Point of View Shifts: Part 4 of a 10 part series on common mistakes new authors make
Point of View (POV) Shifts
Definition = shifting from one character's point of view to another's within a scene. This is often called head-hopping.
There's nothing wrong with shifting POV's in a story. Many times you need more than one character to tell the full story. The problem arises when you shift back and forth from one person's POV to another's without warning.
1) Stick to one POV per scene. Determine whose is the most important for each scene and stay with it through the whole scene.
2) If you need to shift to another character's POV within a scene, place some type of break between them. A line of several asterisks or number symbols is common. Make sure to let the reader know in the first paragraph after the break whose POV you have moved to.
Why we should avoid head-hopping =
1) Shifting POV's frequently, especially with no warning, can confuse the reader. By hopping from one person's head to another, it's easy to get disoriented and lose the thread of the story.
2) It can jar the reader out of the story. He was reading along quite comfortably in character one's POV, then suddenly finds himself in character two's head, then back to character one's thoughts, then into character three's POV. Each time, the reader needs to reorient himself and figure out where he is.
3) It's harder for readers to build a rapport with the characters when they're jumping from one person's head to another over and over again. Staying with one person's POV—sharing his or her thoughts and feelings—for longer periods of time helps the reader to empathize with that character.
What about Third Person Omniscient POV? =
Definition = when the narrator is like a storyteller who knows the thoughts and feelings of all the characters, but is not a participant in the story. There are several problems with this POV:
1) It is not currently used very often.
2) It creates distance between the story and the reader. This makes it harder for the reader to get to know and empathize with the characters.
Overall, the third person POV, told from one character's POV at a time does the best job of making the reader feel like he or she is right in the midst of the story.
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