Readers have grown to expect certain things within the books they read, and wise authors know it’s best not to disappoint their readers. So here are a few points to keep in mind while crafting your next masterpiece.
Many writers love their characters so much, they want to give each of them a PoV within the book—allow each character to tell part of the story from her own unique perspective. This desire is natural and kind of fun. It’s also a great way for a writer to become better acquainted with her characters—by writing about them. Unfortunately, with modern readers, this is also a potential problem.
Readers today are savvy and sophisticated. Most won’t tolerate poor storytelling and many scoff at poor writing (the actual act of arranging one word after another, for those interested in the difference). The potential problem with multiple PoV stories is, if a character has a PoV, if part of the story is told from her perspective and we get to know that character, then the reader expects her to also have a character development arc. All PoV characters must be an integral part of the storyline, they must learn something and change in some way through the course of the novel, and they must be a slightly different person before the end.
For this reason, writers can’t just give a character a PoV. There are consequences to this decision. Each PoV allowed demands more work from the writer, developing the character, honing her voice, and deciding how her arc should progress. As well, having too many PoVs can confuse the reader. It becomes work rather than fun, keeping everyone straight, and if not done properly with a solid and believable development arc, the ending (no matter how good otherwise) can leave the reader unsatisfied.
And unwilling to buy your next book.
These days, head hopping is another big no-no. Editors don’t want to see it unless (as discussed yesterday) you’re Nora Roberts, or writing certain types of plot-driven rather than character-driven fiction, such as thrillers. And even in an action-packed thriller, the reader’s experience will be enhanced by taking the PoV deeper, which can only be done by avoiding head hopping.
Finally, when writing third person deep PoV, remember that your character can’t see her own face, meaning you can’t use dialogue “beats” such as “She smiled” or “She glanced his way.” Let her words illustrate the character’s facial expression and emotion for the reader, and let what she sees illustrate where she’s looking. This also means that some dialogue “tags” should be avoided, such as “smiled” (nobody smiles words, in any case), “complained” or “asserted” (readers can judge these for themselves by the character’s words, or should be able to).
With third person deep PoV, the only dialogue tag used is “said.” But don’t worry that it will become repetitive. Those savvy modern readers we all want to attract have become used to this, as well, and now expect it. They’ll be so engrossed in your deep Pov, they’ll gloss right over all those “saids.”
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Cheryl, thank you for talking about the different perspectives and pitfalls aabout 'point of view', and I look for to tomorrow's input.