should NEVER be written in first person, so it “wasn’t for her.” Now, I don’t know if I agree with the NEVER part–I’ve read thrillers in first-person POV–but nonetheless, I rewrote the thing in third-person POV. I encorporated other changes from the blips of recommendations I got from agents along the way (though most were standard rejection letters), and what I took away from the process is if it’s from a first-time author, they want to see things done in the usual format, This is stressed in “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks as well, one of the most useful writing books I’ve read, probably because it caters to my left-brain mind. :)

    With my new novel, I’m still trying to decide between two different POVs or one. Sure, it’s much easier to do it with two. It’s harder work for a writer to limit that POV. But I’m worried if I alternate between 1st person and 3rd person like I want to, I’ll turn agents and/or publishers off. On the other hand, if I was Stephen King, I’m sure I could do whatever I want.

    I hope this helps. I don’t want to discourage you, but I just wanted to share some of my past experience as I had a long road to publication. (Oh, wait, the dang thing still isn’t out yet…) I think multiple POVs are fine, but with a definite scene change to indicate the switch, unless you are writing in a completely universal omniscient POV.

    Sorry so long-winded. Almost finished my whole cup of tea writing this comment. :)

    • Excellent points, Carrie—as I would expect from you. :) And ones I have to seriously consider if I try again to shop this novel to agents. Your experiences are probably a good indication of what I would run up against with an agent who actually would read the manuscript.

      Even beyond the POV issue, this book is so different in format. The closest analogy is “linked stories,” but even that isn’t what I’ve done. Yes, there are some common threads woven into the separate sections, but while some of the characters are “the same,” they’re also their own unique selves. As I noted to Margarita above, couldn’t my Muse have given me something simpler to start with?!

      So even if I remove any “shared” POV within a single scene, the book will be a hard sell. And that’s why I’d like to get “Death Out of Time” finished and published first. It might open the door for “Summer at the Crossroads.” But maybe not. Crossroads might be too different for an agent/press to take a chance on.

      I’ll need to ask a couple of writers to do a thorough beta read on it when I’ve cleaned up this latest version. It may be one that I have to e-publish. I’ve really got my doubts about a traditional deal for it…. And yet I believe in the book and the way it’s told….

      • If the concept is unique enough, like it appears to be, you never know–a smart agent might snatch it up. There’s always the debate on whether we should write what we think will be published or write what we want. Although I steer to the latter, I think I also try to measure the former.

        But I think you’re right, getting a more traditionally written book published first might make it easier to get the more unique story published later.

        I wish you luck. Your devotion and thought to your writing shows you are not just doing this on a whim (which is sadly how I began, and probably why it took me so long to make the trek :) ).

        • Well, it would have been easier if the Muse had suggested I read some good “manuals” for writing novels when she gave me this idea. But she was determined that I make all the mistakes that new writers are wont to do. I think she mumbled something about “rites of passage” at one point. :)

          I need these characters to kick the other book’s cast into shape and get the hardest rewrites done. Once I can get past those, the remaining ones shouldn’t be too difficult. Then it’s “seek and destroy” for Robin’s weak words and send it out for another beta read. :)

          And at some point, I will have two finished novels. :)

          • Oh, I hear you. I commented to my husband the other night, “If I only knew then what I know now.” But “then” I was working full time and living an entirely different life. I was just dipping my toe in the writing world. And really, isn’t that how we all start?

            This was a great post, JM. I enjoyed reading through all of the comments and seeing others’ responses, something I don’t always have time to do.

            • I know what you mean about time to read all the comments. I can’t do it for every blog I follow. And I know I’m missing some great insights and thoughts because of it. But there are only so many hours in the day. And we need some of them to write the books!

