Common Writing Pitfalls #2–Point of View
Common Writing Pitfalls #2
Point of View (POV)
You’re in this POV if you use the character’s name and he/she.
Choosing this POV allows you to change the eyes you look through in different scenes or chapters.
BUT no split views please: Do not head hop. Imagine yourself literally inside your character’s head. His name is Ben and you are looking out his eyes. Ben is having a conversation with Jerry. You can’t suddenly switch to Jerry’s head and know his thoughts or see Ben through his eyes. Ben wouldn’t think of himself as narrowing his eyes, but he could see Jerry do that.
You can only know what your character knows in that moment. (more on this below)
When you want to change the scene and look at life from Jerry’s eyes, use a scene break or a new chapter. Then look away. But remember, when you switch back to Ben you need a scene break or a new chapter again.
2. Most Common POV’s: First Person
You’re in this POV if you use the word “I.”
Choosing this POV usually keeps you in the head of a single character throughout the book. Most books with the “I” perspective don’t change POV. Some do. An example is the book The Help. Great book. Three different characters use first person POV. But it’s not common and you should really give it thought before you go there. Most readers want to have one “I” character that they can relate to and identify with throughout the book.
3. Most Common Error: Pick a point of view and stick to it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing first person or third person; place yourself behind the eyes of your character. Think of them as a window to the world.
If her back is turned, you can’t see what’s behind her. If she’s out of the room, you have no idea of the conversation going on inside the room unless she’s eavesdropping at the door.
4. Keep the perspective as intimate as you can. The reader wants to be your character, live her life, and experience her sorrow, joy, and adventure. The fastest way to rip your reader out of your character’s head is to drift out of POV.
Out of POV: Ben was mad. So mad. So very mad that his face scrunched up into tiny little wrinkles and his hands fisted at his side. (this feels like you are looking AT Ben—like say if you were Jerry.)
In POV: Ben stepped inside the doorway. Not ten feet away, Jerry was dancing with Anna. His Anna. He had a choice to make. Turn around and walk away or punch Jerry. Ben pulled his hands into a fist at his sides. (here you are feeling poor Ben’s anguish at losing his girl to Jerry)
Using first person keeps the perspective pretty intimate but you can make third person feel intimate too. Some writers draft a scene in first person and then go back and change it to third person. If you’re having trouble staying intimate and you want to write third person, give it a try.
5. The second fastest way to lose your reader’s connection is with filter words. When Ben looks, hears, sees, feels, etc. the reader is pulled out of the intimate connection because you’ve put a filter between his eyes, ears, hands. Just say what they saw or heard or felt without those words.
Filtered: I watched Ben swagger across the room and noticed how Jane’s face lit up.
Unfiltered: Ben swaggered across the room. Jane’s face lit up.
Side note: Be careful with the word “seem” or “seemed” also. It can pull the reader right out of intimate POV.