POX on the POV

Just got some feedback from a friend in my online writer’s group, and yes, it was a rookie mistake. Apparently, I’m guilty of head-hopping, the bane of the third person omniscient point of view (or POV if you want to be all writerly and in the know (henceforth ITK. I could get used to this. (ICGUTT))).

So, head-hopping, as everybody knows, is when the narrative gives you intimate, in-the-head insight into different characters all at the same time, ergo leading one to utter confusion about WHO the main character is and also whiplash from switching directions in the middle of the game. The reader needs a single character to identify with… which is impossible when we know what every single character is thinking. We don’t know who to listen to anymore.

Alternate metaphor: this reader ain’t no player. She wants a loving, committed relationship with one character.

Ok, well, I love the third person omniscient, so I guess the best I can do is serial monogamy, but you know what I mean (YKWIM).

I’m actually not very adventurous when it comes to choosing a POV. I love a good third person omniscient and basically always have. It’s the LBD of fiction, no? Come on! Tolstoy, Austen, Dickens, Trollope. Third person limited is too, you know, limited. I love all of my characters and can’t wait to explore their individual personalities and desires and schemes.

Serial monogamy, hm?

I think I need POV rehab.

I’m still committed to keeping Lilies in the third person omni ballpark—the plot demands more flexibility than a third person limited approach would give me—but I definitely need to be more intentional about keeping myself focused on one main character per scene. To be honest, probably the biggest reason for this with Lilies is that in my first major revision I ended up changing my lead character. I tried to change the focus, but I missed a lot of little pieces, and therein, as they say, lies the foul odor.

I read a great intro article on POV by Rob Parnell today when I was looking for some confirmation of my fears. Best bit of advice in there:

We should already understand that in any given scene we should identify with one character at a time – but which one? The best advice I ever received was that scenes are most effective when told from the POV of the person with most to lose.

The suckiest thing about getting great advice?



2 thoughts on “POX on the POV

  1. I enjoy reading you blog posts. Head-hopping can be fun to read in some situations. Changing POV can affect rhythm, timing, and pacing. It depends on the story. There’s always somebody between the reader and the action, telling the story. In a third person omniscient the reader is often left wondering who that somebody is and how they know so much. The third person narrative can be wrapped in a first person narrative to explain all that. Or, the writer can immediately pull the reader into the story so completely they don’t have time to worry about it. Or, the reader already knows and loves the writer so much they will follow her narrative wherever it goes.

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