Point of View – Who’s Head?
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.
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.