Tag Archives: POV

Writing (or not writing) in Omnipotent POV (Or is that Head Hopping?)

I recently was contacted by a friend who I did a beta read for, asking for help.

She wrote her manuscript from an “omnipotent” point of view, which means you are inside every character’s head, and hear all their thoughts.

Think GirlApparently I was not the only one who cautioned her against this. She asked for tips on how to fix her manuscript to not make it sound like “head hopping”.

As I typed up my lengthy response, I figured it might be beneficial to others as well.  Hope this helps … and before anyone starts yelling, remember that SEVERAL beta readers had told her that the head hopping in her manuscript was jarring.

This was my response:

Omnipotent POV is very hard these days. In my opinion, it is a very “old” kind of writing. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Many classics are written in this fashion.  The problem with omnipotent in contemporary writing is that readers have become accustomed to a deeper experience. And from what I’ve seen, the deeper the better. This can only be done effectively with one POV per scene.  More than that and the reader gets confused, and it is harder for them to immerse themselves in the story.

When I was trying to defend my own Omnipotent manuscript a few years ago, (a mutual friend) recommended a romance novel to me, written by a best selling author that had sold a gazillion copies.  I read it, but to be honest, even though she was trying to help me defend omnipotent, it made me completely change my mind. The “head hopping” was far more distracting than I ever thought it would be reading a professional book.

All this to say… that most (not all) publishers will be more comfortable with third person or first person POV, and having only one POV per chapter (or a scene break, but I personally prefer one per chapter

Has omnipotent been done? Of course. Has it sold?  Yup. Is it as good as deep POV from a single character? – debatable, and depends on what you think is good. From what I have seen, It looks like the people doing it are well established, and publishers (and readers) will buy their books no matter what.

For newbies like us, you might want to be cautious.

However, if you love the omnipotent, and think you NEED it, go for it! It might end up excellent. You could start a new trend.

(Note: I did show her in her novel that almost every scene cold have easily been written in one character’s POV, or switching up with a scene break)

Just do so with caution, knowing that it could potentially be an instant deal breaker for some pubs and agents. (As any POV could be, but more so than the more accepted methods these days.)

I did read an article written by an agent last year (cannot remember who is was, sorry) that said that omnipotent was “lazy writing” and put it out there in the category of manuscripts with show verses tell issues

Will everyone think that way?  No, of course not.

Again, this is just to make you realize what you might be up against. If you do choose to do omnipotent, it needs to flow fluidly from one character to another so it is not jarring. I think this is something that will just take a lot of practice until you get it right

Best of luck whatever you decide!

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Lesson Twenty-Eight from a Manuscript Red Line: Very Discreet Point of View Switches

I’ve talked about this before, but the second time might be a charm.  I think a lot of people are having trouble with discreet POV switches.  The big ones… where we pop heads for half a chapter are easy to find.  The one-liners may be harder to spot.

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 click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Let’s go back to my little flash fiction scene.  Remember Jason and Eric fighting?  Let’s add a line to that.  (In bold)

Jason grunted as his fist swung toward Eric’s face.  Eric tried to dodge, but instead felt the sting of the older boy’s ring cutting into his jaw.  He fell to the floor with a muffled thump, and groaned as he rolled over. 

Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  “I told you to stay down.”

Eric pushed up onto his knees.  “Why, so you can just pummel me?”  He popped up and swung at Jason, but missed.

Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  There was no time for Eric to react.  His head creaked back, and his jaw rattled as he crumpled to the floor.

Jason breathed heavily, mopping the sweat from his brow.  He grunted and chose his words carefully.  “I told you to stay down, idiot.”  He snickered at the pitiful scene before him, and walked away.

There you have a short-one paragraph POV switch.  The scene is in Eric’s POV.  How would Eric know Jason was choosing his words carefully?  How would Eric know he was snickering at how pitiful he looked?  (Remember Peanut butter and Jelly Syndrome?)  Jason could have just remembered a funny joke.  Eric has no idea what he is really thinking.

The reason I used “Chose his words carefully” which might be a little odd in the example above, was because those were the words used in the POV switch in the Gold Mine Manuscript.  We were in character #1’s POV, and then another character “chose his words carefully”.  They flagged it as a POV switch.

