It’s All in Your Point of View

Point of view shifts: the bane of the new writers existence. I’m not proud to admit it, but in the first draft of my first book (Mere Temptation) I switched POV every few paragraphs. Yes, it was that bad. My first critique partner put me over her knee about the issue (figuratively, of course.) I’m forever grateful to her for schooling me about the need to maintain a single point of view for at least a page, preferably two.

I still struggle with what I like to call “swinging camera syndrome,” the desire to switch the focus of the story to a close up of one character, than another, until the reader’s head spins. I never switch point of view mid-scene anymore. However, I seldom write a scene longer than 1200 words. So essentially, I can hold a point of view for approximately 5 pages before swinging the camera to a new position.

What I find helps me stick to one perception is to set a minimum word count. I know some writers feel that a scene should be “as long as it needs to be,” but I think that’s dumb. Or maybe I just can’t write that way. Either way, I set myself a bare minimum single POV word count of 250 for either a minor character’s POV or something like a prologue or epilogue, that’s supposed to be short. For subplot stars (not the MCs, but still important) my minimum word count is 500. For main characters, it’s 1000.

The longer I write, the less I find I need to actually impose these rules. I tend to hold a point of view for longer and longer without even meaning to. However, I doubt I’ll ever be an author who can write an entire 20 page chapter in one point of view.

What about you? Do you have to fight the urge to head-hop? How often do you switch point of view? And what tricks have you developed to keep you on track?

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11 Responses to It’s All in Your Point of View

  1. danicaavet says:

    You know I like to switch POVs…a lot *cough* I like getting inside the heads of other characters, especially the villain…Um, I don’t know if I have any tricks though. I’ll have to think about that, LOL


  2. jeff7salter says:

    What I struggled with was the notion — which I thought valid (having been a LIT major in college) — of having an omnicient narrator who knew what the characters were thinking. I STILL, stubbornly, think that should be ‘allowed’ by all the pointy-headed contest judges out there … but, sadly, is it not.
    So, yes, I’m guilty of switching POVs. There, I’ve said it: put me in a 12-step program or line me up against the wall.
    Since my instinct says it’s OKAY for an omnicient narrator to know all this, my brain and fingers produced 5 novel ms. with that array of POV ‘knowledge.’
    To break myself of this tendency, and as a sort of challenge I made to myself, I started writing a new novel (# 6) in FIRST PERSON — yeah, I know, shoot me for that also — just be to absolutely certain I didn’t hop into anybody else’s head (except my heroine’s). I vowed to write at least 20k words that way and then re-assess if it ‘worked’ or not.
    It was a struggle at first, particularly getting into the head of my heroine with first person … but I grew to like it. So I finished that ms. and plan to do more from first person. It saves a lot of teeth-gnashing … and no contest judge could accuse me of head-hopping.
    Of course, they’ll trash it because it’s first person, but what the heck.
    Hey, I’ve just written my Thursday column here!
    Good thing I have a Guest Fox this week!


    • Daisy Harris says:

      Yeah, my MFA/lit major friend uses omniscient sometimes too. I couldn’t do it if I tried. Never even took an English class in college, so I never learned how.

      It can work well in chick lit or YA, but I hear ya that there’s a prejudice against it for most types of romance.


      • jeff7salter says:

        I may need to pick you brain a bit on this. Nobody besides you has allowed that omnicient could be utilized in any way, shape or form.


  3. Lavada Dee says:

    Hey, it’s worked for James Patterson. He does it with short, like one or two page chapters. A long chapter for him is 5 pages.

    I switch POV’s, not as much as in the beginning. As a reader it’s not switching POV’s it’s how they do it. I just critiqued a chapter and she did it so seamlessly I was past it before I realized she had switched and switched back in a little over a page. If I hadn’t had my critique hat on I doubt if I would have caught it.

    Good blog topic.


    • Daisy Harris says:

      Interesting! I tend to lump around 3 short scenes in each chapter, but I could just as easily make each of them their own chapter I suppose.


  4. I don’t really have this as an issue – I think it’s because for a long time, I wrote in first person. When I decided to try to get my stories published, I switched to third person. That really took some getting used to as I like first person (keeps me from switching to passive voice)- so, I was used to a whole story in one POV. I do use more than one POV but it’s scene by scene- and yeah, I have no word count rules. I can do an 11 page POV of hero and then 20 pages with heroine. Just what ever it needs to be.

    Good job with a tough topic.


  5. Patrick Doris says:

    I write first person view points and I try to limit myself to just that one person’s viewpoint and knowledge during the chapter.


    • Daisy Harris says:

      I haven’t tried first person yet, but I’m considering it for a vampire orthodontist story I’m considering.


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