Point of View—What IS It? How to Find the Perfect Voice for YOUR Story

Geiko Caveman.

Geiko Caveman.

Monday, we talked about the Three Acts of a Writer’s Journey. The first hint we might be tipping into The Apprentice Phase is we hear the word P.O.V. and panic. What is THAT? Prisoners of Vietnam? Pets of Vegans? Pals of Viagra?

We ALL know writing a novel is FAR from easy. We just make it look that way😉 .

Today, I’m putting on my editor’s hat. Many of you decided to become writers because you love to write. Duh. I’ll even bet most of you, back when you were in school, also made very good grades in English. Thus, you might assume that you naturally know how to write a novel that is fit for successful publication.

Maybe you do. But, if you are anything like me when I started out? You might not know as much as you think you do.

Why?

Our high school English teacher didn’t care that we used 15 metaphors on one page. Why? Her goal was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor…NOT to prepare us for a career in commercial fiction. Same with college.

The single largest mistake I see in new manuscripts is the author does not understand P.O.V. and often this is why agents and people like me only need a page or two to know the manuscript/writer isn’t ready to publish.

This is an easy mistake to make, in that, as I stated earlier, formal education classes aren’t neccessarily there to teach us how to be great novelists. Some writers pick up on P.O.V. intuitively, but most of us need to be taught, lest we leave the reader feeling as if she is being held hostage on Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl.

P.O.V. Prostitution (A.K.A. Head-Hopping)

Let’s step back in time to the days before we all made the decision to become writers. I would guess (hope) all of us were readers. We loved books, and books were a large part of what prompted our career choice. Ask yourself the following questions:

Have you ever tried to read a book, but eventually had to put it down because it was too confusing? You couldn’t figure out who was doing what, and you needed Dramamine to keep up with the perspectives?

Have you ever read a story that was so good you actually felt as if you had taken on the character’s skin? His success was yours, as was his failure. By the final page, you were sad to say good-bye?

P.O.V. used properly can create entire worlds, and breathe life into characters. Used improperly, it can make your reader feel like she’s been bungee-corded to Satan’s Merry-Go-Round—not good.

First, we have to know what P.O.V. is if we hope to use it to our advantage.

P.O.V. stands for Point of View.

Although this literary device is one of the most vital tools an author possesses, it is probably the number one style problem I encounter as an editor. I cannot count how many new writers (and, sadly, some not-so-new writers) give me a blank stare when I write P.O.V. in big red letters all over their manuscripts (and H.H., but we’ll get to that later).

The best way to describe point of view is to think of your story as viewed through the lens of the video camera. How many people (characters) are going to be permitted to hold that camera?

Image courtesy of Jon Gosier, via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Jon Gosier, via Flickr Creative Commons

Is your camera going to travel with one main character through the entire story? Or, do others get a turn? Is “God” holding the camera? These are simple questions you can answer to help you select the point of view perfect for your story.

There is no wrong P.O.V., but we do have to be consistent. P.O.V. is a HUGE factor in determining our writing voice.

What are the types of P.O.V.? What are their inherent weaknesses and strengths? For the record, this is HIGHLY redacted for the sake of time.

A quick overview:

First-Person P.O.V—uses “I” a lot. Only one character (the narrator) has the camera.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 7.35.04 AM

There are three disadvantages to this P.O.V.

1. This P.O.V uses a lot of “I” which can become repetitive to the point of distraction.

2. The reader can only see and hear what the narrator knows. This limits the flow of information. Probably good for a mystery, but if you aren’t writing a mystery this may not be the right P.O.V for you.

3. First-Person P.O.V is a bugger when it comes to tense. Why? Because First-Person breaks into two camps.

There is the I Remember When camp and the Come Along with Me camp.

One is in past tense, a recollection. “I remember the day my father and I were attacked by a pack of Mary Kay ladies gone feral….”

The other is in present tense, and the reader is along for the ride. “I walk these streets every morning, but today I am just waiting for something to go wrong….”

Note of Caution: It is extremely easy to mix the two camps together. Tense can be problematic…okay, a nightmare.

The benefit of First-Person? First-person P.O.V. adds an intimacy that no other P.O.V. can, and is useful for stories where we might want to withhold information from the reader.

Third-Person P.O.V—is when you, the writer, permit one or more of the characters to lug the camera through your story.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 7.39.44 AM

Um…YES.