              But all the comments I’m getting here are really helpful. :)

  5. I love shifting like that. Also…. Parallel universe!!!!! My god, that’s amazing. Keep it how you have it. Like you said the book isn’t traditional, so some traditional rules may not apply. ;)

    Also, hi :D

    • Hi, Amber, good to see you back! :D

      Sometimes I think this could be one or those “love it or hate it” books because it is so different. I just hope more people would love it…. ;)

      Even though it sounds like it should be sci-fi with the parallel universe aspect, the stories themselves are not. These characters are in recognizable worlds leading lives that would fit in here with us. But Catherine’s idea that things such as vivid dreams are really glimpses of our alternate lives strikes of sci-fi…. Did I mention this book is different? :)

      Thanks for your insights! I’m going to be reading the responses to this post A LOT as I work on this book!

      • I have read stories in some of the sites I used to frequent, and need to again by the way :P, about a woman who glimpsed pieces of her life in a parallel timeline. It was completely different that it is now. Yet, when she felt it she saw her other wishing for things she had on this timeline, while she often wondered about things from that timeline and what it would have meant for her life. I think many people will love this book.

        The book could be a scifi crossover novel. From what I remember, these are popular right now. Crossover novels I mean.

        Keep working on this book, not that your others aren’t special, but I think this one will be something completely different.

  6. George R R Martin, in his Game of Thrones books uses each chapter to follow a different character. There are a lot of stories going on so mostly this is a necessity anyway, but from time to time some chapters follow on from each other, covering the next part of the same storyline. But these would still be one chapter one viewpoint. So you might get a chapter from character X’s viewpoint but also containing character Y. The next chapter might be from character Y’s perspective but also containing character X and maybe character Z. It is interesting and clever as it allows him to use the characters in different ways and set them up for different things, but as you don’t always know what they are thinking it can also set up different twists or surprises.

    You might find the book “Self editing for fiction writers” useful. I was reading some of it a few weeks back and it has a chapter on POV and using it from multiple characters within the same chapter. Tis here: http://www.amazon.com/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Yourself/dp/0060545690/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341679256&sr=1-1&keywords=self+editing+for+fiction+writers

    • Hi, Elliot, thanks for the link. I just took a look at the book, and it sounds like a good reference to have. Kindle or paper…. hmm.

      I wouldn’t even have raised this question if the book was a normal “a to z” format. With a full novel devoted to one set of characters, I could arrange for two more to have full POV status. But I can’t do that when each set of characters only gets one-third of the book. Hence, the temptation to let those few “other heads” get a brief say in things.

      Whatever I end up deciding to do, your comments (and everyone’s) will help me get there. Thank you!

      • I saw that book recommended on another blog and got it. It isn’t too long, but from what I have read of it, it has good points, and is good revision for what you might already know.

  7. It doesn’t bother me at all—I don’t know if there’s a “correct” way of doing it, but I think it’s fine. My feeling is, as long as it reads smoothly and doesn’t detract or distract, it’s all good.

    • There are definitely agents, editor, writers, and publishers who would say it’s wrong to mix POV. But you’ll see it in published books. It drives some people crazy, and others don’t mind. I agree with you that as long as a story reads smoothly and holds my interest, I’m not too concerned about strict adherence to rules.

      But I’ve got to be sure any deviance from them works! Thank you for helping me with this problem!

  8. Hey JM, I read this post early this morning and I wanted to mull it over before replying. Obviously you know how I feel, but I wanted to really think about the “rules” in accordance with your particular ms.

    Crubin had a really thorough response and I would echo it. I think first timers do have to jump through a whole lotta hoops in order to get anyone to take them seriously. If the mechanics of the writing go against traditional rules, I am afraid that most agents will assume the author is writing for a lark, and didn’t do his/her research in regard to how to tell a story. Stephen King could do anything his way, you’re right. But who is to say it was that easy for him when he first started out? He might have had to follow the “rules” first, in order to get to where he is today.

    I’d like to follow up your reply to Gene. Regarding the books you read where you mentioned the switch in POV in the middle of scenes, were they written by well-known authors who already have a solid reputation, or were they just breaking out?

