Last week’s post about point of view (POV) examined how POV choices impact your story. Once you’ve chosen a POV and written the first draft, you’re ready for my favorite stage of the writing journey: revisions.
As you revise, you’ll polish out elements that distract readers and keep them from connecting to your book.
A few POV reminders
POV comes in a few flavors:
- First person
- Second person
In any of these POVs, you can tell your story in past, present, or future tense. If you missed last week’s POV overview, take a look at it now to get the most out of this post.
5 POV mistakes that weaken your story
With so many choices, expect a first draft full of inconsistencies. Keep an eye out for these POV issues as you revise. They can make or break your book.
If you’re writing from multiple POVs, limit yourself to one POV per scene. Don’t make readers keep guessing whose head they’re in. Every time the voice switches to a new POV, the reader needs to pause and re-orient. Even if this pause takes less than a second, it breaks the flow of your prose.
Breaking a close/deep POV
The voice in first person or close third is the POV character’s voice. You can only notice or say what that character would notice or say. Be extra careful when introducing new characters. Avoid phrases like, “Her sister, Grace Woodley, strode into the room.” Most people don’t think of their siblings using first and last names like that. Likewise, watch your setting descriptions. Your main character probably won’t walk into her apartment after work and observe every detail like she’s seeing it for the first time. She’ll walk in and set her bag on the floor. Deep POVs require you to reveal details slowly and naturally, if at all.
Inconsistencies in person or tense
Each POV can be told in past, present, or future tense. Early drafts often have a lot of tense inconsistencies. In one paragraph we’ll write he nodded (past tense) and in the next we’ll write she smiles (present tense). The choice is all yours, but once you settle on a POV and a tense, stick to it.
Too many POVs
This is a tough one because a lot of recent bestsellers use multiple POVs. Many books with multiple POVs, bestsellers included, could be stronger with fewer POV characters. In real life, we can choose a large circle of acquaintances or a small group of close friends. Consider which one you want for your readers and your characters. Don’t water down the most important choice in your book. Give readers a chance to settle in and develop a deep connection with your main character — otherwise it’s too easy to put your book down.
Lack of distinction between POVs
If you do employ multiple POVs, each character needs a unique voice. Readers should never forget whose head they’re in. Deep POVs should feel authentic — as if the character is writing the story, not you. Be extra careful when writing a POV character with a different gender, age, race, ethnicity, or social class than your own. In this case, you may want to enlist a beta reader with firsthand experience to make sure you’ve gotten the voice right.
Consistency is key
Bottom line: you need to stay consistent. Your first draft will be full of mistakes. That’s part of the process. Fix as much as you can on your own, then give your manuscript to a trusted critique partner or group. Ask them to look for the issues listed above. Masterful POV will help create an immersive experience that hooks readers until the last page. It never happens in the first draft, but it’s worth the effort.