Lesson Thirteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 1

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can look under “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I used to slip out of my POV all the time, and now I am trying to really get my head inside the POV character so I am very aware of them and their surroundings.   I used to write partially omniscient, and I could see through walls and such.  Silly me.

This publisher noted that when you are in one character’s POV, make sure the narration does not tell something that the POV character cannot see.  For instance, if your character looks out the balcony window, thinks it’s a warm wonderful night, and then goes to bed.  Don’t Pre-tell with a three sentence closing scene of velociraptors swarming just on the other side of the trees, quarreling about who will get to eat your main character.

Great dramatic effect? Yes, and they use it in movies all the time, but the POV character can’t see it, so it’s a bit strange and out of place, right?

Now, if they heard something in the bushes, a growl, something unsettling… that would work fine. Then let them go off to nighty-night.

The same goes for a passage like “What Jessica didn’t know, was that someone was stealing her car while she put on her makeup.”  If we are in Jessica’s POV, this doesn’t quite work.  We need to wait and follow Jessica out the door to find out WITH HER that her car was stolen.

Make sense?

Jennifer Eaton

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10 responses to “Lesson Thirteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. Thanks for clearing this up, I think I cheated once when I made my MC see ten minutes into the future.

  3. Pingback: Spreading the luv. Posts you MUST read! Seriously…I have great taste! – Natalie Hartford

  4. Fantastically clear post on POV – wow – you sum it up beautifully and it totally makes sense. I mean, I am not a total dunce but at the same time, I’ve read a number of post lately on POV and couldn’t quite master what people were trying to say. Thanks for laying it out clear and to the point. Feel like I finally get it! LOL!

    • I’m glad you got something out of it, Natalie. I know a lot of the stuff being written out there is on the same topics, but it’s great to hear that I am presenting it in a way that’s easy to understand!

  5. Great advice. In my first novel, I have a scene where my main character is in a hot tup and a cougar is in the woods behind her. I was using this version for the mentorship program with Humber School for Writers, and Joan Barfoot (my mentor) pointed out the character doesn’t know the cougar is behind her so I couldn’t write anything about it. I did what you suggested about and had her hear a branch snap. Funny how easy it is to make this mistake. This is were a good reader comes in and points out the flaw.

  6. A topic close to my heart, Jennifer. As a reader, I spot “head-hopping” and POV slips all the time. Why? Because I engage with the character (if it’s a good read), and it’s a speed bump for me when a character sees, knows, or foretells something that doesn’t fit.

    Do I spot it during edits on my own writing? All. The. Time. That shows two things about the scene I’ve written. First, I was NOT in the character’s head when I wrote the scene. Second, the entire scene needs another look. Am I in the character’s voice AT ALL in the scene? (I recently had to rewrite a scene b/c my protags “voice” came to play in the hero’s scene. Not good.)

    You are so right that the reader (this reader, at least) better appreciates a chill wind, strange noise, rustling in the trees outside the window. LOVE this series.

  7. I’m still wrestling with this. I so want to have those extra POV’s so we can see what’s happening beyond the main character’s scope. I want everyone to see the dragon on the horizon, lurking…waiting, in the treeline. I could do this if I was writing a screenplay, but alas, I am not, nor is it something I’m ready to take on just yet.

    • I honestly liked the dragon lingering and waiting. However, to be honest, something felt wrong when I read it. I felt like I was in a TV show. I liked it. But… somethng was just not right. Now that I’ve looked at it from this perspective, it is because there was actually no Point Of View in that scene. It was an add-on just for dramatic effect.