Choosing a P.O.V.—What is BEST for YOUR Story? Structure Part 9

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This is my Upside-Down-Face

P.O.V. is a word that throws many new authors into panic. What is THAT? Prisoners of Vietnam? Pets of Vegans? Pals of Viagra? P.O.V. stands for Point of View. Traditionally, I’ve not included this lesson in my teachings on structure, but I am amending that since P.O.V. will affect structure.

The structure of a novel written in first person is very different than a novel using multiple third-person P.O.V. characters. Scenes will need a different kind of balancing, so choosing a P.O.V. should not be taken lightly. Yes, often choice of P.O.V. will come from author voice, but not always. Sometimes genre might influence our decisions as well.

Thus, today, we are going to whiz through Kristen’s P.O.V. Spark Notes.

***Just a quick reminder though. Comment over at my new Dojo Diva blog and there is a separate contest for comments with better odds of winning my 20 page critique. We are talking about How to Be the Sheepdog. Not a wolf, not a sheep, but a sheepdog. Moving on….

Anyway…

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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:

Veronica Roth brilliantly employs the first-person Come Along With Me in her Divergent 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, Roth 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.

Also, if you want to meet me and author and Hollywood TV/Film Producer Joel Eisenberg, we will be in Boaz, Alabama on June 15th. Joel will be doing a workshop called, “Catching Your Muse: How to Claim Your Artistic Spirit” and I will be there to help any of your social media angsts. We can also plot global domination using a weaponized Bedazzlers and trained hamsters….so REGISTER HERE.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, 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).

Remember, for MORE chances to win and better ODDS, also comment over at Dojo Diva. I am blogging for my home dojo and it will help the blog gain traction.

Both winners will be announced next blog. We just came in from assessing flood damage at our ranch and I haven’t had a chance to tally the winner. So stay tuned!

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  1. #1 by gilmiller on June 1, 2015 - 10:27 am

    I don’t much care for omniscient and head-hopping POVs. They leave me feeling a little uncaring toward the characters. I would add, though, that two authors known for doing the latter very well are James Clavell (Shogun) and Mario Puzo (The Godfather).

    As for the multiple POV story, I’ve lately become impatient with authors who write short chapters or sections that jump between their POV characters. It feels too frantic to me. I’d prefer to spend more time with each character.

    In my own writing, I use either first person or third person limited. I feel like I’m giving the reader a deeper experience with my characters by doing this, which will make them care for them more. Besides, it’s more authentic. Writing something like “Joe would never have gone after that gallon of milk if he’d known what would happen” feels unnatural to me, and smacks a little of cheating. I’m holding the reader’s hand and spoon feeding them. I prefer letting them figure some things out for themselves because that’s the kind of reading experience I like.

  2. #2 by Jean M. Cogdell on June 1, 2015 - 10:31 am

    Reblogged this on jean's writing and commented:
    If you’ve ever been confused about POV in your writing, today’s Kristen Lamb Structure Part 9 post will help set your mind at ease. Take it away Kristen.

  3. #3 by Ann Rose on June 1, 2015 - 10:32 am

    You explained these different types of POV so well.
    Great tips and mistakes to be on the lookout for.
    Thank you so much!

  4. #4 by mateekaquinn on June 1, 2015 - 10:48 am

    Thanks Kristen! I’m working on a mystery novel right now myself, second draft! Woo-hoo! However I decided in this draft to switch from third person limited to first person, past tense, and keeping my verbs in one form has been a challenge! Weird how that happens. Thanks for sharing!

  5. #5 by annaerishkigal on June 1, 2015 - 10:55 am

    Sharing this with my writing group the EDIT DEMONS. We just had a class on this🙂

  6. #6 by Irene Kessler on June 1, 2015 - 10:59 am

    I am using first person for an historical novel and yes, I constantly have verb problems. I find that I tend to think in present tense when writing a scene because I put myself there, then have to change it all to past tense. I’m getting better as staying in past but still slip up.

  7. #7 by mdylanblair on June 1, 2015 - 11:03 am

    Great post, Kristen. My current trilogy is using the blended First-Person and Third Limited. The first novel in this set, was 95% First Person, with clear breakaways only when the lead character was either incapacitated or indisposed to the point where information had to be provided/scenes acted out for the plot to move forward.

    In the second novel, East of Eden, I’m about a third of the way through it, and it’s inching closer to a fair even blend, with the POVs going between the lead (who is always in First Person), and the two male leads. I think the fact that I use Third Person with everyone except the Lead Character really helps.