Third Person Locked allows only one character access to the camera. The entire story is told through what that particular character can experience through the 5 Senses. So, if your character’s eyes are “shining with love,” then she’d best be holding a mirror, or you are guilty of head-hopping.

Third Person Shifting allows more than one character access to the camera. Here’s the rub. Your characters must to play nice and take turns. Only one character with the camera at a time. When the next character wants a turn, there has to be a clear cut.

Think of the director’s clapboard ending one scene before shifting to the next. It is usually a good idea to limit one P.O.V. per scene. When we switch perspectives inside the same scene, that is called head-hopping, and it will confuse and frustrate our readers.

There are advantages to Third-Person Shifting:

1. It can add additional depth and insight to your story.

2. It can allow you (the writer) to hold back information and add to suspense.

3. Third-Person Shifting can allow other characters to take over during emotionally volatile points in the story.

For instance, if your protagonist walks in on her brother lying dead in a pool of blood, the emotions experienced are realistically too overwhelming to be properly articulated by your protagonist. In this scenario, First-Person P.O.V might not be the best fit. The scene might be more powerful if told from someone watching this protagonist react to discovering a deceased loved one.

Ah, but there are also inherent problems with Third-Person Shifting.

1. Your characters must play nice and take turns. Otherwise, your reader will likely become confused and eventually frustrated.

2. It is best to permit camera access to key characters only. The reader has to stay in one head long enough to feel connected. Too many perspectives can easily become overwhelming and dilute the strength of your characters.

Omniscient P.O.V is when “God” gets to hold the camera.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 7.33.18 AM

Oh stop mucking it up and give Me the camera…

This P.O.V is like placing your camera up high over all of the action. The narrator is omnipresent and omniscient. “If Joe had only known who was waiting for him outside, he would have never left for that pack of cigarettes.”

Joe cannot experience anything beyond the 5 Senses (third-person). So, unless Joe is actually Superman and possesses X-Ray vision, it takes an omniscient presence to tell us someone bad is lurking outside waiting to do Joe harm.

There are advantages to Omniscient P.O.V.

1. Omniscient can relay information that would be far too overwhelming to describe if limited to the 5 Senses. Epic battle scenes are a good example.

2. Omniscient can give information critical to the story that the character doesn’t have to personally know. For instance, in NYTBSA Bob Mayer’s Area 51 Series (which I HIGHLY recommend), he relays a lot of factual and historical information that is critical to understanding the plot. But, it would really seem bizarre to the reader if his characters just started spouting off the history of the pyramids like an Egyptologist.

To avoid this jarring scenario, Bob used an omniscient presence to relay the information so the prose would remain remain nice and smooth and the fictive dream could stay in tact.

There are disadvantages to Omniscient P.O.V.

1. Third-Person P.O.V. and Omniscient P.O.V. are VERY easy to tangle together.

2. Omniscient P.O.V. and Head-Hopping are not the same, but are easy to confuse. I’ve edited many writers who believed they were employing Omniscient P.O.V. In reality, they were just letting every character in the book fight over the camera simultaneously, leaving me (the editor) feeling like I was trapped in the Blair Witch Project.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 8.01.36 AM

Whose head am I in? I can’t tell. Help meeeee…..

Proper use of P.O.V. takes a lot of practice to master. It is very easy to shift from one type of P.O.V. to another, or what I like to call “P.O.V. Prostitution” or “Head-Hopping.”

Key Points to Remember:

In First-Person—Come Along with Me stories can easily turn into I Remember When stories (or vice versa). Tense is a big red flag. Do you shift from present to past or past to present? Pay close attention to verbs.

In Third-Person (Locked & Shifting)—Characters will only play nice and take turns if you, the writer, force them to. Make sure whatever is happening in a scene is something that could be filtered through ONE character’s 5 Senses.

In Third-Person (Locked & Shifting) —“God” is really bad about grabbing your character’s camera, so keep an eye on Him. If there is suddenly information your character has no way of knowing through the 5 Senses, that is a big clue the Big Guy snagged your camera. Just remind Him nicely of commandment number eight, and ask Him to give the camera back.

In Omniscient—“God” is in charge. Be careful your wide-lens isn’t zooming in and out and making your reader dizzy in the process.

P.O.V. is one more reason it is critical for writers to read if they hope to become great authors. Read, read, read. Read all kinds of books by all kinds of authors using different P.O.V.s to see how it is done well.

