Friday, May 6, 2011

Wrapping Your Mind around POV

Point of view has been a challenge for me. From what I've read it's a problem with many writers, so much so that there are often POV shifts showing up all the time in published books. Once you get it, it is amazing how obvious one of these violations can be. Try finding the shift in POV in the following passages from the same story. 

Sarah ran out into the yard, hoping Dylan was still there.
    He was, standing guiltily. "What did you do?" she said, "You come here this minute!"

Did you catch it? The first sentence tells us Sarah's point of view. She hopes Dylan is there. The next line jumps to Dylan's POV when it says "standing guiltily." That's the shift. Sarah can't know what Dylan feels.

Now this is the fun part, how can we change this and stay in Sarah's POV and still say Dylan feels guilty? 

Sarah ran out into the yard, hoping Dylan was still there.
    He was, his head down and his hands behind his back. "What did you do?" she said, "You come here this minute!"

Fixing the POV also changed it from telling to showing. Isn't that what we want?
Let's try another:

     Dylan slowly walked towards Sarah and said, "Promise you won't get mad?" She always knows, how does she always know?

What happened? Yep, that's right, we just got inside Dylan's head, he's thinking that she always knows

What about this one, still part of the same story?

     Discipline is one of the hardest things for a parent to do. It can take years to become good at it and by then the child is grown, with a family of his own. The most important thing is to be consistent. If you say you're going to do something do it.

This is what they call "author intrusion" unless Sarah has a good story reason to include it. Even then, it doesn't sound like the character.

You never knew spotting POV shifts could be so fun, did you? Do you or did you struggle with a particular POV? How did you beat it?  

Here are some more resources:

Or check out this list of books:


  1. A great reminder on shifting POV. I've seen too many people suffer from this ailment.

  2. I love your examples. Shifting POV is such a jolt for the reader. Thanks for the reminder - will go through my own work to triple-check!


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