    I know some editors, publishers, and writers don’t prefer the blended method, but I feel like the blend is a much smoother transition than the head-hopping.

  8. #8 by Sean P Carlin on June 1, 2015 - 11:09 am

    Choosing the wrong POV can even be detrimental to the story one is trying to tell. Take TWILIGHT, for example: It is what SAVE THE CAT! classifies as a “Buddy Love” story, like ROMEO & JULIET, TITANIC, and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… In Buddy Loves, the “buddies” (or “lovers,” if you prefer) always carry equal narrative weight — they are “co-protagonists”; each has scenes and subplots that don’t directly involve the other. But, because Meyer chose to tell that story in first person — I assume because she identified with Bella so strongly — the novel suffers from a major structural imbalance: Bella carries far more “weight” than Edward. We get plenty of scenes that feature her but not him, but none of him without her. If Meyer had instead employed third-person shifting, she might have found it opened up story possibilities, and, more importantly, the narrative would have conformed to a more recognizable “love story” pattern. I think that part of the reason adults find those books so puerile is because they don’t “go deep” — they don’t explore all of the thematic permutations of love that would’ve more likely emerged had TWILIGHT been told from the perspectives of both lovers.

  9. #9 by Kim Terry Schwarz on June 1, 2015 - 11:29 am

    As usual, I enjoyed your blog, Kristen. POV can be an immobilizing mysterey for anyone trying to decide which camera to use. BTW, I downloaded samples of the books you cited as examples.

  10. #10 by Shea McIntosh Ford on June 1, 2015 - 11:40 am

    POV was a bugger for me to get right when I first started. My head-hopping caused huge revisions to my scenes and made me crazy. I’m much better now. I like to use third-shifting but am at a loss as to whether or not I should pop in a scene from the antagonist POV on occasion. This WIP is especially tempting to do that since the antag is the mother. Guess I’ll figure it out after the first draft is finished.

    • #11 by brittneysahin on June 1, 2015 - 12:56 pm

      Thank you for this article- very informative. I struggled with which to choose- but for my romance novel I really wanted the readers to feel/see experiences from the male and female protags. It is annoying breaking a scene because there is a POV switch (as someone commented)- so I rarely switch mid-scene- that can be just as jarring as head-hopping!

  11. #12 by Mindy on June 1, 2015 - 12:01 pm

    Great post! In my novel I used multiple POVs and so far reviews (Amazon +) have revealed that it was not confusing and most enjoyed being inside the different characters heads. Wheh! But I am now working on my next novel and originally thought I’d do the same, but now see it does not serve the story well. SO, each story needs a good analysis before deciding on POV.

  12. #13 by dkent on June 1, 2015 - 12:43 pm

    Other disadvantages of omniscient are it’s almost never used in popular genre (big publishers) anymore, it’s narrative death for the too-much-information crowd, and it’s, by its nature, cold narrative which distances the reader from the actions and the characters when close hot narrative is the reader narrative of choice.

    • #14 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 1, 2015 - 12:53 pm

      These days omniscient is not popular simply because we are so used to reality TV and social media. The psychic distance is too far and thus, off-putting to most modern readers.

  13. #15 by Today, You Will Write on June 1, 2015 - 1:02 pm

    Reblogged this on Today, You Will Write and commented:
    P.O.V for your story, for the reader this is where it starts. (At least for me…) read on!

  14. #16 by Meredith Johnson on June 1, 2015 - 1:07 pm

    Great post! POV is still a problem for me. It’s easy for me to choose which POV to write from, however being consistent in my POV is a little difficult for me. This post is a great reminder!

  15. #17 by Saralyn Richard on June 1, 2015 - 1:38 pm

    How about novels where there is an ensemble cast of characters?

    • #18 by Sean P Carlin on June 1, 2015 - 1:42 pm

      In that case, use third-person shifting, like the GAME OF THRONES novels. By and large, that seems to be the most common — and most efficient — POV in popular fiction.

  16. #19 by Southpaw on June 1, 2015 - 2:09 pm

    Well, poo, they are all tricky.

    That kitty’s POV might give me a headache.😉

  17. #20 by Carl D'Agostino on June 1, 2015 - 4:18 pm

    I’be been reading historical novels. 3rd person seems to work well.

  18. #21 by Thomas Weaver on June 1, 2015 - 6:59 pm

    Most of my own writing is in third person shifting, but occasionally I have an idea (usually a short story) that demands to be in first person instead. I’m trying to get the hang of third person locked now. After spending time in the viewpoints of several characters for a single novel, focusing on just one character for tens of thousands of words feels slightly claustrophobic.