EXAMPLES:

Suzanne Collins brilliantly employs First-Person in the Come Along with Me fashion in her Hunger Games Trilogy. Her choice of P.O.V. gives an intimate feel no other P.O.V. can, and, since it isn’t an I Remember When story, Collins is able to maintain reader suspense.

Stephen King does a great job of using first-person in an I Remember When style in The Green Mile. King chose this P.O.V. for a very specific reason, which I will not say so as not to spoil the ending even though y’all have had like, TWENTY YEARS to read it.

Dennis Lehane does an amazing job of employing omniscient in Mystic River. If you think you might want to use omniscient, I’d recommend reading him.

James Rollins uses third-person shifting very well in The Doomsday Key. Third-shifting is generally a great P.O.V. for thrillers in that it helps manage/reveal a lot of information that the protag may or may not know.

I would recommend Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero: Joe Ledger Series.  I HIGHLY recommend Iron River by T. Jefferson Parker. Both these authors mixed third-limited and first-person and the effect is impressive.

P.O.V. when used properly can take a story to a whole new level. Read, experiment and practice. I know I just touched on a handful of suggestions, so feel free to add your thoughts, expound, ask questions.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of NOVEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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  1. #1 by Rosie Amber on November 6, 2014 - 9:28 am

    Thank you for some really great advice, sharing it for you.

  2. #2 by kfzuzulo on November 6, 2014 - 9:36 am

    Wonderfully explained, Kristen! I’ve been going over POV repeatedly with my authors. Now, I’m just going to give them this link.
    Thanks!
    ~Kellyann
    kfzuzulo.com

  3. #3 by kfzuzulo on November 6, 2014 - 9:41 am

    Reblogged this on Kellyann Zuzulo and commented:
    If you’re a writer, start taking notice of who’s telling the story in the books you read. It’ll help you establish the voice in your own writing. Read Kristen Lamb’s explanation of Point of View…

  4. #4 by Stacey Haggard Brewer on November 6, 2014 - 10:17 am

    You say redacted, I say concise.

    Very helpful article. Thank you. It’s something I always watch for and try to help authors with in the editing, but we ALL need a reminder now and then.

  5. #5 by Suzanne Lucero (@S_Lucero) on November 6, 2014 - 10:41 am

    Then, of course, you have authors like Diana Gabaldon. In her OUTLANDER series, the first book is all first person. Her second and following books switch between first person and several third person points-of-view. She does it beautifully, btw.

    Am Tweeting a link to this post because I agree, mastering POV is a necessary skill for writers.

    • #6 by mybrightspots on November 6, 2014 - 4:21 pm

      I was really curious to see what Kristen would have to say about Gabaldon’s handling of POV. I, too, think she does it well and am glad to see that at least one other person agrees.

  6. #7 by spmedway on November 6, 2014 - 10:46 am

    Hurrah! Clear concise POV instructions. Do you paint by numbers, Kristen?
    I will re-blog this so it reaches more people who need to know.

  7. #8 by spmedway on November 6, 2014 - 10:49 am

    Reblogged this on Susan Pope Books and commented:
    Attention all would-be authors and authors even. Pay attention at the back. This is what you do ……

  8. #9 by literaryliason on November 6, 2014 - 11:11 am

    Love the Caveman pic.

  9. #10 by thetowncrier96 on November 6, 2014 - 11:24 am

    Lovely post. Real eye opener.

  10. #11 by Arie Farnam on November 6, 2014 - 11:31 am

    My series uses multiple first person. It switches only on chapter breaks. I have yet to be accused of any POV violations but I know what I did is rare and I don’t think I’ve had a review by a real POV expert yet. Always interested in opinions, if anyone wants to take a crack at it. So far readers have said it is both clear and suspenseful.

  11. #12 by sharonhughson on November 6, 2014 - 11:31 am

    Hey, Caveman was my nickname in Boot Camp (because my maiden name was Cave and it sounded cooler than Private Cave). And, as a former “Caveman” I admit I used to believe writing was easy. Then I started doing it full-time with the goal of becoming published.
    15 months later – still no book deal, still unpublished – but creeping up the Apprentice ladder at a slow and steady pace (subject to slide-backs when my emotions enters the equation).
    Thanks for a concise reminder of all the things our LA teachers never taught us😀

  12. #13 by K. A. Jordan on November 6, 2014 - 12:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Jordan's Croft – Fiber Arts and commented:
    As a writer, I use 3rd Person and I tend to ‘Lock’ the POV to one character, or at the most, two characters. The reason I’m so strict in my own work is that I was the worst type of head-hopper – even hopping from paragraph to paragraph in some places.