    Also, is there any way you can find out who represented these authors that you alluded to? I would say those agents/publishers would be the ones you will want to target for your book when it is finished. Obviously, they approve the POV switch–for whatever reason. It could be a book-by-book decision, where rules can be broken for one book but cannot be broken for another book based on a whole range or reasons. Or it could be that these agents/publishers don’t care a fig for rules and approved the style because they thought it worked well.

    At any rate, each time you discuss this novel I grow more and more intrigued. POV switches or not. :)

    • Hey, Kate, I thought of you as I prepared the “Don’t do it” option on the poll. :) And I’ve cleaned out a number of cases so far, such as in the example I gave above. Sometimes it was a fix like converting thought to dialogue. Other times, I simply removed the “slip” entirely—it didn’t affect the story. But some of them are stickier. Can I find a different way to present the information without slipping into another character’s head for a few sentences? Hence, this post. :)

      The mixed POV books I’ve seen have been both established and new writers. When I run into it again, I should note the agent (if acknowledged) and the press. You’re right—those could be agents to query. I’m currently reading one book that has sentences which start with a secondary character’s dialogue and finish with the main character’s POV on something in another clause. Yes, within a single sentence. Now that’s jarring!

      If you go back up to my response to Carrie Rubin, you can see my larger concerns about the pitching of the book. Different is difficult in today’s publishing world. It can happen. But it’s rare. Even if I somehow follow all the rules and write the story well, will someone take a chance? I honestly don’t know. Even if I can make “Death Out of Time” a good first book, will that be enough? Hints of sci-fi or speculative fiction, but the individual stories are grounded in events and places we can recognize, despite some differences between the universes…. How “easy” is that to pitch?!

      I’ll need some serious beta reading on it before I get to the pitching stage, though. ;)

  9. For mystery stories, where the protagonist is uncovering new information throughout, I tend to prefer single-POV. I’ve read some multi-POV mystery stories that reveal crucial info to the reader before the protagonist finds out. I found that unsatisfying for some reason – I guess it seemed like kind of a cheat.

    For other types of stories, I usually like multi-POV, and find it enhances the story, especially if the story involves a huge ensemble of characters. It’s fun to see different characters’ interpretation of the same situation.

    • Hi, Daniel, thanks for sharing your “point of view.” Okay, sorry, I had to slip that in to one reply. :)

      I definitely don’t want to use someone else’s POV to give away crucial information. In this book, it’s more to “flesh out” the story line. I just don’t want to do it in a way that’s confusing to readers or that pulls them out of the story by briefly switching from one character to another.

      I’m glad you and other readers are helping me think through this issue. Thank you!

  10. To be honest, the subject matter of this discussion is beyond my technical expertise. As a reader, I followed it without a hiccup. I just don’t feel qualified to jump into this discussion beyond the simplicity of my comment. I find the subject fascinating and wonder if I will ever come across questions as these in my own writing journey. A pleasure to read your blog

    • Ah, but your reader’s opinions are exactly what I seek! You can see the writers’ responses on the technical and publishing aspects. But I’m also curious how readers feel about stories that make these switches. Is it confusing or distracting when you’ve been in one character’s head for two pages and then you reach a paragraph where you have another character’s perspective? Or do you not even notice as long as the story continues to flow? There’s no right or wrong answer!

      And I’m glad you enjoy the blog. I think these interactions on posts become one of the most enjoyable aspects of blogging. :)

      • I don’t think it matters unless the rhythm or flow becomes disturbed. I tend to write more intuitively so I try to feel for the disturbances in my flow.
        I have always felt rules are for guidance, but art isnt always guided by rules, it creates the rules if it is really art.

        • That is very helpful for me! If the story and characters hold us and maintain the flow of our reading, then the writer has done a good job. That’s what I have to strive for.