  19. #22 by American Writers Exposed on June 1, 2015 - 8:54 pm

    Reblogged this on American Writers Exposed and commented:
    Okay, WOW!
    Kristen where have you been all my life? I admit, I am quite naive and freshly born into making an actual go at what is my, ‘dream’. To not only finish writing a novel, but see several make it to the light of day as the rest of the hallucinating world. For the past year-and-a-half, I have surrounded myself with incredible, brilliant, educated educators, and we critique weekly. I boldly sat and read romance to women who had yet to read such fluff. Not once, did POV come up until I sent my manuscript out to Beta readers. Guess who is a head-hopper? Yeah, me…This whole time I thought I was writing third-person omniscient.
    I guess I have something new to share with the group. Gag, Gag…me dying here, people. Oh and I also learned (in my short life span of self-imposed idiocy) that agents are quite finicky in having you know what genre your current work resides, precisely. Romantic Fantasy was not where my story sat, but pitching to agents and looking a fool is where this tidbit came from, and my genre correctly explained was Paranormal Romance.
    Such a beginner am I. Gracious me; I do so love life!
    Details, Details – Write on!❤ Jessica

    • #23 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 1, 2015 - 9:36 pm

      Oh HONEY. We ALL start somewhere. My first novel was ALL genres and 170,000 words long. I AM the moron who birthed the writer urban legends that agents tell. It is OKAY to be NEW and welcome! Enjoy growing and learning. You will only be new ONCE!

  20. #25 by Deborah Makarios on June 1, 2015 - 11:05 pm

    This is one of the areas that I don’t think I come to naturally. I tend to write in an omniscient POV but where only one character’s thoughts are ‘visible’ at a time, to avoid confusion. Because I’m easily confused🙂

  21. #26 by Erin Darby Herrington on June 2, 2015 - 5:39 am

    I’m even greener than Jessica, having been actively writing for only about a year and I’m still too chicken to give my first book to beta readers. I keep telling myself that it needs more work first, and now that I have read this post I am sure of it! I used third person shifting and now I know to look for head hopping. It’s probably rampant in the first draft! Currently, I am working on a second book which I am writing in the first person “I remember when” POV. It is challenging to keep it consistent. Thanks so much for sharing this post. I am going to archive it to revisit many times in the future.

    • #27 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 2, 2015 - 8:55 am

      Send me five pages. Kristen at wana intl dot com.

      • #28 by Erin Darby Herrington on June 2, 2015 - 9:37 am

        Wow, really?! THANK YOU.

        • #29 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 2, 2015 - 9:48 am

          Yesss, really. I keep abreast of the comments and every one in a while…GO CRAZY. So I will crush your dreams officially and tell you that you should just STOP. Kidding! I would like a look and maybe can guide you from there😀 .

          • #30 by Erin Darby Herrington on June 2, 2015 - 2:05 pm

            Good thing I still have my day job…just in case!🙂 I sent you an email but I’m not so sure if I got your email address right. Let me know if you didn’t receive anything. And thanks again!

  22. #31 by Tracey Steinbach (@MamaS449) on June 2, 2015 - 7:47 am

    Is mixing first person and third bad? I write romance. I prefer to write some stories in 1st but I think the reader will want to know what’s going on in the other character’s head, too. POV was one of my first struggles as an author. I was horrible at head-hopping, thinking that the reader wanted to know what Jack and Jane were thinking/feeling while the action was happening.

    • #32 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 2, 2015 - 8:57 am

      Not at all if you do it well. T. Jefferson Parker does it and he’s a legend. I do it in my second novel and I am NOT a legend, so all good😀 .

  23. #33 by Sherry on June 2, 2015 - 11:17 am

    Tense and voice are my writing “hot messes”. I look at my audience (young kids vs YA) plus story matter to determine what should be used to tell my story. I don’t always get it right, and sometimes rewrite the first chapter in different voices to determine my choice. Not easy to learn to write in different voices, at least for me. I appreciate your blogs on these areas.

  24. #34 by Glynis Jolly on June 2, 2015 - 11:47 am

    I’m using first person pov in my first novel, at least for the most part. There are a few scenes where I (the author, the cameraman) am Jiminy Cricket in the corner watching it all. All is done in present tense though except for a few paragraphs shattered throughout for the backstory of my protagonist.

    I had tried using third person pov but I ended up either head-hopping or going to omniscient. For a first novel, I do think first person is best.

  25. #35 by Melissa Keaster on June 2, 2015 - 1:16 pm

    Quotable: “held hostage on Hell’s Tilt-a-Whirl” and “POV Prostitution.” Awesomesauce. Lol!

