Lesson Fourteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 2

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

Lesson Thirteen talked about making sure we only see what the Point of View character can see.  We also have to worry about accidentally getting into the heads of other characters as we describe what the POV character is seeing.

It seems to happen most for me when I describe what another character in the scene is doing.

“Mike studied the sign on the wall.”

Is Mike the POV character? No?  Then how does the POV character know that he is studying it? He may just be looking in that direction but thinking of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Right?

Hold up your right hand and say:  forever more I will call this…

The publisher red-lined something very similar to this, and said that you need to show what the characters are doing by showing what the POV character sees them doing.  You cannot get into their heads, or assume what they are doing.

You might be able to fix something like this with “Mike stood in front of the sign on the wall, and scratched his head.”  This would work especially well if there was a little dialog afterwards that made it obvious he looked at it.  REMEMBER NOT TO SAY HE LOOKS AT IT.  (See my earlier post on “Write without Looking”)

Jennifer Eaton


11 responses to “Lesson Fourteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 2

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  4. Just stumbled across this – you’re right, it does look like a gold mine! Thanks for sharing this, I’m going to be working through these posts and applying the lessons to my own writing.

  5. I get your point Jen. I think those are great examples, especially the second one. I also get the point of the writing tip. At the end of the day, I take it that the writing rule is not an assault on the verb “to study” but the concept of a narrator acting omniscient when they clearly don’t have the ability to be.

  6. Hi Jennifer,
    These lessons are wonderful. I’m still trying to navigate your website and can’t find lessons 3 to 9. Could you help me?

    Again, thanks for all the wonderful tips.
    ~Victoria Marie Lees

    • Trouble navigating **GACK** Not something I want to hear! Eventually, I will be posting this up as a standard page. Maybe sooner than later if people are having trouble navigating.

      For now, in my right navigation bard, under “Rant Worthy Topics” click on Gold Mine Manuscript.

      It should give you a listing starting at the most recent and going down to the oldest. At the very bottom, will be a “see older posts” link. Click on that and it will show you more.

      If you still can’t find them, let me know and I will get cracking on a navigation bar page.

  7. I honestly would read right over “studied” if I wasn’t reading something critically. I think most of the examples that were red-lined are things that we all see in published work. I think the problem may lie in OVERUSE. I am finding in my editing that I am leaving some in (Especially the infamous “look” but I am removing most of them, especially from the POV characters).

    In the case like above, I am finding most of these are easy fixes, and I am enjoying the prose I create when I am careful to keep inside the character’s head.

    Again, remember this is one publisher’s opinion. And this guy is, apparently, looking for perfection. Many of these suggestions may fly elsewhere.

  8. I think the publisher is right about this in most cases, however, I do believe there are times when it is appropriate to use ‘studied’ and it is used a lot in writing, including new novels published by the big six.

    There is nothing wrong with saying the following:

    The cop rubbed his chin and studied the black and white photograph before handing it back to me.


    The old woman studied her brown speckled hands the way one would study a bug under a microscope.


    “He [the teacher]studied my every move, the way my shoulders rose and fell to the music.”

    Both of these clearly paint a picture. We, the reader, can see the scene. Why use the extra words when none is needed? It is clear when someone is studying something, especially if the scene is interactive. i.e. I give you something to look at, you examine (study) it and then give it back.

    None of these examples need additional words to explain the action of ‘studying’. It is not a POV issue. It’s an observation of the POV character. It’s what the POV character truly believes (s)he sees.

    Just my opinion. Do you agree?