Some recent reads prompted this post. I’ll sigh in frustration at typos or e-book formatting oops. I’ll grit my teeth at editing errors. However, as a reader, nothing will pull me out of a story faster than a point of view (POV) problem. And I admit, I’m a point of view junkie. Pardon if this turns into a wee rant.
POV is tricky.
- There’s the dreaded head hopping where we, the reader, are given whiplash as we jump from one person’s thoughts to another.
I don’t expect full chapters in one POV or even full scenes. I don’t need some divider like an extra space or *** etc. But switching within one paragraph? Hello? It causes me to re-read just to make sense of the passage. (Never a good thing.)
I encountered this most recently in a M/M romance. I think those pronouns got the poor author twisted up. Thankfully, it came late enough in the story I was already invested in the characters and continued.
Have you ever put down a book from head-hop-whiplash?
- There’s deep POV where we, the reader, see through the eyes of one character.
I prefer first person (inner perspective of one character) or third person limited (similar to first person but it doesn’t have to be the same character for the whole book). They give me that deeper POV I crave and this is where I encounter the worst offenders.
If we’re deep in a character’s POV don’t give me a laundry list description. The character will only note differences like a moved chair after he’s tripped over it in the dark. And mood will taint the description too like the character at her desk, wiping the fingerprints from her computer screen in short jerky motions.
Do you skip over wordy scenes or narratives?
In a recent read, the heroine referred to the hero as “the handsome stranger.” Hello? Ms. Heroine you closed a local eatery with Mr. Hero the night before, even if it wasn’t a date, you’re beyond strangers! Now, if I were walking behind Mr. Hero in that scene I’d be thinking more along the lines of how nicely he fills out his jeans than such a generic term as handsome. And later in that same story during the sex scene, we’re in the hero’s POV and he refers to the heroine as “the woman.” Eww! That just sounds wrong. As though the hero has no feelings for the heroine.
Or in another book, the heroine “arranged her long blonde hair.” When I’m doing my hair the color, unless I’m thinking of changing it, doesn’t even cross my mind. Nor does the length. And don’t get me started on the mirror “self” description trick (though Kait Nolan pulled it off with an amnesia character) this book also used. Wouldn’t it be better for another character to comment or note the description?
You look like a Greek goddess with your hair done up like that.
This line tells me the woman’s hair is long, likely dark. I can even see the hairdo; she’s got it piled on top of her head in a loose bun with tendrils framing her face and tickling the nape of her neck. The woman has a classical face probably with an olive complexion typical of the Mediterranean.
What visual do you get from that line?
- Readers: What examples of point of view have pulled you from a recent book? (no author names or book titles please)
- Writers: What tricks help you keep your characters’ POV true?
I’d love to hear your point of view :)
You might also like:
Sense of Place: Setting as Character
Are You Using Setting to Deepen Your Characters?
POV Advantages and Pitfalls
Getting the Best Response From Your Characters
Stepping Out: A Look at POV Shifts
Man Up: Writing Male POV