One Writer’s Journey

June 29, 2015

POV: Beware the Shift

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:13 am

Point of view.  As a writer, you’re most likely familiar with this term.  Point of view is the view from which you are telling the story.  If you’re not sure what that means, think of it as who is holding the camera.  If you are telling the story from the point of view of your main character, your reader will get the entire story, including thoughts and feelings, from the perspective of this character.  This can be done either through a third person telling (Mark couldn’t believe how hot it was when he stepped outside) or first person (I couldn’t believe how hot it was when I stepped outside).

One of the hardest things to learn in writing is not to shift points of view.  You do that when you are merrily writing the story from Mark’s point of view but then tell us something that only Atticus knows or something Atticus has just observed.

Mark hurried out the front door and staggered as he hit the hot, humid wall of air but hurried on his way.  He couldn’t afford to be late to work again.  

Atticus briefly considered telling him that 9th Street was closed.  Let him find out himself.

Mark started his car and pulled away from the curb, merging into traffic.

Whether you give us this information from Atticus as a thought or a line of dialogue, without your point of view character present you are guilty of the point of view shift.  I’d love to say that I never make this mistake but it does occassionally happen.  I think it may be one of those things that is easier for someone else to spot in your work so I don’t really mind when my critique group points one out.  The problem is that a shift can confuse your reader.

You can avoid this problem by writing from an omniscient point of view.  This is like the camera being overhead, spying on everyone.  That said, I’m not a big fan of the onmiscient point of view because I want to be in one character’s head.  For me, it’s easier to keep track of the story.

If you find yourself frequently popping into another character’s head, you may need to write the story from a different point of view or from more than one.  Multiple point of view stories are suitable for older readers and often change points of view between scenes or chapters.  Experiment to see what works best for your story.




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