View From Another Point

"Take it back!" Linda screamed. Bill's anger hit a high level and she knew he didn't care about her. (Linda's POV) "No, I won't!" Bill yelled back. Linda hated him. He knew she wanted to hit him. (Bill's POV)

Oh, bad... How do these characters know what each is thinking? No, it's not about telepathy! Maybe not a great example but I think the 'point' is clear.

The other day author Dayana Knight talked a bit about POV on her blog and got some good responses. That in turn prompted me to seek out articles I may have on POV to share on my own blog.

From my first fiction story, I started collecting information on writing. So I searched my files but didn't find much on POV. I think that's because I didn't have a big problem with POV or the dreaded head-hop. I've never liked seeing blatant head hopping within the stories I read or write. But I did find one interesting idea for correcting POV and other habits that need work:


Have you heard your POV transitions are rough? That your POV head hops or your characters lack depth. If you have, you can correct these problems with a little practice.

Consider the Method Acting process. The actor wills himself to become the character he’s playing. Some actors/actresses meticulously research their role prior to filming or a stage appearance. Renee Zelweger worked two weeks in a London office to train for her role in the movie "Bridget Jones’ Diary." She became a London office worker in order to play one on screen.

What’s the point of this information for a writer? While writing, the author must practice Method Writing and become the character. Whether telling the scene from the POV of the hero, heroine, or even the villain, an author must relate the scene's experiences from that character’s body and mind. Therefore, the author should record only those things the POV character experiences.

In my example Linda cannot know what Bill is thinking, she can only guess from his facial expression and his body language. And the same is true for Bill, of course.

Head Hopping: It's true Nora Roberts head hops, and wouldn't we all like to be another Nora? However, it's a mistake to think that because she does it, everyone else can too. We lesser mortals have to follow the rules, at least until we're famous enough to break them.

That means no more than one or two POV changes per scene, and the fewer changes the better. If you master Method Writing, you'll eliminate head hopping because you'll be immersed in the POV character and record events as if you had become that character. More importantly, because you are deeply in the character’s POV, you'll pull the reader into the story as well. That's the goal--to make the reader lose himself/herself in our stories.

Transitions: When you change points of view, make a smooth way for the reader with a signal. At the first of the paragraph in the new POV, use a pronoun or noun to indicate the new POV. Don't cause the reader to back up and reread a paragraph to see who is speaking or internalizing. That takes the reader out of the story. Many editors and publishers don't like head hopping, especially line-to-line hopping from one character's head (POV) to another.

That's not to say you can't write in multiple POV. Especially including the hero's as well as the heroine's POV. But do it either chapter by chapter or at least with a good transition leading from one character to the other and in a different scene.

Life Experience: This determines a character’s thoughts, dialogue, and actions. The same is true for an internal dialogue—the character’s impressions reflect these experiences. For instance, if your heroine bakes pastry and bread to sell and she meets a brown-eyed man, she may think his eyes are the color of cinnamon. On the other hand, a painter might think brown eyes are the color burnt umber.

Don’t forget to surround the character with the senses. What does the character see, feel, taste, hear, smell, sense, and perceive as reactions from the others in the scene? Immerse the reader in the character’s impressions, but don't dump them all in one paragraph. Slip them in subtly as the scene progresses.

And that leads to another point! Don't miss my guest blogger, Helen Hardt as she talks about sensory detail... Coming this week!

As always, your comments and ideas are welcome. What do you think about the subject of head hopping and POV?



Clare Revell said...

head hopping is the bane of my life. I'm gradually getting better but sometimes find myself doing it without realising.

So I try and change ink colour in the first draft when i change POV. That way i know how long a section it is and if its necessary.

i did read somewhere that the POV should come from the person with the most to gain/lose in that scene. Where i come undone is if they both do ;)

Debs said...

Head hopping is something I have to concentrate on not doing when I'm writing. It's harder than it seems to keep to one POV at a time.

Kaye Manro said...

Very true, Debs. In dialogue we want our characters to answer each other and we want to tell our reader what they are thinking!

Good points, Clare. It can be hard to spot. I think the character who owns the scene should own the POV.

I once edited a writer's MS who wrote so well that I missed the head hop a couple of times. I was caught up in the story! And that's good.

But no matter how subtle it sneaks in, as the latest generation of writers we should work on getting it out of our stories.

HelenMHunt said...

I think that, like a lot of things, POV change can work if it's there for a reason. But if you're reading a story and you suddenly find yourself in the 'wrong' character's head it can be really distracting. I like the analogy with method acting - very helpful.

Suzanne said...

Head hopping? Guilty as charged. I love reading romances with more than one POV but often get into a muddle when I try to write like this myself.

Cari Quinn said...

As always, great post, Kaye. I'm a POV purist myself, but I honed my teeth on Nora Roberts - and she remains my favorite author to this day - so in the right hands, I think POV jumps can work. Operative words being "in the right hands," LOL

Catherine Bybee said...

I don't mind POV shifts. As long as they are clear. Too many in one scene and the read becomes boring. There is more mystery as to what the other character is thinking if you leave one of their thoughts up in the air.

But I've very guilty of switching my POV is my early writing.
Great post, Kaye.

Helen Hardt said...

Like Cari, I'm a purist. Head hopping is my biggest pet peeve. Maybe because I took a lot of heat for it when I was a newbie writer entering contests, LOL. Now I'm a fanatic about sticking to one POV per scene, and POV shifts stick out at me like red print when I'm reading. I love Nora as much as anyone, but I will never head hop in my own work.

Shelley Munro said...

Another great post. I'll admit that I'm not a POV purist. I tend to shift POV when it suits me and within a scene. I know some people shudder at that, but that's the way I prefer to do things. I like the method acting comparison. That's a good way of looking at POV

I definitely need the sensory reminders. I always have to go back and fill those in.

Linda Banche said...

When I first started writing, I had no idea there was such a thing as POV. I just wrote, and my stories had a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's enough, right? Nope.

Then I took a course and found out what POV was. But the instructor's explanation didn't make any sense to me.

But something must have clicked. I was reading a novel, when I realized the author had switched from the heroine's POV to the hero's POV for one paragraph, then switched back to the heroine's POV. So that's what POV is!

I still make some errors, but I know what I'm looking for now. And I fixed my original stories. One of them is my "Lady of the Stars", first written before I knew what POV was.

Kaye Manro said...

Goood points, everyone! Thanks for adding your POV ideas here.

Christina Phillips said...

It took me a while to figure out what POV/head hopping was. My first mss changed pov several times in a single *paragraph*!! And I never even noticed.

I'll sometimes change POV within a scene if I feel it's needed, other times I might go an entire chapter or several in one POV. It depends on the characters and the story but at least now days I have absolute control over whose POV I'm in!!!