"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

9/28/10

With His (or her) Own Eyes (aka POV)

One of the things I struggle with some in my writing is point of view (aka POV).  I've definitely gotten better (and I've even been told that I explain it pretty well), but it's definitely a concept I don't QUITE get correctly without some serious thought.


In essence, POV is the perspective from which the story is told. It's based from whose eyes the story is seen through. Most commonly, novels are told from the main character's (or characters') point of view.

Sounds easy, eh? Think again.

Here's a snippet from my current draft of Handmaiden to A Princess. This novel has two POVs: Michal and Amal (but not at the same time, of course!) As I was looking it through, I found a POV issue. See if you can spot it as you read...
“Amal!” Dodi groused. “Dinner!”

He waved her off. “I’m almost done, Mama. Just give me a moment.”

She looked at Rivka and both shrugged their shoulders. “If you want cold stew,” his sister said, “then take your time.”

“Just a few more moments,” he said, annoyed, “and I’ll be there. No time for the stew to get cold.”

Rivka and Dodi sat and enjoyed, their stew bowls in their hands, dipping some flat bread into it and savoring the flavor. Within a few minutes, Amal had joined them, but not before storing the bow in a box beside Rivka’s feet.
Did you catch it? If this scene is from Rivka's point of view, then she shares some information she can't possibly have. Rivka does not and cannot know, through her observations, that Amal is annoyed. That either needs to be conveyed in a different way, or dropped - otherwise it's a POV shift.

But what if it's from Amal's point of view? Then there are even more issues. He's busy with his bow, so not only would he not see Dodi and Rivka shrug their shoulders, but he would have no idea what, or how, they were eating as he worked.

In this case, it was the latter, so to fix it, I took out the sentence about the ladies looking at each other, and rephrased the last paragraph so it was told from Amal's eyes.
Within a few minutes, Amal had joined them, but not before storing the bow in a box beside Rivka’s feet. Both Dodi and Rivka’s flat breads were nearly gone, bits of stew dripping from the remaining chunks.
Problem fixed :D (I think! hehe). Now I'm seeing the action only from Amal's eyes.


For more extensive information on point of view, check out this awesome post from Pix-N-Pens on just that topic: Editing Tip #46: Point of View

 DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH POV? DO YOU UNDERSTAND IT? HOW WOULD YOU HAVE CHANGED THIS MISTAKE?
 
Paving Rough Roads With God's Presence

6 comments:

  1. POV is only difficult when you have one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I caught it! ("annoyed" one)

    I have trouble with it, too. It takes practice and focused editing to get it right.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great explanation!

    It can't happen if the POV character can't see or hear it.

    I like the way you pointed out if Amal is focused on his bow, he could not see Dodi and Rivka shrug their shoulders. Easy one to miss!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I saw it, too! (except the detail abut him not seeing them. I assumed he did.) I never would have known without FW tho. I even spot POV shifts in novels now. :)

    I love how you fixed it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ooh. Nice work!

    First visit to your site - came across it through Faith Imagined's FB post. I'll add myself to your list of followers.

    Stop by sometime!

    www.fromtheheartonline.net

    -Kim

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm struggling a lot w/ POV- my WIP has shifted from first person to third person back to first- not to mention an MC whose *vital* role shifted so much she's just minor now... it's part of what's had my procrastination working so well.

    BTW you do explain it well, not that it's got my WIP running any smoother :) But that's not your fault.

    ReplyDelete

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