Rule #12 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever – Point of View


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #12

12: Fix your Point Of View (POV). Make it clear whose head you’re in as early as possible. And stay there for the duration of the scene. Unless you’re already a highly successful published novelist, in which case you can do what you like. The reality is that although most readers aren’t necessarily clued up on the finer points of POV, they know what’s confusing and what isn’t.

This is something that I really needed to teach myself to do. I’ve even written quite a few stories recently in one POV to keep myself from hopping.

A few years ago I wrote a novel with about a dozen points of view.  A beta reader suggested I read a BEST SELLING novel that switched points of view a lot so I could get a feel of how to do it seamlessly.  You know what happened? I couldn’t even read the book.  About half-way-through, I abandoned it because the head-hopping drove me crazy.  But wait – that was a best-selling novel????

Yes, it was… so a lot of people liked it.  I didn’t. (This was a romance novel by the way… it hopped between the two main characters)

The experience struck me enough though to go through my book like a viper ensuring that every scene had a SINGLE point of view.  I don’t want to give anyone the flip-flop experience that this novel had given to me.

It’s really not that hard.  Start a scene in someone’s head, and then pay attention to staying there.  Do you need to express the feelings of another character?  Fine.  But do it by showing what your POV character observes.

This POV advice is one I stoutly agree with.

Pick your POV and stay there.  If you need to change, start a new chapter and stay inside the news character’s head for a while.

Your writing will shine with this little added attention.  Harder? Yes, sometimes it is, but the end result is sooooo worth it.

How do you feel about head hopping? Are you guilty?

swish swivel squiggle

Click here to tweet: Watch your Point of View. Rule #12 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever from @jennifermeaton 



18 responses to “Rule #12 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever – Point of View

  1. I learned this lesson fairly early with my first critical writers group. I still have some stories from those early days in which I have trouble sorting out the POVs, but my more recent works have only one POV. It seems to work better for me – and, like you, I find stories with too many POVs very confusing!

    • Yes. I sometimes find myself wishing I’d stayed with one POV for my current WIP I guess I’ll see how betas like it in the end.

      • There are times, though, when you really want the readers to have another’s perspective within the story, especially when the lead character isn’t around. Wait and see. Maybe your betas will love it. 🙂

        • Yeah, I do want the reader to know what’s going on in the second character’s head … But since so far they have BOTH been in every scene it seems a little odd. I do have scenes later when they will be apart – so I’m going to write to the end and see how it pans out.

  2. That’s something I’ve had to work on. I don’t mind multiple POVs in a story, but you’re so right—it does need to be clear whose head we’re in!

  3. I usually have a cast of thousands in my novels, (not so much in short stories) but it’s deliberate. Accidental or unknowing head-hopping is very annoying.

  4. I stick to one point of view because I don’t think I can manage juggling or multi-tasking so much information. Also, omniscient point of view drives me crazy and I can’t do it—see can’t multi-task.

  5. After writing a few things myself, I’ve noticed how effective novels transition between pov’s. And one writer- ok, Nicolas Sparks – flip flops between characters. One chapter will be in one pov and then the next in another and back to the first one. But I often feel impatient and, having empathized with one character or the other, don’t really care what the other one is thinking.

    • Hmmm. That’s interesting to consider. In more than one point of view, an author needs to really work to make sure that both characters are strong enough to be the POV target. Thanks for sharing Renee!

  6. I’m guilty of head hopping, though I’m catching it a lot more now.

  7. If there are multiple points of view, one way is to devote a chapter to each point of view and state who’s POV it is at the start of the chapter. I’m really try to focus on staying within one POV because head-hopping really slows me down when I’m trying to enjoy a book.

  8. Staying in POV without head hopping is hard for beginning writers. I really struggled until someone told me to imagine my POV character looking through a video camera–they can only describe what they can see, hear, and smell. The camera acted as a barrier to other characters thoughts and feelings. Worked wonders for me. 🙂