When you see “Flashback” in front of an article, it means it is an article that originally appeared on Word Museum in the beginning before it was sold and then regained by Lori. We have reposted these articles, because we feel they add great value to the site. Where possible we include the date of the original article.
Written By: Pamela S Thibodeaux
Recently I received the score sheets from a contest I entered earlier this year. My writing was raked over the coals due to point of view. I got comments such as “frequent change of POV is distracting,” and “POV is very confusing.” One judge went on to say that I needed to concentrate on plotting, pacing and the rules of romance writing. C’mon I’ve had MANY people read my work (I’ve even paid for a professional, detailed critique) and NO ONE has EVER led me to believe it was THAT bad. Maybe they were just being nice. <g>
A bit confusing to me was the fact that, out of 3 judges, one gave me a score of 4 (almost there, needs a little polishing) in the area of POV. The other two gave me a 2 and a 1 respectively. Anyway, it got me thinking. Just how important is point of view? How could POV be such an issue with two judges and one say that it only needed a “little” polishing? Was it really that bad that it distracted from the story?
For research, I read (or should I say re-read for the umpteenth time) a book by one of the most popular authors of our time, Nora Roberts. What did I discern? If POV is REALLY such an issue, this lady would not be published today. Every other paragraph, two at the most, is a different POV. Now granted, there are huge blocks of text in her books where Ms. Roberts focuses on one character’s POV, but for the most part this is not the case. Now, I’ve heard it said that you can do anything when you’re Nora Roberts. Frankly I agree. The woman happens to be one of my favorite authors, top of the list, top in the industry. Let’s face it, Nora Roberts is the Top Gun of romance writing. And why? Certainly not because her POV is perfect. She’s top because she has an incredible knack for telling a beautiful story. One in which we all sigh longingly at the end because we know her characters will live happily ever after and pray that we have even the slightest chance of emulating her success in doing the same.
What’s Ms. Robert’s story-telling talent got to do with my point of view? My point of view is this: If the story is great, POV isn’t such a big deal. It’s like a group of people having a conversation; if we focus on the POV of only one person what do we have? Someone monopolizing the conversation! Think about your favorite TV show, they are constantly switching scenes to include what’s going on with all of the characters. Some call that cliff hangers, some call it hooks. Whatever you call it, it’s what keeps the audience hooked, it’s what keeps them tuning in, it’s what keeps them turning pages. When you have a scene involving several characters, how will you know how they all feel if you don’t explore their POV on the subject at hand? How is it possible to do this by focusing on one character’s POV per scene? Please, don’t misunderstand me, there is NO excuse for sloppy writing!! I just think too much unnecessary emphasis is put on POV.
We’ve heard it all: He/she can’t see the angry glint in their own eyes, she can’t see the blush on her cheeks, etc, etc, etc. But, pick up ANY good book and you’ll find sentences such as this one from Nora Robert’s book Second Nature “The frown in his eyes came too quickly to be noticed.” The paragraph goes on with the hero wondering how the heroine knew something about him that no one else did. Now you tell me, how did he know there was a frown in his eyes? EXACTLY. And while reading the book I couldn’t care less whether or not HE knew there was a frown in HIS eyes!! So what did I do with my critique from the contest? I thanked the judges for their efforts. I value their input and I’ll take EVERY bit of advice I can get to improve my craft. Feedback was why I entered the contest in the first place. Then I read and re-read my manuscript, cleaning it up where possible.
What did I learn? POV can be distracting. However, if re-writing the scene while keeping EVERY rule you know in mind takes away from the story or in any way impairs the flow, LEAVE IT ALONE! What’s the point of this article? Just this: We should be mindful of the rules of writing, we should do our best to abide by them, but in the end, our only obligation is to the story within us. The rest, as they say, will take care of itself. What’s your point of view?