    This is one of the ‘kinder, gentler’ discussions about POV on any blog. I did a couple blog posts on the subject and wasn’t able to stay out of rant mode. I’ve read so many really horrible ‘first person’ stories that I’ve become allergic to that POV. It’s so easy for a beginner to get locked into a ‘stream of consciousness’ mode. Any time I see 1st person, I tend to cringe. Even trade published authors can get in over their heads, er, so to speak.

    At one point, in my days on Authonomy.com – I was called a POV Nazi. These days, I keep a lower profile and don’t rant so much.

    I recommend this blog post to anyone who has questions on POV, and am reblogging it to Jordan’s Croft.

  13. #14 by Dawn DeSousa (@DawnDeSousa) on November 6, 2014 - 12:54 pm

    Ugh….sometimes I read my stuff and go really. Who is talking now? Thanks again for the great info.

  14. #15 by authorcckoen on November 6, 2014 - 1:00 pm

    Thank you for providing this resource, Kristen. Very easy to read and understand. Your resources are always so beneficial to the writing community. Appreciate it!

  15. #16 by authorcckoen on November 6, 2014 - 1:02 pm

    Reblogged this on C.C. Koen and commented:
    Excellent resource.

  16. #17 by lalouziane on November 6, 2014 - 1:04 pm

    This post made me feel better. I’m writing in third person shared and intimate. I hope. I’m going for Deep Point of View of two main characters. And I still read back through it and find I’ve gone off the wall with something that character couldn’t possibly know. Or, most often, I’ve head hopped. I try to read for… is it reasonable that this character knows this right now? And yes, it is difficult. I’m so glad to hear you say that.

  17. #18 by lalouziane on November 6, 2014 - 1:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Swamp Sass and commented:
    Reblogged from Kristen Lamb’s blog. Great information on POV. She’s right, they didn’t even mention this in school.

  18. #19 by Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) on November 6, 2014 - 2:21 pm

    Third person objective is also another possibility, but not used as much as the other two third-person POV detailed here.

  19. #21 by Pamela Nastase on November 6, 2014 - 2:25 pm

    She read the post and left a comment. Mostly because she liked the idea of her name in a hat.

  20. #22 by Thomas Weaver on November 6, 2014 - 2:37 pm

    THANK YOU for pointing out that first person can be either present or past tense (as can third person, although it’s done less often in present tense than first is). I see far too many new writers (and readers) who think that first person and present tense are the SAME THING and that first person in past tense is “wrong” somehow. (While reading the earlier parts of this post, I thought, ‘She has lots and lots of followers. I hope she mentions that POV and tense aren’t the same thing, because people will listen to her.’)

  21. #23 by ejsmith3130 on November 6, 2014 - 3:07 pm

    Thank you for this! IMO, authors who do a good job with POV make it almost invisible. When trying to choose the POV for my novel I was asked what I read the most of, and I couldn’t honestly say. All I knew was that I was engaged and loved the various stories. I had to go back and look at the different texts in order to discover the answer.

  22. #24 by robin witt on November 6, 2014 - 3:35 pm

    Thanks for another helpful post.🙂

  23. #25 by Donna Marie on November 6, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    I’m writing my first book, a romance erotica, and this post is really helpful. I am trying to employ the third-person P.O.V., as I do not know how to make a first-person P.O.V. stick without the character sounding too self-absorbed and narcissistic. I will just have to make sure I do not cause confusion over the shifting of the camera. Will visit this blog post from time to time to make sure I get the general idea right.

  24. #26 by Donna Marie on November 6, 2014 - 4:12 pm

    Reblogged this on The Freelancer and commented:
    One of the things that will make a book stick to your mind and suck you in a story is how effectively a writer creates a P.O.V. or Point of View, something that can be difficult for me to employ since I started writing as a blogger who primarily gives information to my readers, mostly in an almost technical way. I can write something and address you directly, making sure that you know that I am talking to you, and wish to engage you in a conversation about what I just wrote.

    Writing a book, however, is not the same thing. Instead of engaging you to participate in a thought or idea, I see a book as something that makes readers see what it’s like to live through another person – something that can be accomplished with a great

  25. #27 by Collette Cameron on November 6, 2014 - 5:23 pm

    Fabulous stuff, Kristen.

