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More POV violations

August 28, 2011

Most new writers struggle with point of view. They are so used to the pseudo-omniscient head hopping that they don’t know how to write from a limited third person point of view.

I thought I would share a bit of advice.

Let’s assume a novel has a paragraph like this:

A six-year-old boy with blond curly hair raced down the stairs, coming to a stop in front of a woman with the same blond curls.

The woman laughed and rolled her blue eyes, making the boy grin.

So what’s wrong with this paragraph (besides the grammar issues—using a participle for sequential actions)?

The paragraph violates the rules of point of view.

The scene is told from the woman’s POV. Let’s name her Mandy. The boy is her son. Obviously, Mandy wouldn’t think of herself as “the woman,” and she has no reason to think about the color of her eyes. If we are in her POV, we should show her thoughts and emotions instead of showing her from the outside.

Mandy also wouldn’t think of her son as “the boy.” Use whatever name your POV character would use. And since she is very familiar with her son, she also wouldn’t think about his age or the color of his hair.

If you are writing the scene from Mandy’s point of view, you can’t mention things she wouldn’t notice or think about at that moment.

You can sneak in little pieces of description if you give the POV character a good reason for noticing things that she’s familiar with.

In third person limited POV, the paragraph might read like this:

Ben raced down the stairs. When he skidded to a halt in front of Mandy, a tuft of blond curls fell into his eyes.

Mandy laughed and rolled her eyes, making him grin. “You need a haircut.”

Mandy notices because mothers notice things like overdue haircuts. We’re well within her POV. Her thoughts and actions also show us a bit of her personality (she’s a good mother), and that’s more important than letting the reader know her hair or eye color.

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4 comments

  1. Jae,

    Trying for another toaster huh? 😉

    Seriously, if there is one thing new writers should learn, and some not so new writers, who shall remain nameless, it is the correct use of POV.

    It’s challeging at first, but using limited POV become natural very quickly. And it makes for a much better story.

    RJ


    • Not a toaster oven, RJ. I think I get a new quill if I can convince just one more writer to stop head hopping 🙂


  2. […] More POV violations […]


  3. […] More POV violations […]



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