Honestly, before reading their comments, I would have read right over this… I have also seen it in published works, but it is a switch in POV.  Do your best to keep an eye out for little things like this.  It will set your novel apart.

Hope this helps!

 

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

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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?

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

_JenniFer____EatoN

I need some help with something. Got a minute?

I’ve run into a conundrum.  It’s kind of a good conundrum – betas are loving Fire in the Woods… until they get to one point.

I partly expected the responses:

“This is confusing, but if no one else says anything, ignore me.” And “This is distracting.  Is there another way to do this?”

So, this is my problem.  Fire in the Woods is told in “First Person” (the “I” Point of view)

There is a large sequence where people around my main character are speaking another language, and she can’t understand them.  To keep the continuity of the story, I wrote the whole sequence in English.  Then I went back and translated it.

I figured there would be some people who wanted to know what they were saying, so I subtitled it.  I also figured people who wanted to stay in Jess’s confused POV would not even glance at the subtitles.  So far, this seems to be backfiring.

So, this is my question:  How should I handle this scene? I don’t want to keep saying over and over “they spoke in their weird language” or something like that, but I obviously can’t leave in all the foreign dialect.

Have you ever seen something like this done well in a published work?  Have you read a passage where characters are speaking another language, and the POV character doesn’t understand them?

I have an idea what to do, but before I do a lot of work and screw things up, I’d like to see an example of someone doing it WELL.

Any suggestions?

_JenniFer____EatoN

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.

Lesson Seventeen from a Manuscript Red Line: Who are we talking to?

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 click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

We’ve been on Point of View for a little while now.  No need to break a trend.  This particular publisher harped on it a lot, so here I am passing their wisdom on to you.  The next POV comment they made was to make sure it is immediately obvious when you start a chapter whose POV you are in.

I was a little surprised by this.  One of the things that I admired in the Gold Mine Manuscript, was the beautiful imagery.  The author is so much better at building the “view” of the scene for a reader than I am.  The problem is, that she did it in the beginning of the chapter.  As a reader, you would have to get through the entire description of the room before you found out who was in it.

Honestly, I never even considered this a problem.  I liked it so much, that I even tried a few on my own.  It sounded weird in my novel, though.  My natural instinct was to write “Harris stepped into the room.  Pink cascades of fabric surrounded him.”  Rather than:  “Pink cascades of fabric swirled along the walls, dipping and spinning before the etched windows…etc , etc.

Both of these two examples tell you there was pink fabric hanging from the walls.  One just tells you that Harris was in the room.  This publisher prefers the first example.

This is really not a tough fix.  If you have a flowery, beautiful beginning (Good for you, I stink at this)  Anyway… keep your imagery, but introduce the POV character who is seeing the scene, so we know whose “head” we are in.

Happy editing!

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Fifteen from a Manuscript Red Line: How Many POV’s Can You Have?

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 click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

At one point in the red-lining of the manuscript, the publisher stopped, and wrote a full page explaining the importance of careful Point of View switching.   I’m glad you’re on a computer… It means you’re probably already sitting down.  A lot of you might not like this much.  I know I didn’t.

The publisher counted nine different POVs in the Gold Mine Manuscript.  They said the problem with this is the reader can’t get deep into one character.  They realized the author was going to different POVs to give background, but they said that they could not relate to these new characters, because they hadn’t learned enough about them to understand their motives.  It makes it very difficult to feel anything for any specific character.

They cautioned against switching to POVs that are not intrinsic to the story just to give background, conflict, or added tension.

The publisher recommended **Gack** editing it to three points of view, one of them being the female character, who had not been a strong POV character in the original.

THAT’S REMOVING 6 POINTS OF VIEW!

Now, I must say that I’ve read a partial revise of the gold mine manuscript.  Do not be daunted.  I’ve seen that this can be done.  If a scene in an “unnecessary  POV” has important information in it, you just need to get creative and find a  way for the POV characters to be there, or overhear what happened.  It’s possible.  You just need to broaden the scope of your thinking.

In my next post, I will show you the tool I used to break down my POV characters… and yes, I needed a tool.  I was surprised with how many POV’s I had!

Jennifer Eaton

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