Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. If I Were Your Writing Coach, I Would Advise a Different Point of View

 

I critique a fair number of works of art before they are seen by the public. While I have critiqued works of visual and industrial art, my forte is in the written word. I have helped other authors develop poems, short stories, novellas, novels, and even non-fiction works. I often come across the same issues in the works of many authors, especially those who are amateurs or just trying to break into the profession. This conversation will highlight one of these common issues and errors. I may do more as time allows.

In most short works, such as a short poem, say a sonnet, point of view is not a big deal. The point of view may be the author of the work, or it may be a character made up for the occasion. When we start writing longer works, especially works of fiction, point of view becomes much more important. It seems that most beginning authors attempt to write from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. This is usually a mistake.

The Omniscient Narrator (ON)

An omniscient narrator knows everything. He knows what all the characters are thinking and feeling. He knows what is going to happen. He knows what the characters did and what they should have done. Omniscient narrators are often used in fairy tales. And that’s great, if you’re writing a fairy tale. But if you’re writing an action/adventure or science fiction novel, it seldom works out well, especially in the hands of an inexperienced writer.

The major problem is that since the omniscient narrator is in all heads if the author is not very, very careful about antecedents, then the reader can get lost as to which head they happen to be in at the moment.

A second problem is that there is nothing hidden from old ON. If the girl likes the guy, ON knows. If the guy likes the girl, ON knows. If not handled very well, it can spoil all the mysteries of life in the story. The reader is left thinking, “Okay, get on with it. If the two just sit down and have a conversation and, you know, communicate, this story is done.”

A third problem is that ON is probably not unreliable. Unreliable narrators are one of the tools that authors have to help hide elements of the plot.

Can omniscient narrators work? Of course, they can. But few inexperienced writers manage very well. Let’s look at some examples where they do work.¹

The Princess Bride—In both the movie and book, there is an omniscient narrator. I suspect more people are familiar with the movie, so let’s stick to that version. First, The Princess Bride happens to be a fairy tale, a genre where omniscient narrators are the default. In the movie, the story is presented within an envelope story of a kid’s being sick at home and his grandfather comes to visit and brings him this book. The grandfather becomes the omniscient narrator, someone who has heard and read the story many times before. This allows him to stop and reassure his grandson or to skip the boring parts. Obviously, the story he is reading also has an omniscient narrator, whose part he reads. In this case, the ON is normal for the genre and also goes a bit meta for fun.

The Great Gatsby—Here, the ON is Nick, a guy somewhat peripheral to the story. He knows everything only because he’s telling it in hindsight. He inserts some things that he found out later as to what was really happening. In this case, the ON is a character in the book who has reason to know everything as he is looking back on the events and reports on them. All of the action happened in the past. A similar thing with an ON character looking back is sometimes done with noir-style detective novels.

Fishing with John—This was a prospective TV show. I am not sure if it ever was actually on TV, but it was later collected as and sold as a DVD. It has a narrator. The basic premise was that John Lurie would go out fishing somewhere with one of his friends, like fishing for sharks with Jim Jarmusch. I believe there were six episodes created, each about half an hour. The first show or two was fairly normal. By maybe the third show, the narrator is throwing in things like, “Can I have a bite of your sandwich?” By the show with Willem Dafoe as guest, the narrator declares that Lurie and Dafoe died in the wilds of Minnesota while ice fishing. At the beginning of the next show, the narrator says something on the order of, “I was just kidding about their dying.” In short, the narrator is totally unreliable. By the final episode, you know he is just making stuff up.

The three types of cases we have looked at with omniscient narrators that work are fairy tales, where the ON is a character looking back on events, and where the ON is a bit meta and possibly unreliable. They might also work for a non-fiction show about animals or planets like Pluto.²

But making it work in a regular action/adventure or science fiction tale is much more difficult. Instead, if one investigates most professionally-published novels, what one finds is the use of Point-of-View Characters.

Point-of-View Characters

A point-of-view character (POVC) is simply a character through whose eyes you see the action. Some novels use one point-of-view character, often the protagonist, sometimes in first person. Some will have several POVCs. Some have only a few who switch off, perhaps in alternating chapters. There are any number of ways to do it, depending on the novel and genre.

