Sunday, March 11, 2012

Point of View Shifts

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I was discussing some writing topics with other authors and readers recently regarding POV (Point of View) shifts in writing. It was something that I minimized when I began writing, and also something I now worry about a great deal moving forward.

This subject may not even pertain to every type of book or genre and may plague fantasy/sci-fi writers the most, because if your writing focuses on one character, then it is something that you don’t have to worry about very often. Also, if you read or write Noir, or even spy novels, etc, it is generally about one person. The problem arises when the scope deals with multiple characters in a group setting. Either way, as a writer or reader, it is a relevant topic.

I have read many books and to be honest, I haven’t really noticed or focused on that particular feature before. Looking back, I notice--and even what I am reading now, it becomes a focus--but for 40 plus years, it meant almost nothing to me as a reader! For example, George Martin handles it by writing one chapter from a particular person’s POV, which is another interesting approach.

So, the discussion continued and then a fellow author began to explain that it wasn’t really all that big of a deal and that it does not detract from the story and people rarely ever notice the shifts anyway. The other readers in the room did not seem to mind either; they just wanted to see good content and did not seem bothered by the way in which it was delivered. Then we touched on Third Person Omniscient vs. Third Person Subjective and agreed that they were OK as long as they did not A)detract from the story or B)give the reader important information that was out of context.

As a reader and/or writer, what do you think? Is Point of View important? Is it something that you notice when you are reading?

As usual, I look forward to your comments!

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  1. Hey! POV shifts are my PET PEEVE. I didn't even realize I was making them until an editor pointed them out and was like, "switch this to third person limited." I wasn't even aware of the difference between third person omniscient v.s. limited until I googled it. Now, when I read, I DO notice it. I especially notice it when a writer goes from third to first in different scenes, and I think that's messy enough. But third person omniscient is enough to make me put down a book these days. I kind of refuse to read books that use that POV simply because it's so hard for me to keep with the story. Huntress by Malindo Lo was the last book I read in third person omniscient and I've thus tried to avoid them. I keep my own writing to third person limited and love Cassandra Clare for what she's done in her books with regards to that. Good luck with your own POV woes, I hope you figure out what you want to do!

  2. Hi, Rhiannon and thanks for the comments! I am starting to think that this is a subject that either you love or hate. I am not sure that readers are even aware of this unless you are conscious of if when you start reading. That being said, I can understand that it would drive you crazy. I am certainly conscious of it moving forward and have made some minor changes on my latest novel in progress to reflect that. If I have to jump 'heads' to get something across, I am doing a page break first. I appreciate your opinion and am glad that you have a stance to share. Thanks for the comment again and please stop back to share more with us in the near future!

  3. I noticed omniscient POV in many older books. It didn't bother me if done in a storyteller's voice because then I identified with the narrator. But head-hopping really bothers me in a book where there's no narrator and the characters all spout their thoughts in the same scene. It's mental chaos. Do you want to know what everyone else around you is thinking? It ruins the reader's interest in character relationships because there's no mystery, and it ruins the plot suspense when we know who the bad guy is because of his thoughts before he ever does something bad. I wonder if omniscient POV will become widespread again since so many authors are self-publishing. I hope not. If more indie authors would hire an editor, reviews like these wouldn't happen:

  4. Sher, thanks again for stopping by to share your thoughts! Head-hopping can be quite distracting for me now as I read. Knowing what someone is thinking or being given a piece of information that is not given organically is kind of a bummer! Mystery and suspense, as well as many other genres will find themselves defeated as they read this type of story-telling. Thanks for sharing and for giving self-published authors advice on editing! Please stop by again in the near future to share more with us. Cheers!