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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CRAFT: Switching Point of View

The wonderful, incredibly knowledgeable, Paul Roe is my guest blogger for the next four weeks. She's written a fantastic series on craft techniques for writers (and it's not just aimed at romance writers!).

The Mid-Week Technique series - there are 8 posts as of Dec.2012 - are on her blog. I'll place a list of them with the last guest post, at the end of the month, for anyone who wants to read all of them (and I highly recommend you check them out as they're gems in terms of information and examples).

Without further ado, I'll let Paula begin her post...

Switching Point of View - by Paula Roe

Today I’m talking about point of view (POV). Stop me if you’ve heard any of these before:
  1. “You should only be in one character’s head per scene – no switching point of view.”
  2. “Readers don’t want to know what your hero is thinking -  it’s your heroine’s story, so tell it from her viewpoint.”
  3. “Whatever you do, don’t head hop!”
  4. “You should stick with just your hero and heroine’s POV.”
  5. “If you write first-person POV, your reader won’t empathise with your other characters.”
Now, while I’m not going to argue the pros and cons of these (sadly, all-too-real) statements, I will talk about effectively and smoothly switching from one character’s POV to the other.  And it is really, really simple.

Here’s a paragraph I prepared earlier:
Jenny gasped, the breath in her throat burning the way the whiskey had done only moments before.  Jason’s hand on her wrist tightened, fingers digging into her soft tender flesh and her anger flashed behind bright blue eyes.  He smiled, knowing he was affecting her, judging by the way her pulse leaped under his fingers.

Gosh, it’s actually painful  to leave that badly written paragraph intact :angry: !  Argghh!!  So, what do we know about this para?

Sentence 1 – we’re in Jenny’s POV.  Why?  Because of ‘the breath in her throat burning’.  This is something she feels, that no-one else can.
Sentence 2 – we start out in Jenny’s POV (his hand on her wrist tightened) but end up in Jason’s because of the ‘anger flashed behind her bright blue eyes’.  Because she can’t see her anger, and she wouldn’t think ‘my bright blue eyes’.
Sentence 3 – In his POV, because he feels her pulse beneath his fingers.

So how to fix it?  Before I do that, here’s some important things about POV switches:
  1. not every POV switch should start with an extra line space – in fact, if you do this in the same scene, it will only jar your reader, because ‘extra space’ means ‘later on’ or ‘this is a new scene’.  Yes, some publishers do it and it annoys the hell out of me!
  2. too many POVs in one scene and you start to lose the tension of the moment, plus annoy and possibly confuse your reader
  3. an effective way to start a new POV is with a new paragraph, and the character’s name, followed by something only they would know/think/feel
So, rewriting the above sentences (plus making our hero a little less like a violent jerk…):
Jenny gasped, the breath in her throat burning the way the whiskey had done only moments before.  When his
Jason’shand on her wrist tightened,
fingers digging into her tender flesh, and heranger
flashed behind bright blue eyessurged, giving her enough strength to break his possessive grip.
“Don’t touch me!”
“That’s not what you were saying last night.”
Hesmiled and let her put distance between them, even though his entire body ached to get up and personal with that luscious mouth of hers.  A now-scowling mouth that had only been too willing to open up for him last night.  He sure as hell knew he affected her too, 
knowing he was affecting her,judging by
herthose flashing blue eyes and her leaping pulse he’d briefly held
leapedunder his fingers.

Somewhat better :smile:

So to reiterate: when you are in one person’s head, use words and thoughts that they would say and feel, and describe stuff via their eyes. 

Easy Way to Count your POV Switches
Use either the highlighter option in Word, or do a printout and use highlighter pens (I do blue for my hero, pink for my heroine).  So when you spread your scene out across your table or floor, you have a visual representation. 

But how many switches is too much?
Well, I can’t answer that for you.  But I can tell you I had to rework one scene in my last book because I was all over the place with those switches.  It started off in his POV, then went to hers, then back to his on the same page, then back to hers, then his>hers again.  Gave me whiplash!

I’ve heard writers say “think about who has the most to lose in the scene and write it from their POV” but honestly, this is a bit hit and miss for me.  I work out whose head I’m going to start in based on a) how I ended the prior chapter or scene, plus b) what the reader needs to know about this character right now in the story.

My rough draft will be riddled with way too many POV switches and it really only takes minor editing (after I highlight my scene) to cut those jumps.  And sometimes that information in that character’s head can be best used in another scene, at another time.

Author bio: Paula Roe is a bestselling, multi-published author with over a quarter of a million books sold world-wide. Her articles have appeared in writing journals, blogs and hard copy and she is a frequent speaker at conferences and local writing groups. 

Before publication, Paula's writing won and placed in various contests, including Wisconsin Romance Writers Fabulous Five Silver Quill, Magnolia State Dixie First Chapter, Romance Writers of Australia's Emerald Award and the Valerie Parv Award. When she's not writing, she's designing websites, conducting workshops and tutorials, cooking or building Lego.

Visit her at http://www.paularoe.com/

1 comment:

  1. Some good advice here.

    #2 is my personal pet peeve. I really don't like people who think that way. Nine times out of ten I don't care what's going on in HER head and want to stay in his! No surprise, that's how I write. I just finished a romance with five POV characters. Only one of them was a woman.