Now, the type of omniscient narrator who is a character looking back on events, as in The Great Gatsby, is an example of a point-of-view character. It is one character always speaking in the past tense. There is no switching off between characters in this case, although there could be. Imagine a novel or story formed like an after-action report, or maybe as a series of statements from different characters in a police report. One would not know whether any of the POVCs were unreliable. Or, one might have to determine who was and who was not reliable.

Still, with most novels that use multiple POVCs, it is because characters can’t necessarily be everywhere. They certainly can’t be in two places at once, let alone four or five if the action is taking place across the world. It can be a tool to expand the scope of a novel. It can also help get away from a lot of exposition. If the author only has one POVC, and something happens where the POVC is not present, the author has to find a way to relate what has happened. Sometimes, that starts with the POVC character saying, “I found out…” and then the book is on to telling rather than showing, another weakness many writers have, often summed up against by writing teachers with the rule, “Show, don’t tell!” Another was that this information might be conveyed is through a conversation. Another character tells the POVC what happened. Again, “Show, don’t tell!” Now, it’s not a sin against writing if the summary of what happened elsewhere is short, but the longer it goes on, the more chance that the reader is going to lose interest. Kind of like this essay.

The Point-of-View Character and the Classical Unities

The Classical Unities were developed in the Greek period for their plays.¹ Every scene should be at one place, time, and united also in the action. With a novel, one can play with the old unities a bit, but there should be one more unity added: Unity of Point of View. The author should make it very obvious when a point of view changes. My own preference is to have one point of view per section within a chapter. How do we make sections of chapters? Usually with some sort of marker, such as a graphic or something as simple as “***.” For instance here is the end of one section and the beginning of the next from a short story where the young Gabriela is looking for a husband, so her brother takes her to a party where a lot of noblemen can be found:

The duke rolled his eyes, and then said brightly, “Well, I’m sure that there is some domestic crisis I have to attend to somewhere. Hosting a party is like that. Aunt Mary Anne can tell you all about her father and how and when her parents met. Really must be going now.” And off he went.

Gabriela took the old woman’s elbow, “Perhaps there is a quieter place we could speak with less traffic than the gallery?”

“Did Billy mean what I think he meant?” Aunt Mary Anne said.

“Probably, why don’t we find a quiet place to talk?”

***

Jack changed his clothes after he had gotten home from the party and went back down to his library. Gabriela had been silent in the coach ride home. He found her reading a book.

“It seems that I must be considered a prize,” he said. “Apparently quite a few young ladies had their eye on me. I had no dearth of ladies happy to dance the night away with me.”

Gabriela looked up from her book, “You are a rich and titled nobleman, Jack, and young enough to earn more titles. You could easily wind up a duke if there’s another war. You have famously earned many prizes and come away with tons of prize money. Your seat is very well known and comfortable. You need to try for a duke’s daughter, with a very large dowry.”³

The first section is in the grand portrait gallery of a duke’s country house. It is all through the eyes of Gabriela. The second section is back at Jack’s seat and is through his eyes. And of course, there is the section marker (***) in between. It provides an easy visual clue that a new section is starting and a new point of view may be starting. Another clue in the new section is that it starts with Jack and his actions. Everyone has seen such things in novels, but if one is not planning to write a novel, they are just part of the background, not a major part of the machinery to keep the story moving. Seeing such devices through the eyes of a writer—yes, the writer’s point of view—means understanding the unity involved for each section.

While it might make sense to break the unity of action across multiple sections to create a cliffhanger, preferably with another section from another POVC thrown in the middle once the unities would be violated, it’s time for a new section. For instance, a guy does a bunch of stuff on Friday and then goes to sleep. Saturday morning is probably going to be a new section, just as it would be a new scene in a play. (In the play’s program, it might be labeled: The Next Morning). Again, we have all seen these things, but we may not have paid attention to how they work and what they are doing for the stories.

Switching Points of View

In the section above, I illustrated how one can change points of view. In that particular case, the new section had changed all of the Classical Unities, plus the point of view. They had changed location, it was later in the evening, the action was different, and we changed eyes from sister to brother. But the section can change even if the only thing changing is the point of view (same time, same place, same action):

Pierre shivered as he tried to check his cannon. Why was he so cold? He had heard someone mention fevers and that the English ship might be a plague ship. If he got the fever, maybe they would send him home, if he lived.