    In my WIP, I use Third Person POV, but I never shift until the end of the story. The shift is necessary. The torch is handed from one character to one other, and that new character will be the POV character for the sequel. I think it works. But then again, I’m a newbie and I haven’t seen it done. I’m not trying to be clever or ostentatious, I swear. It just feels…right. What do you think about a single shift at the end out of *ahem* necessity? Is it better to work in the second POV character throughout the story? Even if the story really isn’t about him and I can develop his character arc through my first POV character’s eyes?

    • #36 by Samantha on June 3, 2015 - 1:08 pm

      My thought would be to introduce the second POV character’s voice earlier on so as to provide a smooth transition, even if it was just a couple of short scenes. I think it would be jarring to the reader to suddenly make a major switch without warning. It would also be a nice way to foreshadow the second POV character’s upcoming importance.

      (Disclaimer: I am an expert reader, but novice writer.)

      • #37 by Melissa Keaster on June 4, 2015 - 7:51 pm

        Thanks for the thought! I’m of the same tribe–expert reader, novice writer. It really does concern me to attempt something I haven’t read before. Since I’m nearly done with the 2nd draft, I’ll try it out on my beta readers as is. If it doesn’t work, they’ll let me know. I’ve got an honest crew lined up.🙂

  26. #38 by sobiaabdin on June 3, 2015 - 12:57 pm

    This was really helpful. Thank you so much.

  27. #39 by Samantha on June 3, 2015 - 1:05 pm

    I am working on my first WIP and I am playing around with the POV’s right now, trying to figure out what would work best. For part of my book, the protagonist has been kidnapped and knocked unconscious, so I obviously can’t use her first person POV the whole way through, or too much would be left out. Or… it could be revealed to her in an interesting way. (Hmm, will have to think on that more.)

    My second thought was to use the protagonist and the love-interest both as first person narrators, but I hated how that was handled in a popular book I read, so I was afraid I would mess it up. ‘Cause, hey, if a pro did it wrong, I don’t have the best chance to do it right. (The two characters had the same voice, so it was hard to tell which one was the teenage girl and which one was the adult man.)

    My third thought was to do the protagonist’s part in first person, then switch over to third person limited when she was out. That way, I could have the intimacy of first person, yet not have to work out a second first person narrative voice.

    My final thought was to change the story so I wouldn’t have to work so hard. (LOL!)

  28. #40 by married2arod on June 3, 2015 - 5:36 pm

    Oh great post! I’ll be sure to reblog. I prefer to write in 1st POV, but I also write primarily young adult. I absolutely hate Omniscient, I like a little element of mystery and not everyone can do it well. I recently finished a romance in 3rd POV, man is that hard especially when the POV alternates.

  29. #41 by married2arod on June 3, 2015 - 5:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Romance Done Write and commented:
    Great post on POV if you’re ever been boggled by what each means. And it definitely makes a difference on what kind of story you’re telling. I’m a huge 1st POV fan. Check it out!

  30. #42 by facetioussoup on June 3, 2015 - 7:02 pm

    Reblogged this on momentarylapseofsanity.

  31. #43 by nancysegovia on June 4, 2015 - 11:06 am

    I am a head hopper, They do play nice, I think. I mean there is only one head in charge at any one time. However, I think I switch from head hopping to omniscient and that is where I am getting a bit confused. Back to the drawing board – yet again.

  32. #44 by nancysegovia on June 4, 2015 - 11:08 am

    Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    POV – Big problems if you don’t know what you are doing! (And it doesn’t stand for Personal Observations of Venus

  33. #45 by lonestarjake88 on June 5, 2015 - 12:46 pm

    Right now I’m experimenting with omnipotent POV. It’s working out but a couple of scenes I wonder if I’m sharing too much because I want to keep the thrill up but then I’m wondering if I’m leaving the scene confusing because of not enough information.

  34. #46 by Theresa Hupp on June 5, 2015 - 9:33 pm

    I’m the POV nazi in my critique group. I’ll make sure the other members of the group see this post.

  35. #47 by Dawn Ross on June 6, 2015 - 4:11 pm

    Great post! Third person shifting is my preferred method. My preferred genre is fantasy and I’ve noticed most of the best known writers use this same method. I have a fair amount of writing faults compared to them, but I don’t think P.O.V is one of them.

  36. #48 by darkroomdiva on June 10, 2015 - 8:07 pm

    This post was great! You explained the different perspectives well, and really dive deep into the pros and cons of each. Great job.

