WHOSE POINT OF VIEW?
In the opening scene of a book I picked up recently, the story begins in omniscient POV (the narrator) watching as the hero ascends the steps to a house, POV moves to the hero for two paragraphs, then to the footman, then to the heroine, back to omniscient and back to the hero. All of this in one short scene.
This wasn’t a contest entry or a first book – this was the umpteenth book by a well published author. Thinking it may just be an unfortunate aberration I ploughed on, but every single scene is the same… head hopping between the narrator and several characters. Sorry to say, but this was a DNF (did not finish). And the reason I did not finish it? With all that head hopping firstly I couldn’t keep track of whose head I was in and secondly, and most importantly, I did not care enough about any of the characters (let alone the hero or heroine) to persist. The reason I did not care was because I never got a chance to get to know them, get into their heads, under their skin, see what they were seeing, feel what they were feeling…
And that is what point of view is all about. A good story puts you into the character’s skin and you become that character. This is even more important when you are writing a romance which is all about the relationship between two people.
I’m the last one to lecture about ‘rules’ but in my opinion this is a simple ‘rule’ or guidance, particularly if you are just starting out on your writing journey. Unless you are supremely confident in your writing, Keep It Simple Sweetie (KISS) - one point of view per scene is enough.
If you are writing a romance (even if you’re not!), the only two points of view the reader wants to see is that of the two protagonists – the hero and the heroine. One point of view character per scene. Put yourself in the shoes of the point of view character. SHOW DON’T TELL. Guess what… he doesn’t care about his own ‘blue eyes’ but he does care about her grey eyes. What can he see, smell, hear, touch?
But which character to use? The character who has the biggest emotional investment in the scene and if you find the scene is not working, switch the point of view to the other character and you may find seeing it through HER eyes makes the scene work a whole lot better.
If you must use the point of view of a third character, use it sparingly but consistently through the book. If Uncle Albert has an important role to play, feed little scenes with him (again in his POV alone) from early on in the book, don’t save his point of view for one scene right at the end. Make him a part of the story arc, but not so as to detract from the two principal character.
But please, please do not head hop between characters in the same scene! (Or at least not unless your name is Nora Roberts)
Award winning Australian author, Alison Stuart learned her passion from history from her father. She has been writing stories since her teenage years but it was not until 2007 that her first full length novel was published. A past president of the Romance Writers of Australia, Alison has now published seven full length historical romances and a collection of her short stories. Many of her stories have been shortlisted for international awards and BY THE SWORD won the 2008 EPIC Award for Best Historical Romance.
Her inclination for writing about soldier heroes may come from her varied career as a lawyer in the military and fire services. These days when she is not writing she is travelling and routinely drags her long suffering husband around battlefields and castles.
Alison’s latest book is EXILE’S RETURN, a stunning historical romance set in the period of the English Civil War.
England, 1659: Following the death of Cromwell, a new king is poised to ascend the throne of England. One by one, those once loyal to the crown begin to return ...
Imprisoned, exiled and tortured, fugitive Daniel Lovell returns to England, determined to kill the man who murdered his father. But his plans for revenge must wait, as the King has one last mission for him.
Agnes Fletcher's lover is dead, and when his two orphaned children are torn from her care by their scheming guardian, she finds herself alone and devastated by the loss. Unwilling to give up, Agnes desperately seeks anyone willing to accompany her on a perilous journey to save the children and return them to her care. She didn't plan on meeting the infamous Daniel Lovell. She didn't plan on falling in love.
Thrown together with separate quests – and competing obligations – Daniel and Agnes make their way from London to the English countryside, danger at every turn. When they are finally given the opportunity to seize everything they ever hoped for, will they find the peace they crave, or will their fledgling love be a final casualty of war?