What silly mistake did you Beta Reader find this week? Mild POV Switches

In writing Last Winter Red (Writing to a Deadline) I had one sentence that I KNEW was a POV switch.  I read it several times, I knew I had to delete it, but I just couldn’t get the feel I wanted without it.  This is the line:

“Sara sat at the end of the table, quietly enjoying the exchange.”

Now, the problem with this line is the entire novelette is written in Emily’s POV.  This, if you’ll notice, is Sara’s POV.  What I wanted to do in this line, is express that the little girl, Sara is excited that her friend Emily is suddenly getting along with her Dad. (She is observing their conversation)

So I decided to leave the line, and sent it out to my beta readers.  Would you believe that five for five of them read right over it?  That is how subtle POV switches can be.

Then, of course, the anally talented Ravena drops in with a last-minute beta read.  (I mean that lovingly by the way… I count on her for that—um, being anal— not late.  :-))

I think she actually cackled… “Ha!  Got you!  POV switch!  You yell at me for this all the time!”

You know what was really funny about this?  After I stopped laughing about her response, I looked at the sentence again, and realized I COULD change it to Emily’s POV and still get what I wanted out of the line.

“Sara sat at the end of the table, smiling quietly.”

Now, that may seem brutally obvious with me just handing it to you on a silver platter, but center that line in the text, and try to keep your overall tone, and a little thing like this is hard to come up with.

Sometimes, you just need to be laughed at in order to kick your brain into high gear.

Of course, I am sure some will complain that you don’t need the word quietly at all, that a smile is naturally quiet, but I like the feel of this.  If it gets red-lined, I will let you know.

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12 responses to “What silly mistake did you Beta Reader find this week? Mild POV Switches

  1. Ann Marquez

    Excellent example. You are so right this is subtle and a tough one especially for the writer to spot. Thank you for sharing ;)

  2. Sweetheart, I need to tell you that there is a typo in the title of this darling little post. Beta is spelled “beat” instead. I’m sorry to bring it to your attention, but I would want someone to say something if it were me (like having something in your teeth all day and no one says anything. I hate that)

  3. POV editing, not the most fun thing, but nice someone spotted it. I’m kind of with Kirsten on the adverbs. I started trying to remove them and now they seem to stand out everywhere.

    • In short supply, they can make a profound statement. Too many can make a novel slush-worthy. I believe this is one of two that I allowed. The other is “slowly” because it was very important in it’s placement.

  4. Very interesting! I’m a fiend about adverbs myself, but I’m with you on the ‘quietly.’ It lends the sentence a placid quality it wouldn’t otherwise have. I just love this sort of microscopic analysis.
    And beta readers are nothing short of awesome. :)

  5. Heavens, I head hop all the time in subtle ways like this. I’m thrilled when my betas find them because I skip right over them. They are so easy to miss.

  6. brilliant! :) Quite frankly, I think my last hurdle is to go over the POV in my WIP. Almost there…

    • It was my biggest challenge in the beginning. I wanted tons of POVs. It wasn’t until after I was done that I found it was a mistake. Last Winter Red is all one POV. My current WIP is one point of view as well. I’m hoping I can hold on to it for 60,000 words.

  7. I think for this kind of POV line I try and make the thought in the correct characters head, but to make it judgemental, so in this example Emily would notice her friend smiling and making a judgement of why she is smiling. If you see what I mean. But I think it works just fine the way you have it as well.

    And POV details like this are just a pain in the bum!