Daily Archives: October 15, 2009

The Correct POV

by Sascha Illyvich 

eye-care2Do you know which POV your story is told in?  Do you know the correct Point of View your story SHOULD be written from?  If you answer first or third person POV, you’re obviously being a smart ass.  Let’s rephrase the question, shall we?  

What character’s point of view should my story be told in? 

There, this defines the question better.  And the answer is simple.  The main character’s POV.  But what if you have two characters?  Presumably a Hero and a Heroine, since this is Romance I’m mainly covering, let’s stick with that assumption.  What if you have a villain?  Do we tell any of the story from that character’s perspective? 

Many writers assume that during major scene changes, the perspective should change.  They’re half correct.  A lot of writers suggest that we need to know about the villain if there is one, and that character should get a say too.  Again, they’re half right. 

The truth is, POV is simple.  Tell the story from the Point of View of the character that has the most to lose.  

What do I mean by that?  Let’s break it down.  In a typical romance novel, we have the hero and heroine and a plot that runs something like this: 

Hero meets Heroine (hey you’re hot)

Hero and Heroine end up in bed (light cigar/cigarette)

Argument separates the two (God he’s a jerk/she’s a bitch)

And in the end, something happens that is greater than both the Hero and Heroine’s issues that makes them examine their beliefs and realize they need the other.

Let’s figure this out (I need you/I love you)

HEA/Happily for Now 

Throw in a villain and that character’s appearance should be before or during the cigar in the above example.  Considering that much of today’s erotic romance is paranormal or urban fantasy, there is a bad guy waiting to kill off both Hero/Heroine. 

So what determines whose point of view the story is told from? This is also easy.  For the story to flow without head hopping, let’s use a simple rule of thumb (courtesy of Morgan Hawke www.darkerotica.net

IF the story is under 20k, you simply need ONE character where the event happens to THEM and ONLY them.  

IF the story is under 40k, then we have an event that affects two characters.  

IF the story is under 100k, we have three characters who get a say, usually because the villain is the one doing shit to the world/universe—including the H/H.  

Now that we’ve narrowed that down and fixed the potential to head hop all over the place, thus eliminating characters that are central but not integral for POV purposes, we’re left with the one question:  

Who gets to talk? 

Readers get attached to characters they care about and have built relationships with, just as in reality.  Kill off a favorite character from your reader base and you’d better believe you’re going to hear about it!  Alter that character’s world somehow and again, you’ll get feedback.  But what if the hero and heroine both have something to lose?  Then what do you do? 

Refer back to length of the story.  Who has the greatest loss, and the greatest gain?  Write from THAT one character’s POV and ONLY change scenes if word length allows for it and only if that character’s journey makes us feel something universal.  

I recently read a story where head hopping occurred so much because the writer thought to write scenes like we see in TV.  Take Burn Notice for example:  We have Michael Westin, (The hero) Fiona (Heroine) and all the side characters, most notably the drunk former CIA op who we get to see frequently.  POV switches don’t really occur much because the story is narrated by Michael Westin, but when we do get those changes, Westin is still narrating. That works because people need to see a lot of visuals and TV/movies allow for those shifts to occur. The average attention span is not that long.  

But FICTION writing doesn’t.  You’ll end up with unsmooth transitions, annoying head hopping issues that make the reader THROW YOUR BOOK THE FUCK AWAY!  

In FICTION, you do two things.  You show the reader what YOU want them to see; otherwise they’ll see something else.  And you make the story smooth.  By sticking to word limit/reason for changes, you’ll eliminate guesswork in your plotting. 

Some writers can get away with multiple POV changes.  Sherrylin Kenyon for example can, she has a built in audience that somehow doesn’t care about the change from the H/H to Ash or Stryker.  So does Laurel K. Hamilton, but because she writes in First Person POV, she doesn’t have that ability.  But if she wrote in third person, she could afford to change because she’s ESTABLISHED.  Chances are, you’re not them. (And if you are, thanks for reading my article!) 

Christine Feehan does an excellent job of keeping the POV between her hero and heroine.  So does Richelle Mead. And Rebecca York.  Those authors are authors who don’t write what I do, but I learn from them because they’re where I hope to be someday.  

To reinforce the key points, I’ll leave with my two rules for simplification.

  1. Tell the story from the character’s POV that has the MOST to lose
  2. Use word length 20k = 1 character.  40k, 2 characters.  60k-100k+=3 and ONLY three. 

That should simplify things in your stories.  Happy writing! 

Sascha Illyvich

http://www.saschaillyvich.com

Listen to The UnNamed Romance Show Mondays at 1 PM PST and Thursdays at 3 PM PST on www.radiodentata.com – hear from Sascha as he shares his work along with interviewing the hottest authors in today’s romance