Point of View – Who’s Head?

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Point of View, Choosing Your POV Character

In regards to fiction, deciding who is telling the story and then getting and staying firmly in their head—their Point of View (POV)—proved by far this writer’s biggest challenge. As an editor, I saw thousands of manuscripts, and Point Of View was the major debilitating flaw. The days of TELLING a great story are gone. To engage readers, the author must SHOW. And one way to show is through Point of View. Praise God, the light finally came on for me, but not until after plenty of sessions picking my mentor’s brains and much personal study.

point-of-view

POV means that the scene is being shown minute by minute from that character’s perspective. You only report what your POVC (point of view character) can see, smell, taste, touch, hear, thinks, knows, wonders, etc. Point of View is a tool that places readers in the head, right there in the experiences of the character. Being with the character—in his/her point of view—makes the journey exciting for the readers. It builds tension as characters plummet to certain disaster or climb to heights (that we know they will have to fall from).

Switching Point Of View kills tension.
So let’s decide whose head we want to be in. Consider the scene you’re about to write. Your hero is going away and you want him to break it off with the heroine because he’s volunteered for an apparent suicide mission. He decides that it would not be fair for her to wait on him, never knowing if he’s alive or is coming home again. He wants to set her free, let her consider him a heartless cad rather than face years of waiting and useless mourning.

Ask yourself, “Who has the most emotional risk in this scene?” That’s the perspective you want to tell what happens from. The hero is torn up over telling the kind, gentile woman her dreams won’t come true, not with him. Start the scene in his Point Of View with his knotted emotions twisting his very soul (internal dialogue). Finally in the presence of the young lady, he musters the courage to reveal his heart. He tells her it’s over.

You might think, but doesn’t the woman have the most emotion at risk? She’s about to be devastated. Not until he tells her. Up until that point, she is hunky dory, sees rainbows and butterflies around every corner. Now AFTER this pivotal scene, you have another choice to make depending on your story.

You either stay with your hero as he leaves, his angst over telling her now replaced by regret that eats him alive. Or switch into her POV and tell the next scene from her perspective starting with her watching the love of her life walk away. Your decision propels in which direction your story goes.

Emotion causes readers to turn the page. That’s why they love books that make them laugh aloud or bring them to tears that blur the words so that they must wait to read on. Using point of view properly lets them live vicariously through your characters.

Next: Point of View – Action and Internal Dialogue

Point of View – Who’s Head? was last modified: March 2nd, 2015 by Caryl McAdoo

12 Responses to "Point of View – Who’s Head?"

  1. Angie  Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 15:35

    Dear Friends and colleagues, please join me in welcoming Caryl McAdoo, and her weekly column on editing and writing skills!

    Reply
  2. Andy Bachman  Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 15:42

    Welcome and compliments!
    Thank you, Caryl, for this practical piece of knowledge.
    I, for one, will be following your column closely from now on.

    Reply
  3. Paula Boer  Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 21:42

    Welcome! A well written explanation of something that emerging writers struggle with. Well done.

    Reply
  4. Caryl McAdoo  Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 5:16

    Thanks, Andy and Paula, for you comments. For so many writers, Point of View is hard to grasp. Took me long enough back when. I’m excited about my new column Texas Tenders; Words as Spices, Easy Does It and look forward to making it easy to understand. If anyone ever has questions, I sure do welcome them and will be happy to answer!
    Blessings from Texas!

    Reply
  5. Bartemans  Friday, December 13, 2013 at 12:16

    Kudos for your input, Caryl.
    Great to have you doing this column.
    Bart

    Reply
    • Caryl McAdoo  Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 16:36

      Thanks, Bart! I hope the information will help writers improve their work. Point of View is so important in a book, and so many writers don’t even know what it is–my early writing self included. Once, a mentor of mine said, “Caryl, you have a talent for ignoring point of view.” I sat a little taller. He thought I had a talent! tee hee hee

      Reply
  6. Ann Everett  Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 20:27

    Hi Caryl,

    As always, you offer excellent information. Congrats on this new venture. I look forward to your posts.

    ~Ann

    Reply
    • Caryl McAdoo  Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 16:37

      Hello, Ann! Glad you liked the column! I plan to do several more on POV! Blessings from Texas!

      Reply
  7. Sissy Pantelis  Friday, December 20, 2013 at 16:23

    Welcome Caryl and many sincere thanks for this wonderful article!! The POV issue is extremely difficult sometimes. It happened to me to be blocked on a page for days because I had to shift the POV from a character to another- then I realized that it did not work and I had to find an alternative solution- the alternative did not work- I had to come back to shifting and maybe try to work on it- this did not work so I had to find an alternative…. It IS a vicious thing!! 🙂
    Thank you again for this article- I am looking forward to reading the next ones.

    Reply
    • Caryl McAdoo  Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 18:34

      Thanks for commenting, Sissy,
      POV is a hard topic indeed. I went to my DFW Writers’ Workshop every week and discussed it with my mentors asking at least a thousand questions, I’m sure. Still it was about six months before I saw the light. Hate admitting that, but truth is truth. And I’m humbled by the understanding I now enjoy.
      Now as far as your being blocked difficulty, it’s been my experience that when I’m trying to take my characters somewhere they don’t want to go, if I back up to where they were happy, I get happy. But if that isn’t your problem, then you can switch to an omnipotent narrator, tell your reader what needs to be told, then go back. Not an ideal solution, but your readers will forgive you if it works. Let me know if that worked, and if you’d like me to take a look, I’m happy to. Blessings!

      Reply
  8. Kristin Fouquet  Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 19:48

    I’m a little late to the party, but welcome, Caryl. I’m looking forward to improving my writing with tips from your column.

    Reply
    • Caryl McAdoo  Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 0:45

      Kristin, Mama always said, “Better late than never.” I’m glad you’ve found Texas Tender and hope the post do help you! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And if I don’t get to it, let me know on a recent Texas Tender that you asked a question back on POV or whatever. I try to come back and check the older posts, but as I have more, might not be able to as often 🙂 Hugs from Texas!

      Reply

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