Point of View

Sorry, got distracted.

One of my huge pet peeves while reading is a mid-scene POV switch. This shouldn’t be a problem in a first-person novel (one would hope), but writers will switch deliberately or sloppily while writing in third. Grrrr! In olden days, it was acceptable to write in scattershot POV, but the contemporary way is to keep to one character’s viewpoint per scene (and sometimes per chapter).

This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. The reader can relax and trust the writer to put you inside one character’s head at a time, with sensory data and thoughts being processed by him or her (or it, if non-human). You only know what that character knows during this time, feel what she feels, etc. If the story is a romance, you’re there with her wondering if the hero will ever return from his quest. If the story is a murder, you’re right there with the detective putting the clues together.

I recently read a short story in workshop where two men were involved in a tense situation, involving a possible murder, and the POV flipped from one to the other. It was difficult to get “into” the story fully because of this and it also led to confusion about who was thinking/feeling what at times. When we know the writer has stuck us inside only one character’s head, these problems are mitigated simply by the fact that anyone’s thoughts or feelings are THAT guy’s. We don’t have to wonder.

Someone said that wrt to a novel you should write a scene from the POV of the character who has the most to lose at that point. I’d like to say this is a Jennifer Crusie quote, but I can’t remember and CBA looking it up at 5:30am. It makes a lot of sense and doesn’t only apply to romance novels of course. Though I find it the most irritating when a romance novelist (either deliberately or stupidly) has a switch in a sex scene. It’s so distracting. This is the perfect example of a time you need to stay inside one character’s head for the duration of a scene and not mess up. I think this is why I had to give Animal Attraction only two stars on Goodreads. That just bugged the hell out of me. And Shalvis is not a beginning writer, so no excuses.

I’m not sure how any of this applies to second person. I haven’t written anything that way, too annoying, nor did I read BLBC. I think second is like first though, but with this hipstery distancing thing going on, right? I don’t know. Can’t deal with it.

Whatever. DON’T SWITCH MID-SCENE. Ever. This is one of those rules that you don’t break even when you are all jaded and above following rules.

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3 responses to “Point of View

  1. OK! Something to think about, provided I can think and write at the same time.

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  2. Second person sucks. So does present tense.No excuses, not because someone isn’t a beginner, but because they’re published. If someone is laying out money to put your words on paper, stupid shit like POV changes just shouldn’t be there.

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  3. I don’t have a problem with POV switches wherever they may happen, as long as I don’t feel a thing. This falls under my “If I’ve noticed the writing, the writer has failed” rule. I’ve seen omniscient POV done very well (although you’re right, it’s mostly in older stuff). The problem is, it’s one of the harder ones to pull off, and people who think they’re good at it usually aren’t.

    I’d really like to write in 3rd person more often and I end up falling into 1st a lot. I’m thinking this may be laziness on my part; it’s a shortcut to characterization, to talk from inside the character’s head.

    Second person just should never have happened, and I hope it never does again.

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