They should have reloaded the guns with grape before approaching for a boarding action. Now, he could see down the deck that his ship was being boarded. They must have had thousands of men on that English ship.

He could light a small fire to warm up and be ready to light the slow match for the guns. That would help him think. He was getting no orders from his chain of command.

***

Tronjoly saw a grappling hook appear on the far side of his ship’s quarterdeck. It was totally opposite from where the British attack was coming. He went to the edge and looked down to see at least fifty British marines climbing up the side of his ship from a ledge of ice below.

He stepped back and started issuing commands, “Repel boarders! Repel boarders! Someone get me an axe!”

He whipped out his sword, but it didn’t have the heft or a sharp enough edge to cut the boarding rope. He stepped back to get a better view of the situation and tripped over one of the men who was manning the quarterdeck guns.

***

Pierre had gotten his gun pointed in the general vicinity of where the action was, but he had still not been commanded to fire. The heavy work had warmed him slightly. He stood and started to turn as he heard the admiral’s shouting behind him. He had lifted the lit brazier to move it further from the gun when a body slammed into him from behind. He fell, losing his grip on the brazier, which instead of going further from the gun, had hot coals hitting the gun. One of them touched it off. The tampion had not even been removed.

***

It was time for Jack to release more energy. He looked up into the middle of the cloud ring in the sky just as he heard the first cannon of the day being fired.

***

Marcus heard the cannon fire followed by a thud and a fwoomp with a wave of extreme heat. He was knocked down by the shockwave. He regained his feet and turned back to where Jack had been. There was a charred skeleton standing there looking upward but with hands outstretched holding a white-hot glowing cannonball and above the air was roiled in a way Marcus had never seen. Far above, it was as if the stem of a mushroom were forming into the cap as clouds formed and rolled outward.

Marcus looked back down to see the skeleton and ball slowly fall backwards onto the deck.

“Fire brigade! Water on this right now!” he shouted.

A few men moved and poured buckets, especially on the melting metal cannonball and the deck around it.³

The above is an excerpt of a much larger sequence of events. In less than a page or two, we have five sections (last only partial). The POVC are, in order: a French sailor manning a small quarterdeck gun, a French admiral, the French sailor again, the British Royal Navy Captain, and a British Lieutenant Colonel of Marines, who happened also to be the British captain’s younger brother. Because it is a battle with a lot of action, the perspective changes often. I could have written it from only the perspective of the main protagonist of the story, Marcus, the Marine colonel. But he could not see or know everything that was happening. By moving around the battle, it was possible to see the full sequence of events. All five sections could be considered the same time, place, and action sequence, but the shifting points of view gave more information and more immediacy to the action.

It should also be obvious that the POVC character is quickly identified, often in the first word of the section: Pierre, Tronjoly, Pierre, Jack, Marcus. It makes it easier for the reader to tell whose head they are in at the moment.

Summary and Questions

So, that is how a point of view character or multiple such characters can be the writer’s friend.

Have you ever taken notice of how this is done in books before? Have you ever seen it done badly? Have you ever tried to write a novel? Did you stay awake through this? Share your experiences, Ricochet.

Notes:

1. I’m going from memory on these as I have little time to write this. Any errors, please feel free to point and laugh.

2. Thrown in for @gldiii.

3. Excerpts from some of my own unpublished stories that may some day be published.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Excellent advice from one of this site’s finest writers. Thanks, Arahant.

    • #1
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:16 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Excellent advice from one of this site’s finest writers. Thanks, Arahant.

    Thank you, Gary.

    • #2
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. KentForrester Moderator

    You just had to get that off your chest didn’t you? Do you feel better now? 

    • #3
    • September 15, 2020, at 1:21 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    You just had to get that off your chest didn’t you? Do you feel better now?

    Yes, I do. Not only that, but I can point to it with the examples for authors I am working with, at least if it goes to the Main Feed.

    • #4
    • September 15, 2020, at 1:25 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. KentForrester Moderator

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    You just had to get that off your chest didn’t you? Do you feel better now?

    Yes, I do. Not only that, but I can point to it with the examples for authors I am working with, at least if it goes to the Main Feed.

    Ah ha! An ulterior motive. I like that. In fact, I like it so much I’ll give you a Like. 