          • Yes, flow, harmony, balance – Go intuitive. You already have the technical side down.

            My struggle is for getting discipline, focus, learning the technical stuff so my intuitive spirit won’t ride me too far into the wonderful blue yonder. lol!

  11. I applaud you for doing this, JM. I think it takes skill and for whatever reason (perhaps that skill??), I’ve shied away from it. I’ve written short stories in third-person and read novels that have switched POV, but I’m afraid I’m not adept enough to try it yet. I’m writing (or trying to) write my novel in first-person because it’s the most comfortable for me. I just finished one in third person plural. Very interesting and once I got into the flow of it, I really liked it. Yours flows nicely for me and doesn’t distract at all…that’s the most important thing of all, I think.

    • Isn’t it funny how we find different POVs easier to write? For me, first person is the hardest and doesn’t feel natural. I do better when I can step into more than one character’s head. It’s hard for me to get enough nuances into one character for an entire story.

      I’m hoping I can keep some of this “shared POV” in the manuscript. I’ve removed some where it’s easy enough to do. But there are some scenes where I like a dash of the other character’s perspective…. Thanks for helping by sharing your thoughts on it!

  12. Kudos, JM on your scene being well written! :-)

    My personal opinion is that I do not have a problem with another p.o.v in a scene as long as the transition is clear on who is speaking. You handled this quite well.

    In regards to “the rules”, what I have read discourages multiple p.o.v’s only in the sense to prevent “head hopping.” This means if we depend on multiple p.o.v’s in every scene, it can make readers 1) Feel disconnected 2) Seem like they are watching a tennis match instead.

    Hope that helps! Yes, I voted. :-)

    • Thanks, Christy! :) I never know how a partial scene taken from surrounding context will sound to readers who have never seen the story….

      I was guilty-as-charged on the head hopping in my last draft of the other book. I’ve cleaned that up! But it’s more limited in this one. And after a several-month break, I’ve been able to revise a number of instances where I slipped into that shared POV. But others…. I’m drawing a blank for doing anything else. Maybe I’m just stubborn, but part of me thinks they work fine. It may come down to what beta readers say about the next draft. ;)

      This does help, and thank you for voting! I wasn’t sure how a poll would go over. This is the first one I’ve tried. :) I’ve read they’re a good way to make things interactive, so we’ll see how many people partake….

  13. Easiest comment is also the truest. I couldn’t answer until I read the book. It looks to me like you have a good handle on it; if not, it will read messy and get very confusing. I am wonderful with all types of things in a book … until I get confused. After trying several times to reread sections and think them out, the book goes out.
    What you put above, I understood well.
    Scott

    • One of the worst things a writer can do is confuse a reader. I can take a bit of it at the beginning of a book as I learn the characters and setting. But if it goes on too long, I’ll stop reading. And I don’t want people to stop reading my books because I confused them (or bored them!).

      So if my test readers come back and say it’s too confusing or distracting, I’ll have to revise it. But I’m hoping in a limited form, it won’t be.

      Thanks for your insights—they are much appreciated! :)

  14. I used to switch POV’s all the time. Then a beta had me pick up a published novel that included a lot of POV switching.
    I was shocked at how much it annoyed me.
    Really! No fooling!
    I immediately went back and edited. One POV per chapter only. Every scene in only one POV. Period.
    My novel was so much stronger for it.

    Just my opinion, of course.

    • It should be used sparingly at most. And I didn’t do it in every chapter or scene. That drives me nuts, too.

      I’ve been able to revise a number of them to either dialogue or removed them completely without changing the tone of the scene. But there are some…. My betas will be the big test. If they all agree it doesn’t work, I’ll have to rethink those remaining scenes.

