Four Tips for Choosing the POV Character For Your Scene

In my last post, How To Bring Lift and Fluency to Each Scene In Your Novel, I explored how to make your scenes shine like the torchlight in a dark cave.

As you tackle your scenes you should be supporting the overall point of view the story is told. Point of view can be difficult. We all know that. It’s even harder when you’re using multiple POVs.

It’s an easy call when a POV character narrates a scene that features only non-POV characters. However, when one or more of the POV characters share a scene, who comes out on top? That is, which character’s POV are you in? Who’s narrating the action?

Here are four tips that have helped me make this critical decision. Hopefully, they’ll help you, too.

With these four tips, I work through each one like a checklist. My work in progress features three points of view characters of equal importance. That is, each of their storylines has a strong story arc, and they each get roughly one-third of the word count.

Deciding whose perspective works best for any particular scene has been difficult. If number one doesn’t apply to my scene I move to number two and so forth, until one I have found the point of view I want to use for the scene.

1. Main Character First

If you have a main character in the scene, use their POV.

Sometimes, you have important multiple POV characters, but one of them is clearly the novel’s main character. If this is the case, you will almost always let this person retain the POV when participating in a scene that includes other POV characters. It feels weird if you don’t and the readers will sense that as well.

2. Who matters most?

Narrate the scene from the POV of the character who has the most at stake.

When you have POV characters who are essentially equal in importance, the character with the most at stake in the scene gets to narrate. That way, readers are inside the head of the person who is experiencing the strongest emotions (failure, elation, envy, shock, etc.). I admit that determining who has the most at stake can be a problem all its own, but when you analyze and compare the characters at what’s at stake, it becomes clear.

3. No spoilers

If giving the character with the most at stake the POV reins would ruin a plot point or surprise (she’s the murderer, for instance), then consider letting readers see the scene from the POV of the character with the least at stake.

That person, with less invested in what’s going on, can act almost like a reporter, offering his observations about the other characters in the scene.

4. Let the plot dictate

Let the needs of the plot or story determine who narrates.

For instance, do you need to describe Character A in detail for some reason? Then let one of your other POV characters narrate and provide a description. Do you need to highlight an important clue that Character A wouldn’t know about or notice?

Then a different POV character is in charge.

As mentioned before, I work through these until I discover which point of view I want to use for the scene.

One thing I want to emphasize is: do not head hop within a sceneOnly one POV should be within one scene. 

It will cause confusion, delay to the scene and pull the reader out of the story and stop them from reading your novel. If you have multiple main characters within a scene and you need to tell the POV from each main character to take something from it, try your ultimate best to avoid head hopping.

Re-write the scene and use one of the tips above to make sure you get the most important POV for your scene.

If you have any more questions, make sure you post your questions, comments or/ and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, a question or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.

#DouglasWTSmith #pointofview

Choosing the right POV


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