    I started out writing in Omniscient, but not on purpose! I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing.

    I shared on one of my blogs.

  26. #29 by kirizar on November 6, 2014 - 5:26 pm

    Holy crap…I didn’t know there were so many definitions of POV. My head is still stuck with the trifecta: First Person, Second Person, Third Person. I know I suck at POV recognition. I plan on re-reading this…daily if necessary…to get these concepts to stick in my head. Thank you for posting this.

    • #30 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 6, 2014 - 6:01 pm

      No one writes in Second person. They teach it in school but no one wants to read it. Ok a few people, but they are doing it as condition of parole.

  27. #31 by Elsa Holland on November 6, 2014 - 7:26 pm

    Reblogged this on The Writers Room.

    • #32 by kirizar on November 7, 2014 - 10:17 am

      I can just imagine it:

      Bailiff: All rise! The Court of Literary Appeals in now in session, the Honorable Justice Eustace Diphthong, presiding.
      Judge: Be seated.
      Bailiff: Will the defendant, Warner B. Rider (…pause for people to get the pun), please stand for arraignment.
      Justice: You stand convicted of excessive use of adverbs, rampant grammar offenses and the reckless use of the second person perspective, how do you plead?
      Warner B. Rider: You, who stand in judgment of fallible men, you shouldn’t hold a man’s views against him.
      Judge: Let the record show that the defendant enters a plea of ‘not guilty by reason of mental defect or second person point of view.’ Next case!

      • #33 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 7, 2014 - 11:19 am

        LOL. Good judge😀

      • #34 by Elsa Holland on November 7, 2014 - 4:27 pm

        LOL That’s great!!!❤

        • #35 by kirizar on November 8, 2014 - 10:01 pm

          Thank you. Literary license is not the same as a license to kill. All wrong-doers must be punished.

  28. #36 by anthonydavidmitchell on November 6, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    I thought Joseph Finder used first person/third person limited well in Vanished as well. I like the idea of the protagonist in first person so we really know them, but it’s hard to stick only to their POV especially in a suspense novel. When there are dangers present they are unaware of, this builds suspense but obviously cannot be told by them. Great blog!

    • #37 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 6, 2014 - 8:01 pm

      He might have. What is cool about T Jefferson Parker is the ANTAGONIST is in first-person, so we relate and are more intimate with the “bad guy.”

      • #38 by anthonydavidmitchell on November 6, 2014 - 8:11 pm

        Oh wow. You should be his agent because I think you just sold me on that one.

    • #39 by kirizar on November 8, 2014 - 7:56 pm

      Thank you. It is nice when my obsessive watching of Law & Order comes in handy.

  29. #40 by conniecockrell on November 6, 2014 - 10:46 pm

    Thank you for that lesson. It’s always helpful to be reminded of the POV and the dangers of head hopping.

    • #41 by kirizar on November 8, 2014 - 7:57 pm

      And I replied in the wrong place. I wish we could delete mistakes like this.

  30. #42 by Deborah Makarios on November 6, 2014 - 11:15 pm

    H’m – I’m not sure what to call my POV now. Third person, certainly; sort of omniscient, but with access to only one person’s thoughts (MC). As in you can see her outside, even when she’s asleep, but you can’t see inside other people’s heads. That’s in the main plot. Subplot (MC not present) is still a bit switchy, but at least I know I need to fix it🙂

  31. #43 by monkmoonman on November 7, 2014 - 2:32 am

    Very well done, Kristen. Crystal clear and on point. And you’ve given me a new list of books to read

  32. #44 by pmillhouse on November 7, 2014 - 8:51 am

    Clear and concise, Kristen. One of the BEST explanations on the topic.
    Isn’t it interesting that different genre’s demand different POV?
    I’m reblogging this @ http://www.paulamillhouse.com in celebration of November and #NaNoWriMo2014.

  33. #45 by Traci Kenworth on November 7, 2014 - 1:31 pm

    Great examples!!

  34. #46 by lonestarjake88 on November 7, 2014 - 2:15 pm

    Great and excellent examples, however, you left out 2nd person narrative. I read how you only think parolees read it, but I enjoy it in The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz and also in Barrie Roberts. Perhaps Holmesian enthusiasts have overused it.

    • #47 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 7, 2014 - 2:33 pm

      Well, I was joking. I didn’t address it simply because it is so rarely used and so I only took on the common ones so the blog wasn’t any longer. Was already pretty long.