      Of course, they could come back and tell me POV is the least of my worries. :)

        • Definitely! And if one points out something, I’ll consider it. If two point it out, it needs more thought. If three point it out, I’ve got some revisions to do. Hmm, I think I’ve seen this advice recently…. :)

  15. I would have to see more of the chapter to be sure whether this is distracting in the overall context of how you are telling the story. In the example you give, the only sentence that is clearly a different point of view is the one beginning “Back in their field days…” and it could be reworked as “Back in their field days… he had once expressed a fear that…” Then there is no shift in point of view to potentially distract. The way you describe with reworking it as dialog, I’m sure would work fine, too.

    The other instance, where a character is questioning her, does sound more difficult to deal with. Personally, I see a subtle difference between telling the reader how a character sees the situation, or what his motivation is for what he is doing, and showing you those things through his eyes. The first I see as narrator omniscience, rather than a real switch in POV, and I usually don’t have a problem with it. The real POV switch, can, in my experience as a reader, be distracting in a story that is primarily told from one point of view. In the scene you presented above, it seemed unnecessary.

    • That’s an excellent distinction—narrative omniscience vs. true POV switch. It might be possible to revise my POV switches to that narrative omniscience. The key is not to turn it into an “information dump.” I’d have to keep it short and relevant. And it can’t be something vital for the main character to know.

      In the example I gave between the State Department and Russian embassy officers, it’s not critical information for the main plot. It deals more with a side story of Kathryn’s personal life being “of interest” to both the American and Russian governments and how she handles that scrutiny.

      Thank you for that potential “fix” to shared POV! These discussions with such a supportive and helpful community are the best part of blogging for me.

      • Don’t get carried away with the “info-dump” fears. There are times when I, as a reader, am just so grateful that the writer decided to dump a little information on me. And if I know where to find it, I can go back to “look up” some detail later and remind myself. If it’s scattered around through bits of dialog, I’ll never find the detail I want. But I think you’re right: Keep it fairly short and relevant.

  16. I love the idea of the characters in different universes, etc. I only voted against the different POVs in one scene because I tend not to do it myself. I like the challenge of trying to communicate how the non-POV characters feel by their actions… so that we have to read between the lines. (And sometimes it’s very successful… sometimes I have to go back and flesh it out more so that readers infer the correct thing.)

    But having said that, some of my favorite books use a completely different writing style, to great effect. All of the things I would warn other writers against have been done–and I’ve loved it! I think you have to be true to your vision. If you think it works, and your beta readers enjoyed it, stick to your guns. Almost everything that is a rule should be tossed out in certain situations.

    I can’t wait to read it!

    • Rules are meant to be broken. :) But breaking them in writing only works if we do it well! And I’ll need my betas to tell me if I come anywhere close to succeeding if I keep some mixed POV.

      Honestly, I love this book’s concept, and I hope you’ll like it. I think the characters are engaging and dealing with interesting events over the course of the summer. There are subtle similarities and differences that I know some people will catch and others will miss. But the stories work even if those points are missed. But if you catch them, I think they make the stories and Catherine’s ideas even richer.

      But it all hangs on how well I present the stories and characters. Can I take a good idea and write a good book? I think so. But I definitely have my doubts. I think that makes me a typical writer. ;)

  17. Great post and some really useful comments. I’ve just posted about creating dramatic tension and I suggest changing viewpoint to add drama. I would do it sparingly but consistently. It seems odd, to me, to have the bulk of a novel written from one pov with just some occasional head jumping. That’s amateurish writing. All or nothing, I say. :-)

    • I don’t think I could ever write a novel with a single POV character. So you know I won’t be using first person anytime soon. And both of my WIPs feature several POV characters. I try to limit it in this book since so few can have a “main” role when their story only gets about one-third of the book. But in a few scenes, it would be nice to sneak a peek into a minor’s head, just for some added insight. Beta reviews will be key. :)

  18. POV is really tough. I tend to write in first person because I like to get into one character and stay with them. There are writers who shift POV in scene and do it really well. I prefer a scene break or chapter break for POV shifts because it jars me tremendously when I’m not sure who’s head I’m in. And then I have to reread sections and try to understand who’s seeing what.

