What the Heck IS Point of View Anyway? (Penny Rader)

When I first began writing I had never heard of POV (point of view), so I suppose it's not surprising that I received many comments about POV from contest judges. Including those telling me to get out of my dog's POV. :D

I poked around online and found a wealth of information covering all aspects of POV. I hope you don't mind that I'm sharing the links with you as well as snippets from the articles that I hope will tempt you to click and read.

Basic Point of View (Cami Tang)
Cami has a fabulous series about Basic Point of View, which begins here.

Emotion is Physical (Alicia Rasley)

I want to discuss how using the action/perception levels of point of view, rather than the thinking and emotion levels, can actually let the readers FEEL the feeling, by putting them into the physical experience of emotion.

Establishing the Right Point of View: How to Avoid "Stepping Out of Character" (by Marg Gilks)

Every scene should have only one POV character, and everything must be filtered through that POV character's perceptions. Only the POV character can know what he or she is thinking -- he can't know what anyone else is thinking, so the reader can't, either. The POV character can't see what's going on behind her or what the person on the other end of the phone line is doing while they are talking, so the reader can't know what's going on in those places, either. Keep that in mind -- stay firmly inside your POV character's head -- and you'll rarely have trouble with point of view.

An Explanation of Point of View (Emily Hanlon)

One of the best ways to experience the power of point of view is to write an emotionally strong scene between two people who, when they tell their story, have very different versions of the experience.

First Person (Keri Arthur)
In first person writing, you need a character with a really strong voice, so distinctive that the reader will know you couldn’t tell the story any other way. Attitude is what first-person is all about. The first-person narrator can be sassy or angry or contemplative or ironic or even insane. But they can NEVER be boring. The narrative has to interesting and it has to reflect the narrator’s attitudes and personality.

ANGER. In deep POV: your chest feels as though it might burst with fury; you breathe in short gasps; you want to punch or hurt someone; you feel like bursting into tears of rage; you feel the blood rush to your head. The onlooker sees: eyes glaring; a red face; lips thinning, words uttered in haste or a shout; a punch being thrown, objects being tossed aside; an aggressive stance (hands on hips).”

How to Write a Romance Novel – POV (Gabi Stevens)

In the course of writing you will also hear the term “head-hopping.” Head hopping is jumping from one character’s POV into another’s at a rapid pace. Most readers don’t know enough about POV to realize when it happens, but they might feel some dissatisfaction with a scene or a book because of it. They won’t feel as drawn to the characters; this is because they haven’t had a chance to live in the character’s head for long enough to identify with him or her. Staying in one character’s POV gives the reader the chance to know and understand the hero or heroine.

Narrowing in Your Point of View (Alicia Rasley)

You can add texture and intensity, not to mention character dimension, to a scene by focusing tightly on the internal and sensory experience of the point of view character. You’ll want to experiment, because different situations call for different approaches.

One requirement of more personal POV is to think about those perceptions that a person actually there in the scene would have.

Point of View (Lisa Binion)

Point of view (POV) is whose eyes the story is told through. There are four different POVs - first person, second person, third person, omniscient.

No matter what your story is about, realize that which point of view you choose to write in determines how your story will be told.

Point of View (Annie Grace)

POV is all about knowing and not knowing. Readers gain an intimacy with a POV character, an understanding not only of what they are seeing and thinking, but also how they are feeling. They learn most about the POV character and if it's done well, they'll bond emotionally with the character. When you can see what a person's doing and hear what they're saying but you don't know what they're thinking -- this creates a tension.

It is like light and shadow in a painting. The light reveals: in the shadows lie the mysteries. Use POV to reveal some aspects of character and also to hint at mystery.

POV: Rules of Thumb (Nan Jacobs)

The dramatic effect of a scene is heightened if experienced through the viewpoint of the character with the most at stake. Consider your characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts to determine who has more to win or lose. If a scene plays out flat, try changing the viewpoint character.

Point of View -- Whose Story Is This? (Kaye Dacus)

How do we decide whose story it is?
Determine who the stakeholders in the story are
Who has the most to learn/the most potential for growth?
Which characters are most compelling?

POV Advantages and Pitfalls (Roni Griffin)

When I started my first novel, I didn’t give POV much thought. I was going to write in first person. Why? I dunno…seemed obvious. I wanted my readers to feel close to my character. And that’s the best way to do it, right?

Well, maybe, but not necessarily. First person came with a lot of restrictions and forced me to tell the story from one character’s perspective. So making sure she “saw” everything that needed to be seen was a challenge. At the time, I didn’t even realize I had another option at my disposal.

POV: Yours, Mine, His, Hers (Janet Corcoran)

Point of view is the foundation of your novel, how your imaginative story is told to the reader. It can keep your ideas focused or, if used incorrectly, can clutter and confuse the plotline, pacing, and goals. If you want the reader to actively take part in your story, you need to give POV your undivided attention.