  35. #48 by Barry Phillips on November 7, 2014 - 2:31 pm

    Thank you for the clarification! P.O.V. is always a challenge for me.I have a much better understanding of point of view for my book. Thanks!

  36. #49 by Sadie Carrieri on November 7, 2014 - 3:02 pm

    Kristen, I love your blog. You are so generous with your free advise for writer.

  37. #50 by Sadie Carrieri on November 7, 2014 - 3:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Love to Live and commented:
    A new way to hone your POV skills for writing dramatic and intriguing stories.

  38. #51 by danielfbowman on November 8, 2014 - 8:35 am

    Reblogged this on Daniel F. Bowman and commented:
    This is one of the best explanations of who is actually telling your story–right up there with Orson Scott Card’s “Characters and Viewpoints.”

  39. #52 by Sarah Brentyn on November 8, 2014 - 5:44 pm

    This is a tough decision to make. And sometimes to stick with as, halfway through your story, you realize you need 3rd person.O_o

    This —> “‘Come Along with Me’ stories can easily turn into ‘I Remember When’ stories (or vice versa). Tense is a big red flag. Do you shift from present to past or past to present?” UGH! That would be a Y.E.S.

    I find a lot of YA novels are first person and the authors have done a brilliant job with it.

  40. #53 by lizaperrat on November 9, 2014 - 4:46 am

    I have Tweeted this great post, Kristen! For my 3rd book, I’m experimenting with a mixture of POV’s: mainly 1st person, but with a few different people’s 3rd person POV also. I’m counting on my Beta readers to tell me if it works, or not.

  41. #54 by jadwriter on November 9, 2014 - 6:10 am

    I mainly use 3rd person pov locked, but have started to use shifting now esp for short stories. I also use 1st person pov locked for YA.

  42. #55 by Holly Hunton on November 10, 2014 - 8:25 am

    Helpful and timely! I’ve just started writing my first novel and have been hung up by POV shifts that don’t work. Fortunately, I’ve written 4 chapters and can see where the problems are. Will go back and check carefully to see who’s holding the camera.

  43. #56 by frenchc1955 on November 10, 2014 - 11:17 am

    Your post is both excellent and very useful. Thank you for sharing this information.

  44. #57 by Raani York on November 10, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    This is quite interesting, Kristen. I have tried to write within quite different forms and found the P.O.V. best for me. I want to LIVE the story I tell…. and to me this form fits best. Thanks for sharing this comparison anyway!🙂

  45. #58 by Sophie, She Wrote on November 10, 2014 - 3:47 pm

    I’m just about to enter the first 3000 words of a novel into a fiction-writing competition and this post has been incredibly helpful. Thank you for the advice – I’ll keep an eye out for my tenses.

    Sophie

    Please vote for Sophie, She Wrote at the UK Blog Awards 2015. See details here http://wp.me/p4yGPk-9g

  46. #59 by saralitchfield on November 12, 2014 - 2:31 am

    I wrote my first novel (hey! I can say that now!) in first person ‘I remember when’ – you just described the choices *so* well… I didn’t make a conscious decision to write in that POV – it just kind of blurted out that way and I definitely struggled with the disadvantages. This time, I’m writing in third-person POV – on purpose. And this highlights how important it is to take care with its shifting nature. Great post🙂

  47. #60 by Ensis on November 13, 2014 - 12:47 pm

    Thanks for this post–An agent critiqued my manuscript and told me I was head hopping. At the time I had no idea what that meant and had to do all the research on my own.
    I wish this article had existed then!
    But since then, my characters are taking turns nicely every other chapter or so.

  48. #61 by Patricia on November 15, 2014 - 12:13 pm

    This post helped to open my eyes to POV in a positive way. I look back and see that much of my writing was lacking in this respect. POV has been difficult for me to grasp. Thanks so much. I am about a third of the way through a novel I’m writing. I’ve decided to read through it to see if my POV is consistent and will most likely re-write much of it.
    Patricia

  49. #62 by Daven Anderson on November 15, 2014 - 12:46 pm

    Reblogged this on Daven Anderson's Blog and commented:
    An excellent, thorough discussion of how to use P.O.V. from Kristen Lamb. I would add that multiple first-person POV allows you to get around some of the limitations of a single First Person POV (which really handicapped “Twilight”, in my opinion). Catch is, you should limit the number of First Person POV’s, to avoid reader confusion. And even four POV’s (as I used) may still nto cover every last event in your storyline.