    One thing that confused me in your excerpt was that she thinks of herself as Katharine, but he clearly calls her Kat in dialogue but his thoughts refer to her as Katharine. Why would he call her Kat, but think of her as Katharine?

    • I’m just the opposite. :) I have the hardest time with first person in part because I enjoy the perspectives of several characters taking me through a story. And I hope post readers realize I’m not jumping into multiple heads in every scene or chapter. Ultimately, when I get a more polished version done, we’ll see what the betas think. And if they don’t like it, I’ll have to take out the remaining cases.

      Good catch on the Kat/Katharine usage. In the more narrative passages, I’m using the full names of the women to help reinforce whose “story” we’re in. I know having Catherine/Katharine/Kathryn/Katarina doesn’t make it easy for a reader. That’s why I don’t make it even harder by going back and forth between their stories. Even I couldn’t keep that straight!

      But Katharine is called Kat by her husband and friends. That’s what they call her. And when any of them are thinking of or talking about her, Kat is what they should use. I’ll need to edit for that. :)

  19. I felt we slipped in and out of perspective quite naturally, so I’d say it would be an interesting/illuminating device from time to time.
    PS almost missed your note about the fireworks. Shame.

    • Hopefully next year on the fireworks. I really appreciate the way you and others are sharing your opinions on this. It is so helpful! I hope I can keep some of these slips intact. But if I’m fortunate enough to find and agent and traditional press, they would have the final say. And if they said, “no,” I’d have to revise them all….

      • How is it that ‘the suits’ have a say over the creator? Oh yeah, yeah, it’s all about sales, and if the suits think your readers will all be semi-literates who can’t follow … But would semi-literates bother to buy a book?
        Glad it was helpful, because it was enjoyable to read from that point of view!

  20. It didn’t bother me at all, but I would want to read more to see if the POV shifts would continue to flow as naturally as the excerpt you included.

    • I had some that didn’t flow. And I’ve revised some of those already. Taking a few months away from this manuscript lets me see it with a fresher eye. I hope I’m also cleaning up other elements of the story to improve it, too.

  21. Pingback: Monday Haiku and what I learned this weekend – 09 July 2012 « brain splats * — * brain mess from daily writing

    • That’s the key—if you can do it well, you can break “the rules.” If I had a published novel under my belt, I’d be comfortable with leaving some of these slips in the story. Some will survive this draft, and we’ll see what test readers say about it. I hope they won’t even notice. ;)

  22. Yes, head-hopping. I’m guilty. When I read it back I realise that I need to keep the perspective dominant, at least for that scene, but the other head is jumping up and down, demanding to know what they think. It can be frustrating. I was just thinking about this last night.
    I want to keep my perspective solid for my first attempt at sending something out.

    • You can’t go wrong with that. As Carrie pointed out above, it’s one less thing to make an agent toss your manuscript into the reject pile. I’m taking out as many as I can. I’m just having a hard time with the ones that feel right to me. I will rely heavily on beta reader input on this point.

  23. It doesn’t bother me – and I voted so in the poll.

    But if you’re a new writer seeking an agent/publisher – you’ve just placed another hurdle in your path, I reckon.

    It’s the same story isn’t it – rules are for the common folk and struggling writers.

    • Thank you for the follow, Eric! Yes, I still want to try the traditional route with the books first. And agents (and editors) are tricky with these things. Some obviously let new writers get away with this. Others don’t. I’ll have to study potential agents carefully on this issue….

      Established writers can get away with more—even if they shouldn’t. How often do we see criticism arise after an author has had several successful books? Pet phrases being overused, adverb use increasing, lengthy descriptions cropping up…. If I got to a point where my beta readers/agent/editor weren’t critiquing enough, I hope I would ask them to ramp it up again.

      Thanks for joining in and offering your insight. It is truly appreciated.

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