Don’t hide the POV character’s identity

One of the most common point of view errors we see in amateur novels is what I call Hidden Identity Syndrome.

This seems to be an attempt on the part of fiction writers to replicate something we see in movies: A nondescript figure walks into a darkened room, rifles the desk or cracks the safe or plants a bomb. Because of the lighting and camera angles you can’t tell who it is. So when the perpetrator is exposed later in the film, it’s a surprise.

We get a lot of manuscripts that start with characters called only he or she, or by some epithet—the Hungarian or the masked man or the accountant. He did something, she went somewhere, the accountant heard something…

But a novel isn’t a movie, so in most cases this is a POV violation. Continue reading

The difference between your voice and the character’s voice

Voice, like art, is one of those things that, being hard to define, often falls into the category of “I’ll know it when I see it.” It’s a quality that writers strive for and editors look for, precisely because it’s so hard to accomplish.

There are two kinds of voice; authorial voice, which is what writers bring to their overall body of work, and character voice, which is how each individual character sounds to the reader.

One of the great advantages of Deep POV is that, if your characters are well developed, their voices will pervade the narrative. In Deep POV, the main voices one notices are those of the characters. Continue reading

Sorting out characters and narrators

Last time, I said there are two kinds of POV: Narrator POV and Character POV, and I mentioned that each has some subsets. Here they are.

Narrator POV

The omniscient narrator knows everything and can share everyone’s thoughts, but doesn’t have to. He can, and often does, make value judgments about the characters and events of the story. Continue reading

Eliminating the narrator

As we saw last week, the goal of deep point of view is to eliminate the narrator. Which means there are two primary choices for POV, each of which has some subsets: You can have a narrator, or not.

In a novel with no narrator, the POV character takes on that role. Continue reading

The difference between third person POV and Deep POV

question answer


Q: I keep hearing about Deep POV. What is it, and how is it different from what the writing books call third person POV?

A: Point of view is one of the most complicated elements of fiction, and POV slips are among the most common errors we see in amateur manuscripts. Continue reading

Why omniscient POV is not recommended

One of the most common errors we see in amateur manuscripts is POV slips, which occur when a writer who means to be writing in character POV includes something the POV character can’t know.

For example, if you’re writing from the POV of a starship captain, you ought not put a line like this:

The captain had no way of knowing a massive asteroid was hurtling toward his ship.

If he has no way of knowing, you can’t tell me. Continue reading