    • #5
    • September 15, 2020, at 1:27 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Ah ha! An ulterior motive. I like that. In fact, I like it so much I’ll give you a Like.

    Thank you. It all comes down to laziness.

    • #6
    • September 15, 2020, at 1:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. KentForrester Moderator

    Speaking of Main Feeds, ‘hant, I’ve developed a pot belly over the past year or two, so I’m going on a Keto diet, starting today. Unhappily, that means I’ll have to go off my vegetarian diet. The Keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet, which is just not possible on a vegetarian diet.

    I ate a piece of meat for dinner tonight, the first meat I’ve eaten in a few years. It was a piece of salmon, and I felt for the fish. It’s possible that my tender feelings will undermine my new diet. Yes, I have tender feelings. I have tender feelings galore.

    We’ll see. I’ll report back in a year.

    I’m not off track here, am I?

    • #7
    • September 15, 2020, at 1:40 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    I’m not off track here, am I?

    Maybe slightly. I was a vegetarian for nineteen years, but it also brought me increasing weight and health problems. Like you, I took a huge turn for a keto diet. Not only did I lose weight, but a significant number of my other health problems went away. That was when I realized that I had celiac disease. I probably need to go keto again, but it’s hard since my wife isn’t going in that direction.

    I got over the whole thing of feeling bad for the meat animals pretty quickly. Humans should be omnivores. And being too much of an omnivore is why I need to go back to keto. 😁

    • #8
    • September 15, 2020, at 1:52 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  9. Boss Mongo Member

    ‘Hant, you’ve given me similar advice before, and I’m working on a short story now which I specifically designed to be an exercise in switching points of view. I am using the “***” and I think it’s working.

    I’m also trying to employ @dougkimball ‘s advice to put some effort into developing the bad guys’ background and characters, which has kind of turned them into “bad guys.” That endeavor has turned this “short story” into a beast.

    Also, one of the characters is named Gabriela.

    @kentforrester, I’ll PM you some tips I picked up along the way. I went no carb/low carb/slow carb when I got the TII diabetes diagnosis, and (thus far) have dieted my way out of it.

    • #9
    • September 15, 2020, at 3:36 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    I’m also trying to employ Doug Kimball’s advice to put some effort into developing the bad guys’ background and characters, which has kind of turned them into “bad guys.”

    Characters are characters. They (almost) all and always think they’re the good guys. Even if they’re doing something bad or morally questionable, they think it’s for good reasons, even if it’s so they can make one last score before retiring and getting out of a bad business. I don’t know how he’s done lately, but an author I enjoyed early in his career was Victor Gischler. Novels like Gun Monkeys, Suicide Squeeze, and the Pistol Poets were a lot of fun, but there were no good guys. Gun Monkeys, in particular, focused on the head enforcer of the Orlando mob. If you haven’t read it, find it. It’s a hoot, but also the characters might be the sort you’re looking for, and you can analyze how to do it well.

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    That endeavor has turned this “short story” into a beast.

    A good beast, meaning a great story? Or a bad beast for you as a writer trying to get it done?

    • #10
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:18 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Gun Monkeys, in particular, focused on the head enforcer of the Orlando mob. If you haven’t read it, find it. It’s a hoot, but also the characters might be the sort you’re looking for, and you can analyze how to do it well.

    One thing I’ll add, though, the protagonist is not a good guy. It’s not white hats and black hats, if that’s what anyone expects in a book. Every character is dark gray to black. If you can get past that, the novel is one of the best I have ever read. It is comedy, and very fast-paced. It’s a fast read, and great exercise for those core muscles as you laugh your hiney off.

    Edited to add: Both of my parents hated the book, because the protagonist, a mob enforcer, goes unpunished. Again, if you’re looking for good guys and bad guys, Gischler may not be for you.

    • #11
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:22 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Hmm…I seem to have read something very similar to this recently. 

    One thing I have to ask, though, is: Why is the “point of view character” discussion suddenly so current? You are about the 8th “writer writing about writing” who has taken on the topic in more or less length – that I know of- in the last year, give or take. It seems to be a trendy topic on discussion boards about fiction writing but I have not been able to locate ball that set the avalanche rolling. 

    • #12
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Hmm…I seem to have read something very similar to this recently.

