Two years ago, for a livejournal community anniversary challenge, I wrote a drabble that still bothers me today. I was pretty happy with the piece initially, thought I’d come up with a fairly decent twist and it even won the community award for best interpretation of a theme, but I made one major error that I didn’t catch before posting it.
My Point of View shifted.
I should explain. The characters were kissing (there’s a lot of that in my work… I believe it was McDreamy who said “I’m all for the kissing. More kissing, I say!”) and the entire drabble had been from the POV of the male character. But suddenly, for about one paragraph, my readers are teleported into the female character’s head! It’s all about how his lips feel on hers, what his arms are like around her, and how she can’t catch her breath when BLAMMO!– we’re back in the male’s head.
And I just disoriented my reader beyond belief.
This is one of my biggest faults as a writer and so I’m particularly harsh on it in other’s writings, but you want to give your reader a close perspective in most cases and switching from character to character does the opposite by taking him or her away from a head that they’ve just settled into. I’ve been a nag about this in writing workshops (sorry to everyone in those classes) and in my review of The Kingdom Keepers it drove me absolutely batty. But that’s because I’m used to looking out for it in my own writing. I still have the annoying habit as I’m sure my fanfiction beta reader can attest.
Here are some easy things to watch out for in regards to Point of View:
- If you’re in one character’s head, don’t let them blatantly describe themselves with phrases such as ”his green eyes” or “her blonde hair.” Not even if they’re looking into a mirror– that’s not a POV shift, it’s just cliched.
- Don’t go from describing one person’s feelings to describing the other person’s unless you are switching scenes and therefore POVs.
- Beware that too. I know only too well how tempting it is to switch back and forth between character’s heads, but try to cap it at two characters. I honestly believe the stronger novels have one narrator and therefore one Point of View.
- PLEASE GOD, DO NOT USE THE PHRASE “Little did she know across town…” or similar ideas. This is not a comic book (as much fun as those can be). If your character doesn’t know, your reader shouldn’t either.
- And don’t describe things that they can’t see. They don’t know what’s happening behind them. They can only imagine what’s happening in the town they left behind. Let them speculate, but don’t state it as fact.
The Muffin blog from WOW! Women On Writing has a great article with further advice here.
And I am officially caught up on posting. Tomorrow will be your regularly scheduled Bookworm Friday!