Point of View, Whose Head Should I Be In?

by Sharla Rae

The first thing writers learn about Point of View or POV is that it refers to whose perspective through which the reader experiences the sounds, smells, actions and emotions of a story/scene. Seems simple, but sometimes knowing which character’s head to be in isn’t simple.

 Most of us in the romance genre use third-person or first-person. First-person isn’t easy to write, but when it comes to choosing POV, it’s easy. The story is always viewed from one person’s perspective, the character who is telling the story. If the book is in third-person, especially in a romance, it’s not unusual to see three or more character POVs.

 It’s the third person stories with multiple view points that we’re discussing here. How does a writer choose the point-of-view character in any given scene? In some scenes, there’s only one character on stage so no problem. In most cases there’s at least two.

 The reader may not understand a character’s actions/reactions unless they are in his head or have been at some point. The motivation and action/reaction elements tie into the whose-head decision.

 In critique, we decided the most important POV element determining whose POV should be used is emotion — the character’s and the reader’s. A scene has more “pow” if we’re in the head of the person who is emotionally involved and/or has the most at stake.

 Again, sounds simple. But maybe not.

 Sometimes two characters are experiencing major emotions in the same scene and both have a lot at stake.

Simplified examples:

1)Two people are on stage arguing. Both have reasons and motivations behind their opinions. Both have something at stake.

2) A woman streaks naked through a shopping mall. What in the heck is going through her head? Why would she do such a thing? But wait! What if her husband is coming out of the pet shop? He can’t believe his eyes! His sophisticated, genteel wife would never do such a thing! 

See what I mean? Whose head should we be in?

 Ask these questions:

  • Whose story/scene is this? Or, who has the most at stake? (Instigating circumstances)
  • What kind of emotional impact is needed?
  • Whose POV will engage readers and drag them along for the ride?

It’s not always an easy choice. Sometimes we need to write the same scene from two different prospectives, before we know what’s right. No harm in that. The important thing is this: Always involve the reader’s emotions.  

All this POV talk begs the question; can we skip from one person’s head to another’s, that is, head hop?

Yes, but — and this is a big but – you gotta have skilz and that’s another blog.

Okay, let’s talk. How do “you” choose whose head to be in?  

Websites:

The Writer’s Craft Website: http://www.the-writers-craft.com/point-of-view-in-literature.html    

The Dummies.Com website: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-point-of-view-in-literature.html

 Books: David Morrell’s Lessons From A Lifetime of Writing

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