    One thing I have to ask, though, is: Why is the “point of view character” discussion suddenly so current? You are about the 8th “writer writing about writing” who has taken on the topic in more or less length – that I know of- in the last year, give or take. It seems to be a trendy topic on discussion boards about fiction writing but I have not been able to locate ball that set the avalanche rolling.

    I have no idea why it would be a trend. The only place I go on the Internet these days is Ricochet, sites to research history for the books I am writing, and Breaking Cat News. Not on writing sites or writing forums anymore. I mined all I could from them decades ago.

    In reality, writing is not that complex, and there are only so many things that people do right or do wrong. If I list ten common errors, avoiding them would make 99% of the new writers better by a mile, and maybe even publishable. The omniscient narrator happens to be my top bugaboo right now because several of the people I have helped recently have indulged in it.

    And, as I said to Kent, I am essentially lazy. I figure if I can write something once and just point to it on the Internet, I can save a lot of typing with the next guy. (Just as I have been known to point Ricochet members to my four-part series on critiquing.) It’s also why I have this. Of particular interest in your case if you’re out on writing sites might be this section.

    • #13
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:52 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. MichaelHenry Contributor

    You are one smart guy, Arahant.

    • #14
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:59 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    MichaelHenry (View Comment):

    You are one smart guy, Arahant.

    Thank you, Michael. That’s great to hear from such a fine writer.

    • #15
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Boss Mongo Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    A good beast, meaning a great story? Or a bad beast for you as a writer trying to get it done?

    Meaning a big beast. My usual short stories are ponies, this is growing into a draft horse. I got about 90% done in my head, maybe 40% actually on the page.

    One thing I’ve noticed though: these characters are and will be living in my head til I get this thing done. I’ve got a lot more empathy now for Heath Ledger, whom they say went off the rails after playing the Joker. I’m good; none of my characters are that psychotic (this is another Leo & Coker production). But I empathize.

    • #16
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:37 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    One thing I’ve noticed though: these characters are and will be living in my head til I get this thing done.

    Oh, yes. There is a lot of that. And they will start revealing all sorts of things about themselves, too.

    • #17
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I am so in awe of those who write fiction–it’s such a challenge. You are so generous to explain the way to do it. For those rare times I try fiction, I now have some very helpful pointers to follow. Thanks!

    • #18
    • September 15, 2020, at 6:23 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Stad Thatcher

    I like to minimize narration and let the reader step into the shoes of the characters. While I use third-person, I introduce what a character is thinking using first-person in italics. For example:

    Jill stared at her husband as he sat at the breakfast table spooning his oatmeal. A tiny bit dribbled from the corner of his mouth. He’s so old and tired. I don’t know if he’s up for a debate. Maybe Kamala should debate Trump instead.

    • #19
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:24 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  20. Stina Member

    Arahant: Have you ever taken notice of how this is done in books before? Have you ever seen it done badly? Have you ever tried to write a novel? Did you stay awake through this? Share your experiences, Ricochet.

    Yes on all accounts.

    I read a lot of novels, not all the greatest, but I note that some Romance authors are better at POV than others. Danielle Steele is kinda awful at it. Most of the young adult books I read are pretty good with POV handling and I have definitely noted that I prefer multiple POV with the section splits. I can’t stand stories that mix up the POVs inside paragraphs (to the point I won’t finish the book) and I can deal with POV that switch character perspectives by paragraph. My daughter is reading a book that does that and it is about on par with the sectioned split.

    There was one book I read that was a great story, but it was a first person, non-omniscient narrative, present tense story. The author was careful with staying in pov and was faithful to it, but her character possessed a lot of the insecurities I can only imagine the author had about herself and could have benefited from being outside that character’s head occasionally (probably frequently).

    I have noticed that true ON is really hard to come by and its not a preference for me when I do find it.

    Yes, I have tried to write a novel. I didn’t get very far. I wanted to write a Christian horror story that used inclusive theology and spiritual warfare in a primitive tribal setting. Basically, that’s all I have. My idea has been sitting and gathering digital dust on my computer for several years now. 

    • #20
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  21. KentForrester Moderator

    Stad (View Comment):

    I like to minimize narration and let the reader step into the shoes of the characters. While I use third-person, I introduce what a character is thinking using first-person in italics. For example:

    Jill stared at her husband as he sat at the breakfast table spooning his oatmeal. A tiny bit dribbled from the corner of his mouth. He’s so old and tired. I don’t know if he’s up for a debate. Maybe Kamala should debate Trump instead.

