Friday, July 19, 2013


One of the biggest editing challenges I have been facing is the issue of Point Of View.  Christen has chosen a format wherein the POV switches back and forth between the two main characters, with each character having a designated section of a chapter.  I've read plenty of books where this worked really well, and I think we can implement it nicely in this case.

The challenge for me comes when the POV "slips" from one character to another within any particular section.  Having been pondering this issue for several month, every novel I have read lately seems to have this subtle (or unintentional) POV slip, and I'm trying to put my finger on exactly why it sometimes works in an almost seamless way, and why it sometimes seems glaring and intrusive.

One example of how this POV slipping works beautifully is Good Omens  by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman.  We get a peek inside one character's head, then immediately slip into another character's head, and back and forth, with deeply humorous results.  We have the opportunity to watch a scene unfold, the exact same events being seen, translated, and understood in two completely different ways by two different characters, all in the same few paragraphs.  This POV hopping allows a distinctive and lovely humor to emerge as the story unfolds.

Another example is Catch as Cat Can by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown.  The fact that the author's co-writer is her cat should tell you something about the tone of the book.  In this case, the reader is privy to the thoughts and feelings of each of the non-human characters, as well as the human characters.  The animal's communications with one another are expressed in italics, right there in the middle of the humans' business.  Again, I felt this worked very well, and added to the humor of the story and events.

The rule-of-thumb for writers has long been, "Pick one Point of View and stick with it."  However, I am finding more and more this guideline being disregarded, either intentionally or unintentionally.  Sometimes it works.  Other times, not so much.

So, what makes a POV-switching story work?

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