Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday Writers Tips - Point of View and Head Hopping

Point of View (POV) and Head Hopping can challenge new authors. It did me. I'd be so caught up in writing that I didn't realize I was switching POV several times in one scene, which can confuse the heck out of your reader. As a reader it bothers me when I come to a change in POV that is not obvious. I go back a paragraph or two wondering when the switch was made and how come I didn't see it. It takes me out of the story for a few seconds.

There are famous, prolific authors who know how to change POV several times in one scene but I feel if a writer is still wading into the waters of fiction, especially romance fiction where dual POVs is advantageous, it's best to keep to one point of view per scene, or at the most switching mid scene. If you find the scene doesn't work in that character's POV, try rewriting it over in the other character's POV. 

Now comes the fun part, and you might think I'm crazy, but when I first started writing and noticed my "POV problem", I found a solution. Maybe it's because I've been an artist for many years, or because I am right brained, but color is an instant flag of recognition. So I started color-coding my manuscripts. Red for the heroine, blue for the hero. And green for the occasional third POV,  but only if absolutely necessary. 

This coding method, and I still use it a dozen mss later, keeps me mindful (pun recognized!) of whose mind I'm in. Am I out of my mind when I'm in my character's mind? That's a topic for another discussion. Back to topic, the color coding also gives me a quick way to see if my mss has POV balance. If I'm writing a story where I want to tip the balance to the heroine's side, I can see with a quick scan if I'm being too heavy with the hero's POV, and visa versa. I can see at a glance if I'm spending too much time in one POV while the other character languishes. 

Here's a short excerpt from my Summer 2013 release A DADDY FOR LUKE as an example. This is the end of one scene in the hero, David's POV and the beginning of the next scene in the heroine, Sandy's POV. 

Why couldn’t they be friends? When had his pity turned to love? Or had it ever been pity? He’d been attracted to her from the beginning. Her quirkiness, her individuality, her determined independence. Her crooked smile. He got in the car, started the engine and pulled away. He drove a few yards until he found a place to turn around and head back to Main Street. He could have gone around the block, but he wanted one last look, to be sure they were all right. As he passed Sandy’s house, she was standing on the sidewalk near the street still holding Luke. They both waved as he went by. Looking stoic, determined to give him a proper farewell. David heard Luke holler. “Goodbye, Mr. David.” And he saw the sun glint off tears on Sandy’s cheeks. 
Damn, what had he done? 
When the car was out of sight Sandy turned and carried her little boy back into the house. Now he was clinging to her, crying his little heart out and her own tears mingled with his. She sat on the sofa and murmured to him. Trying to comfort him. 
She still felt David’s lips on hers, warm, persistent, passionate. A powerful beginning, an abrupt ending. She’d only known him a week and she’d fallen harder than ever. So much for not getting involved. 
This was going to be worse than Sean, Terry and Roy put together. This was a drop into a deep dark canyon she didn’t know how to climb out of. 

 Yes, I also like scene change indicators. As a reader I like to know when I will need to shift gears with the story. 

Do you have any little tricks you've adopted as you've learned the craft of writing fiction?

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Christy! Very cool idea about color-coding POV. It would definitely make switches easier to spot.

    For the most part, I'm stickler for POV, 1-per scene, and it's never really been a problem for me. It amazes me, however, that so many established authors get away with head-hopping, yet it's flagged constantly by editors with new authors. So strange.

    When I read a novel, POV sswitches stand out like glaring red flags for me, but if the story is good I usually overlook them :)