You can’t write for very long without coming across this phrase. Point of view or POV is an important tool in every writer’s toolbox but can easily be misunderstood by beginning writers. This post will help the novice sort it out. First let’s look at the different types of point of view.
Omniscient Point of View: Basically this is a story told by the point of view of the writer. The story will tell what each character is thinking feeling and doing. It’s not a good idea to use omniscient POV. The reader will never get to the place where he or she latches on to a character emotionally. Using this POV is a mistake many novices make.
Narrative Point of View: This POV is useful in limited doses. It is the writer telling the reader what happened. It is tell, don’t show. There are a few times in the story where narrative POV is needed. For instance, several years pass with nothing happening. If you show the passage of time, the story will bog down to a halt. It’s easier at this point to use narrative. For instance, if you wrote “Five Years Later”, that would be narrative POV. Then you could continue with the story. That’s a small example of narrative POV, but there are times when it is the best tool in your POV box.
Limited Point of View: Limited POV limits itself to one character’s point of view. It only shows what the character sees, feels, hears, sense, and does. It can be written in first or third person, but either way, it limits itself to one character per scene. You can decide to use a number of characters limited POV or only one throughout the novel as long as you limit it to one character per scene.
Here’s some things to consider when using limited POV.
Head hopping: Head hopping happens when you’re in the limited POV of one character and show something the other character sees or feels. Avoid switching characters midstream. Stay focused on one character per scene.
Combining Characters: Some novice writers with more than one main character may be tempted to combine their characters’ POVs. This also needs to be avoided. Choose one character, and keep the scene focused only on that character’s POV. If you have lines like “they saw” or “they shivered with fear”, you’re falling into this trap.
Too Many POVs: Try to limit the story to no more than five POVs per novel. Sometimes you’ll decide to limit your story to one or two POVs, sometimes more are needed. But if every minor character who walks on the stage of your novel has a scene with his own POV, it will get cumbersome. Occasionally you’ll need more than five POVs, but consider carefully who needs to be a POV and who doesn’t.
One POV per scene: Don’t ever change POVs mid-scene unless you make it clear you’re doing so. By clear, I mean use the ### symbol between lines or skip a line as if you’re changing scenes. I can’t emphasis this enough. If you skip POVs mid-scene without doing this, you will look like a novice writer.
Deciding POV: You’ve decided which characters you’re going to use for limited POV. Now you need to decide who will be the POV character for each scene. One consideration is who has the most to gain or lose, but that’s not always the best decision. Sometimes somebody outside the main story is a better choice. An example of this is To Kill A Mockingbird. If you have trouble deciding whose POV to use, try the scene in different POVs. One will jump out at you.
Deep Point of View: Deep POV is a technique used by most writers. It’s the tactic of telling the story so completely in one person’s POV that you no longer need filters such as he saw or she knew because it is so obvious whose POV we’re in.