    Ha, ha. You got me, Stad. I didn’t see that coming.

    • #21
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:35 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  22. Stad Thatcher

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    I like to minimize narration and let the reader step into the shoes of the characters. While I use third-person, I introduce what a character is thinking using first-person in italics. For example:

    Jill stared at her husband as he sat at the breakfast table spooning his oatmeal. A tiny bit dribbled from the corner of his mouth. He’s so old and tired. I don’t know if he’s up for a debate. Maybe Kamala should debate Trump instead.

    Ha, ha. You got me, Stad. I didn’t see that coming.

    It’s a gift . . .

    • #22
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:39 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  23. Stad Thatcher

    Stina (View Comment):
    Yes, I have tried to write a novel. I didn’t get very far. I wanted to write a Christian horror story that used inclusive theology and spiritual warfare in a primitive tribal setting. Basically, that’s all I have. My idea has been sitting and gathering digital dust on my computer for several years now. 

    I tell this story whenever someone asks me how I started writing:

    I was at work one day, at my desk reading a science fiction novel during lunch. This ladyfriend walked by and saw this pained expression on my face.

    “Hey Stad,” she said. “What’s wrong?”

    “It’s this book,” I replied. “I thought it would be good, but it sucks. I could write a better story than this.”

    My friend looked at me and said, “Then shut up and do it.”

    As she walked off, I starting thinking about what I liked in all the science fiction stories I’d read since I was in elementary school (I learned to read at a very young age). Sure enough, when I got home that afternoon, I fired up my laptop and just started writing off the top of my head. The rest is history. There is another side story that goes along with this one, but the basic idea is like the Nike slogan: just do it.

    • #23
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  24. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Well done. I agree with all of this.

    It can also be important to have people who’s heads you are not in. 

    It would spoil Silence of the Lambs to be in the head of the killer. 

    • #24
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:02 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    I am currently in the process of completing my first draft for my novel. I stopped to check out this post.

    I have also completed a 30000 word novella, which is in the hands of my beta readers right now. Want to get some feedback before starting the second draft.

    • #25
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:02 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. Skyler Coolidge

    They call me Ishmael.

    • #26
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… Member

    When I was revising my novel I definitely had to cut out a few instances of head hopping. It’s a good example of trade-offs because it meant losing some thoughts and emotions from secondary characters that I thought were valuable, just not valuable enough to retell the story from their perspective.

    I find it helpful to think of their always being an ON, it just being a question of how closely he’s hovering over the POV character. You may disagree-which I’d be interested to hear-but I find it useful to be able to pull back and fill in details that, without getting into the head of another character, wouldn’t have been readily apparent to the POV character at the time of the action.

     

    • #27
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:10 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. cirby Member

    I started writing a novel a while back, and then it stalled on me. It was originally a semi-omniscient narrator story, but I realized it wasn’t going to work, so I went in and rewrote the first thirty or so pages into pure first-person.

    …but then I realized that wasn’t exactly right, either, so I started using other points of view. Whenever I shift away from the main character, the POV shifts to a video broadcast showing what’s happening to the other characters, since one of them does live video streaming for a living.

    Now, I just need to finish writing.

    • #28
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:23 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Stina (View Comment):
    The author was careful with staying in pov and was faithful to it, but her character possessed a lot of the insecurities I can only imagine the author had about herself and could have benefited from being outside that character’s head occasionally (probably frequently).

    I have read a few like that. Not the best things to read. I generally try to minimize the internal dialogue. Let the reader figure out what the character is thinking mostly through what they do or say. Occasionally, it is good to have an insecure character who is speculating about something. But not a whole book of it.

    • #29
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:16 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    It can also be important to have people who’s heads you are not in. 

    It would spoil Silence of the Lambs to be in the head of the killer. 

    Definitely. In my upcoming books, there is a sequence of stories about a serial killer. The stories are from the perspectives of the guy hunting him, people speculating about him, and a couple of his victims. Then after his identity is discovered, there is speculation about him and his thought processes, but he is never the POVC.

    There are also plenty of other characters who are never the POVC, but they could be. It’s just that they don’t happen to be.

    • #30
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:25 PM PDT
    • 2 likes