    I find that when people first begin writing, they gravitate towards first person, because it would seem the easiest in the sense of: “we use I and me in everyday conversation, would it reallt be that hard to write that way?” Haha, I know this was my approach. I guess it really comes down to the author themselves, and I finally decided on third person for my first published novel.

    Thank you for that clear post!

  37. #49 by darkroomdiva on June 10, 2015 - 8:08 pm

    really*. Sorry, should have caught that before posting.

  38. #50 by schillingklaus on June 12, 2015 - 2:52 am

    Omniscient with massive authorial intrusion is my one way to go; and therefrom I will not be deterred by any of the anti-omniscient propaganda on this site.

    • #51 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 12, 2015 - 8:57 am

      Um, I’m not anti-omniscient. It is just very hard to write. Knock yourself out.

  39. #52 by Sarah Caroline on June 15, 2015 - 5:07 pm

    I always thought I understood POV. After reading this post I’ve realize how little I know! Do you ever feel like the more you write, the worse you get rather than the other way around? I get that feeling sometimes and it isn’t fun.

    • #53 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 15, 2015 - 5:09 pm

      YEP. But that is actually a sign you are moving from “hobbyist” to “professional.” Growing pains, Sweet Pea ((HUGS)) .

    • #54 by Sean P Carlin on June 15, 2015 - 9:01 pm

      David Morrell covers POV in his excellent instructional “The Successful Novelist.” Much of it is overlap with what Kristen details here, but it’s worth reading for a reiteration on the differing perspectives, as well as his other invaluable advice. He doesn’t go into structure — for that you should study Christopher Vogler and/or Blake Snyder — but his advice to aspiring novelists about the pros and cons of that particular form is priceless.

      • #55 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 15, 2015 - 9:05 pm

        Great teachers. I have read all of them and have ALL their books in my library😀 .

        • #56 by Sean P Carlin on June 15, 2015 - 11:00 pm

          They are all worth reading — and rereading — often. I’m a “recovering” screenwriter, so I’m well-versed in structure (I’m a devotee of both Vogler and Snyder), but when I started work on my first novel earlier this year, I required a sensible overview of the very particular requirements of that form. As inspirational as King’s ON WRITING is — I own a well-read copy — he doesn’t offer much in the way of codified principles; Morrell’s book, on the other hand, was exactly what I needed: He made me consciously aware of things screenwriters never need to think about, like (among other things) POV, as well as creating an immersive sensory experience by treating visuals as a given whenever possible (movie scripts are really nothing more than a list of what you see and hear), and instead leaning on the other senses to evoke a sense of atmosphere and orientation for the reader. Like I said: You won’t learn anything about mythic structure from him — I think he even recommends studying Vogler for that — but, as a novel-writing primer, it’s indispensable.

  40. #57 by pjphlp on June 17, 2015 - 4:15 am

    Reblogged this on Unconventional Sundress and commented:
    If you are a writer. Trying your hand at writing or think you’re great at it( i think everyone thinks so) Must read this! Really.

  41. #58 by Catherine on December 10, 2015 - 12:02 pm

    Thanks Kristen. Great meeting you and reading your blog. Off to try some different POVs with my story. I appreciate your help.

  42. #59 by ireadwritesail on January 15, 2016 - 5:45 pm

    I wonder if you are still answering questions on this post, which was GREAT by the way. My first novel was a head hopping nightmare but oddly enough picked up by a publisher, where I learned the error of my ways. It was a romance, an easy fix with an editor’s help. I knew nothing about POV and learned so much. My second novel is commercial fiction and I’m wondering about POV for this story. Can the main character be 3rd Omniscient (in varying degrees) through out the novel and the other characters be 3rd limited? Does that make sense? Or do they all have to be one or the other? See, I’m so uneducated about writing I don’t even know how to phrase the question!😉

    • #60 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 15, 2016 - 10:08 pm

      It is changing these days. I see more and more playing with POV. I don’t care for omniscient because the psychic distance is very cold and these days we are a Reality TV world, so it is a tough sell to an audience used to being up close and personal. What you may do is vary third limited with deep third. Google my posts about Deep POV to see what I am talking about😀 .

      • #61 by ireadwritesail on January 16, 2016 - 11:15 am

        THANK you! That is what I meant, just confused the terms! Third person limited and then vary the depths. I will definitely look up Deep POV on your site. Thank you for your advice.

      • #62 by ireadwritesail on January 16, 2016 - 11:17 am

        One more question, you seem so knowledgable on trends – does certain fiction have a POV that is trending? Like most YA/NA is first person. What is the trend, if any, for commercial fiction and romance, in your opinion?

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