Playing with Point of View

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Point of View

When I wrote my first book many years ago, it didn’t occur to me to write it in anything other than the third person point of view. In fact, I never really gave point of view much thought at all, and by default, my book ended up being an omniscient third person narrative. Years later, after attending many writing classes and workshops, I realized I’d committed what many consider to be a rookie mistake—head hopping.

I began to pay attention to what other contemporary authors were doing. Some wrote in the first person, others in the third, but most chose to filter the narrative through one character at a time. This meant if the character the reader was seeing the story through didn’t experience something, then the reader didn’t either.

Another nuance I noticed were those writing in third person present tense instead of past tense. For a long time, I found it jarring to read “She walks to the hallway and opens the door” instead of “She walked to the hallway and opened the door.” I would actually avoid a book written in the present tense. But over time, I came to realize every story calls for a particular point of view and perspective can make the difference between it being told well and being told best.

When I was working on The Veritas Deception, I felt that using a close third person point of view would make the story most compelling. In its earliest rendition, there were over ten point of view characters. Talk about reader confusion! Over time, I pared it down to four: the protagonists, Jack and Taylor, the antagonist, Damon Crosse, and a protagonist from the past, Maya Deering. There were a few more significant characters I wanted to let readers hear from, so I gave them their own point of view chapters, but sparingly.

During revisions, Maya’s story expanded, and I made the surprising choice to put it in the first person present tense. The point of view I most disliked in the past was now calling to me, and I soon discovered it was the only way to write the Maya perspective to best convey the urgency of her story.

I have learned a lot about point of view and now give it strong consideration in every book. Most of my books now have a combination of one or more points of view all dependent on which best suits the character and story. Who knows, I may even write another book from the omniscient point of view. The story will decide.

2 Responses

  • Sherry Joyce says:

    Thanks for your excellent article. I went through the same issues with my first novel. I wrote it in third person Omnicient, The Dordogne Deception. In that it was my first novel, there was some head-hopping, but the story compelled people to read past it and it didin’t interfere with the story. In my second novel, Dangerous Duplicity, I titled the chapters in the name of the character. Sometimes the protagonist or antagonist would be thinking outloud, sometimes thinking to themselves in an underwater scuba scene (where you can’t talk outloud), and I worked with several editors who felt it worked, however challenging and difficult it was to write. My stories are not suited to the 1st person, yet I know many authors who are successful doing so. POV is one of the most difficult aspects of writing (perhaps I should do a memoir instead of romantic suspense/thrillers) and no doubt it would be in the first person. Head hopping can be eliminated by having characters make gestures, comments etc. so you know who is talking. Like everything else in life (coloring outside the lines), breaking rules may be necessary to create the novel/characters/story you want to tell, however one must know the rules in order to break them successfully. I will have to read your book, The Veritas Deception (we seem to like that word)!

    • Lynne says:

      Thanks, Sherry. Yes, POV can be difficult but so important to telling the story in the best way. Good luck with your writing!

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