Nov

16

2010

Point of View: 3

Filed under: writing | Tags:

After a week’s rest, a visit to the doctor and a reacquaintance with yoga, my hands are better today so I’m going to start to try to answer some of the questions I’ve been sent about point of view. First, though, if you haven’t read my previous posts, this one is about what point of view is, and this one is about how I’ve chosen the points of view for my novels.

Lisa asked:

In the novel I’m writing for NaNoWriMo I’ve decided to go without the hero’s POV because I think it’ll make him more intriguing but in my first novel I’m dithering over whether to get rid of the Hero’s POV or keep it in. He’s not a traditional hero but he deeply loves the heroine. It’s just that he doesn’t always show it. I’m not sure that I can show his true feelings through actions alone. Any advice? I’m writing in third person.

I think the question you have to ask yourself here is, how do you want to affect the reader of your story? Does the reader need the hero’s POV, or will they enjoy the book more without it? Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to give the reader all the answers. She might enjoy the book more if she’s wondering the whole time, “What is that guy really thinking?” and “Who is the heroine going to end up with?” She might like the bit of mystery, or enjoy learning about the hero’s true feelings along with the heroine. If that’s the case, maybe it’s best to leave out the hero’s POV. (That said, you as the author should always know how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking, even if you don’t spell it out!)

On the other hand, maybe you want the reader to see that the hero and heroine are perfect for each other, and be rooting for them to get together the whole time. In that case, it might be a good idea to have the hero’s POV in there so that the reader can see he’s a better guy than he seems to be.

In the end, it’s your choice, about what kind of book you want it to be. The only hard and fast rule is that you shouldn’t include the hero’s POV if it’s just going to repeat or confirm information that you’ve already conveyed in another character’s POV. But you already knew that, right?

Maybe you want to experiment with both ways. It’s no hardship to cut a POV thread if you feel it doesn’t work.

Carol said:

So the age old discussion on POV is head hopping. I’ve recently read some debut category romance authors who jump in and out of the h and H’s POV within the same scene very frequently. It’s been done well, so again down to the execution of it, but I would love it if you could reiterate your opinion on this.

Head hopping is when the narrative jumps from one point of view to another quite quickly, and then back again, within a single scene and indeed a single paragraph. Sometimes it’s just between the hero and heroine; sometimes it’s between several characters on the page. Lots of people say that there are hard-and-fast rules about this, that it is wrong and you should never, ever do it. To them, I say—read To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and then tell me that head-hopping doesn’t work exactly as Woolf wants it to.

Like anything, it’s all down to what you want to achieve. Some novels can take multiple points of view, with the perspective hopping hither and thither. Some can’t. (Series/category romance, by the way, nearly always has only two POVs to hop between, if you’re going to hop.) There are two rules about POV, as far as I’m concerned, and neither precludes head-hopping. The first is, try to be in the POV of the character who has most at stake. And sometimes, the stakes hop between characters; the heroine might have more at stake at one moment, and then the hero at the next, or maybe they have the same amount at stake at the same time. There’s a case for head-hopping between them in scenes like that.

The second rule is, don’t repeat yourself in different POVs. And there’s no reason that would preclude head-hopping, either. Even with the same events, two people can interpret them very differently. There are whole novels based on this idea.

For me, I find it can be distracting in commercial fiction when the POV hops around a lot—like more than once or twice per scene. The author needs to have really good control in order to make quick POV switches. My personal rule in my own writing is only ever to have one POV per scene. I like the restrictions this imposes, and I find it easier to delve into my character’s emotions if I stay with them for as long as it works. I might, very occasionally, switch POV mid-scene in story time, but I always do a scene break to do it, to separate the POVs.

Head-hopping, or not, is again, an individual author’s decision. Do you have the skill for it? Does it help you achieve what you want to achieve? Those are the questions to think about, not any general “rules” for or against it.

Thanks for your questions, Lisa and Carol. I’ll look at some more questions tomorrow or Thursday. Meanwhile, how would you answer these questions, and do you have any more?


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  1. Julie you are the fountain of all knowledge as always! You’ve hammered it home to me, I’m definitely right to omit my hero’s POV in my second novel because I would only be repeating information but in my first novel I really do need my hero’s point of view – he says one thing and does another because he’s torn between his loyalty towards his mother and his wife, the heroine. And because he says one thing then does another I need my reader to have his POV, let her know he isn’t an arrogant so-in-so he’s just caught between a rock and a hard place. Oh thank you so much *hops about the room* I can get on with my revisions with confidence now. I knew you’d know! Thank you so much! xxx And hope yours wrists are on the mend :) x

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    • Hey, that’s perfect Lisa…and I didn’t do anything, just asked some questions, and you found the right answer for you! Excellent.

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  2. Glad your hands are better. Great Post, am on brink of second write, and playing with all sorts of ideas, and have coloured cards and pens at the ready. At least I can tackle POV now. :-)

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  3. Great post, Julie!

    Not sure I’ve seen anyone actually define what head-hopping is before, so thanks. Mark me down as guilty, but improving!

    R
    X

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    • I think it’s called “multiple POV” when it’s done well, and “head-hopping” when it isn’t. Or something like that.

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  4. Thanks for the great answer and guidance Julie! I find the more technically aware I am of an issue the more glaring it becomes upon reading it. Did I know I headhopped like a bunny rabbit before it was pointed out to me a good while back? Of course not, or I wouldn’t have done it so much as I of course did not do it with the skill of Virginia Woolf.

    Your point about who has the most to lose in a scene is a great reiteration of something I should remember (slaps herself on the head here!)It’s surprising how often some of the rules slip away and need to be refreshed.

    I imagine you’re at the RNA Winer Party tonight? It was my littlest one’s 3rd birthday tonight so couldn’t make it. I guess that puts the Fecklet around four years old. Don’t they grow up quickly?

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  5. Yes, they really do grow up quickly! Happy birthday to your little one! I remember when he was born. Happy birthday to him.

    I think you’ve summed it up nicely—head-hopping is fine, if you know what you’re doing and why, and you have the technical skill. It has to work, and for it to work, you need to control it. It’s actually much easier to control only one POV at a time, which may be why I stick with that.

    I’m not at the party tonight—I had a library event last night and didn’t want to get a babysitter two nights in a row, so I’m at home typing my little heart out!

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