  50. #63 by Denise McGee on November 16, 2014 - 7:38 pm

    I love the Joe Ledger books. I find myself reading them over and over again and learning a new trick to writing every time.

  51. #64 by helenj0303 on November 17, 2014 - 11:50 am

    Thank you, this is great advice! As an apprentice writer this is just the sort of thing I need to hear🙂 I’ve also linked to this on my blog xx

  52. #65 by turtlemover on November 23, 2014 - 3:26 pm

    Great advice, especially since I’m guilty of head-hopping. I will share this blog with my critique group.

  53. #66 by TigerXGlobal (@TigerXGlobal) on November 23, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    Popping over from Anne R Allen’s post today – great info that I will pass on to the newbie authors I edit – I say it all, but it always helps to ‘see it in print’, eh?

    Thanks for sharing.

  54. #67 by Linda Koch on November 24, 2014 - 8:35 pm

    As a new writer, it’s tough getting my head around this whole POV thing, and this post has been so helpful. Thank you.

  55. #68 by Matt Black on November 25, 2014 - 11:30 am

    The novel I’m working on now is all first-person present-tense, but with a few ‘interludes’ which are 3rd-person limited, and damn is it hard to keep my tenses straight. I’ll be reading those examples you mentioned of novels that switch perspectives like mine. Thank you for this, I needed it.

  56. #69 by mattblackattack on November 25, 2014 - 11:32 am

    Reblogged this on Matt Black: Scriptor Mendax.

  57. #70 by Doug on November 26, 2014 - 10:11 pm

    Reblogged this on The End of Days is not yet upon us and commented:
    Thank you for this. I will try to lock this into my cranium and practice all of them.

  58. #71 by awjo1991 on November 27, 2014 - 9:43 pm

    It took me four years to find what POV I work best with. My favorite books were always in 3rd person, so when I wrote my first book at 15, I used this POV. It. Was. Terrible.

    I went to college, and my creative profs forced me to try something new every week, and soon, I found the POV that works best for me.

    Now, when I start a story where 3rd person is the best option, it’s going to be a challenge.

  59. #72 by RedSkye on November 29, 2014 - 11:42 pm

    After reading this post, I realized that I’d been unconsciously hiding in non-fiction “How to” small books because it was easier to not worry about POV… after all, those books are mostly, “I did this”, and then “some people find that this is true”, and “this might work for you” and “here are the 5 steps to make this”… Pretty easy. After I get a couple more published that I already have in the pipeline, it may be time to delve into fiction or some type of novel. Thanks.

  60. #73 by ravenclark on January 19, 2015 - 2:43 am

    Wanted to add a few things. When I first started out as a writer, I heard a lot of people say, when using First Person, you have to stay in one person’s POV for the whole book. I understand why, and I think for the most part it’s true. A voice has to be very strong for First to work, and when you switch, there are potential issues. Like, having one of the voices be less compelling, or the multiple voices not being distinctive enough, and thus confusing.

    But, if anyone thinks they have a story that needs more than one First Person POV, you should try reading PERSONAL DEMONS, a YA novel by Lisa Desroches. It’s in First, but switches between two POVs. It’s done brilliantly, with two strong and very distinct voices that are both compelling, and never leave you confused as to who’s head you’re in.

    I know, rules are only guidelines. I’m a firm believer that anything can work if done WELL.

    Second, I read something a while back about omniscient POV. There are actually multiple types of omniscient. 7, I think? Or is it five?? LOL. Now that all your readers are going “EERR?!” lol. You’re welcome.

  61. #74 by ravenclark on January 19, 2015 - 2:46 am

    Sorry, should have added, great blog post, wonderfully explained, as always, and love the examples. Loved Hunger Games. It’s why I added PERSONAL DEMONS, because I think it’s a great example of a book that breaks the “Only One POV in First” rule.

  1. Point of View—What IS It? How to Find the Perfect Voice for YOUR Story | Collette Cameron Author
  2. Kristen Lamb Nails Point Of View | PaulaMillhouse.com
  3. Writer Wednesday | A Dose of Kyle
  4. Point Of View | Journey To Ambeth
  5. Writer Wednesday - A Dose of Kyle
  6. 8 Bogus "Rules" New Writers Tell Each Other - Anne R. Allen's Blog... with Ruth Harris

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