The Writing Life

Jody Lebel
Published on: May 2012
POV: Look Who's Talking.

POV or point of view is quite simply as to who is telling the story. Sounds pretty simple, but establishing a POV and keeping it consistent until the end can be challenging. In choosing which points of view to utilize also consider the tense you use in the context. Whether your novel is written in past or present tense, it is important to stay uniform throughout. Editors and readers appear to prefer novels written in past tense and many romances are written this way. Present tense creates immediacy to the story and may draw the reader in, so it is sometimes used in mysteries and thrillers. Whichever tense you choose the scenes where characters are remembering past events, writing is done in the past tense.

Most editors prefer the use of three POV characters and is done in the romance genre, that means him/her/and the bad guy. Many thrillers are written in the hero's POV, the potential victim's POV, and oftentimes the killer's POV. You will find many published books that have mutiple POVs, three, five, as many as sixteen, but as a new writer with hopes of being published, you will most likely be limited by the editor at your publishing house. My editor will accept up to four but prefers three POVs. I had to rewrite several scenes to accomplish this. It is indeed hard to keep track of sixteen people and it takes skill to weave a story that the reader can follow. Nevertheless, once you are an established writer with a good sales record, then you may be able to dictate to the publisher. But until then, you would be wise to follow their guidelines.
the writing life,point of view
First Person: In first person the story is told by a specific character generally in the present tense. The information is limited to what the POV character actually sees, hears, thinks and feels. Example: "When I was five, I saw my brother kill the family dog." The information is limited to what the POV character actually sees, hears, thinks and feels. First person allows the reader to feel emotionally connected with the characters; however, it limits the amount of information the writer can convey to the reader.

Second person: In the second person the story is told in the 'you' voice. "You killed the dog." "You hid in the basement." Second person is rare. A benefit of this POV is that it draws the reader into the story. The problem here is that it is difficult to write, in addition to sounding awkward. Again you are limited in the amount of information you can convey.

Third person: In this POV the writer tells the story in the he/she/it voice. "He stood in the doorway." "She couldn't find the phone." Third person is the most common POV. It provides the most freedom to the writer along with providing the most information.
Establish the POV early in the story, generally in the first scene. The reader needs to connect quickly in order for him/her to be drawn into the story. The most common POV slip, is when the character knows things she or he shouldn't. John cannot know what Jane is thinking. Don't underestimate the importance of using the right POV. The wrong POV can ruin a story. If your story is not coming together, try switching the POV to a different character. It might be more interesting for the reader to know what Jane is thinking.

Next month: Deeper POV and common new writer mistakes.
Happy writing!
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