Who’s on First? (Alison Kent)

I do not care how lyrical an author's prose, how taut the suspense, how intense the dramatic moments, how hot the sex, if she changes viewpoint within a scene she loses me. If she head-hops, she loses me. If she throws in a line of omniscient narrative, she loses me. All because of the way I read. Oh, sure. I can go back, pick up where I lost my train of thought, and rejoin the story already in progress. I can even thoroughly enjoy the story. But I will never regain the same relationship I had with these characters. From that moment on, I will notice and subconsciously bookmark every viewpoint change. Nothing the author does will prevent this from happening, no matter her skill, her sales records, her reviews. This is the nature of my thought process.


What do you think? Find anything helpful? Want to share any tips?

I hope you'll come back on August 26 for Deep POV and on August 31 for Male POV.


Joanie said...

Terrific post and excellent resources. Thank you!

P.L. Parker said...

Thank you for a wonderful post. POV is a hard one for me. These are great.

Helen Hardt said...

Hi Penny, great post. Alison Kent's quote really rings true for me. One incident of head hopping or omniscient POV in a story and I never feel the same way about it.

Cheryl Pierson said...


Great post, and what a wealth of wonderful information you've got here. When I wrote FIRE EYES, I had quite a lot of POV slips that my wonderful editor at TWRP helped me correct. LOL And boy, did I need help! Now, I "get it" but it's still hard sometimes to make sure that I haven't done the unthinkable and gone into another character's thoughts.

Loved this, and thanks so much for all the wonderful information!


Carol Ann said...

Great set of resources, Penny! Thanks for the post. I get asked all the time by newer writers what POV is. It's one of the easiest, yet hardest to digest. Especially, the "head-hopping." My first book, before knowing anything about fiction writing, was over the top with head-hopping. I'll be delighted to share this post with all the great resources with others.

Kathy said...

I am experimenting with something by changing POV only when I change chapters. I have the heroine's POV then the hero's and so on. I might change it when I finish the story. For now I'm just letting the words flow onto the paper sort of via the computer screen lol

Kathy said...

I am experimenting with something by changing POV only when I change chapters. I have the heroine's POV then the hero's and so on. I might change it when I finish the story. For now I'm just letting the words flow onto the paper sort of via the computer screen lol

Kathy said...

Such an interesing post and full of information. Thanks for pulling it all together for us.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for stopping by, Joanie!

Penny Rader said...

Hi Patsy! About the time I think I have all figured out I goof it up, which is why I find it helpful to have examples. :D

Penny Rader said...

Hi Helen! Isn't weird how that works? You can be reading along and then BAM! you're sucked right out of the story.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Cheryl! I thought I had a good handle on POV but my lovely editor (which I believe we share!) found where I had some pov goofs. We got lucky when we drew Helen as our editor.

Penny Rader said...

Welcome, Carol Ann! Thanks for your lovely comments. Feel free to share away! :D I hope you'll come back for visits. We have great writers in this group.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Kathy! Sounds like you have a good handle on it. I wish you the best of luck with your story. I'm in the "get it on paper and then fix it" camp. :D

Mary Ricksen said...

An editor who is willing to work with you and help you correct these errors is invaluable.
For myself I don't know if all editors are willing to go that far.
Today it has to be right by the second try or out you go!!!!!
Thank goodness my first editor was the type to do that. I have not found another since that is that considerate of an author.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for dropping by, Mary! Here's hoping we all get it right. :D

Joanna Aislinn said...

Hi Penny--and everyone :)

What a collection of resources--that must have taken so much time to put together--an awesome post/package especially for someone learning the POV ropes.

I, too, was clueless, even after having read my first very basic how-to book. Then I walked into my first critique group and got whammed w/the dreaded term 'head hopper' but once I got it I was okay and now consider that one of my strengths. As per one POV/scene, I've found that largely depends on the publishing house's style. (I do suggest, however, sticking to the more traditional guidelines when submitting to an agent or publisher for the first time.)

Finally--and I'll shut up before I have another blog post on my hands, lol--Virginia Kantra (www.virginiakantra.com) has an article at her website on deep POV and does a wonderful workshop on the subject. She also describes great ways to transition from one POV to another that so does NOT jar the reader.

Joanna Aislinn
Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
The Wild Rose Press

Rox Delaney said...

You're right, Joanna, there is a trick to transitioning between POVs mid-scene. Reading and paying attention to those who do it well can be enlightening. :)

Penny Rader said...

Hi Joanna! (waving) So glad you could stop by.

Virginia Kantra is a fabulous writer and teacher. I have a link to her article on Guy Speak in my upcoming Aug. 31 post. A few years ago I took one of her online workshops. I just finished listening to the workshop she did at the RWA 2009 conference.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Rox! Switching pov is definitely a good skill to learn. Not always easy to master.

I just finished a Harlan Coben book (suspense/mystery/thriller). The main character's POV was in 1st person. Other characters' POVs were in 3rd person. Funny, but I didn't even realize it till I was halfway through the book 'cause I was so sucked in by the story. Not sure if it would work in a romance, but I thought he pulled it off.