In her book Mastering Point of View, Sherri Szeman defines point of view as “how a novel is written.” She gives multiple options for traditional POV: first, second, unlimited, outer limited, inner limited and combo.
No matter the genre, commercial romance has specific requirements of POV—generally either first person or a version of inner limited, which is also called third person.
Sherri writes, “The author picks one character and pretends (s)he is in that character’s head, limiting the information presented to the inner life of that chosen character. The author reveals all the thoughts, feelings and motivations of that character, but writs about him in the grammatical third person, using he, she, it or they to refer to his character…
“The author stays out of the head of all other characters in the novel. He doesn’t present any of their thoughts, feelings or unspoken motivations unless they are revealed in dialogue to, or in the presence of, the character from whose perspective he is telling the story.”
The POV rule in Romance has been to limit POV changes through the story. But romance writers can be rebellious and independent. We like to test the rules. I feel the rule of POV should be: as long as the reader can follow who’s talking and walking (and thinking and acting), POV changes are okay.
That said, it’s a good idea to limit the number of POV changes in any one chapter to no more than three. And the changes in POV perspective must drive the plot. A scene written from the villain or killer’s perspective can greatly heighten tension.
I tend to write like I’m watching a film. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched so many. Maybe it’s because my #1 writing craft book is “Screenplay” by Syd Field.
Movie scenes offer multiple points of view. There’s also B-footage, those shots of the full moon night sky, or an overhead of traffic on the LA freeway system. But those don’t fit into a modern romance novel.
We need to know that Jane is getting into the shower and, as warm water cascades down her body, she’s thinking about how stupid she was to run away after Jake kissed her last night. It was his last night home before heading off to Afghanistan, and he’d asked her to marry him. She’d not given him an answer, and now it was too late. He was gone and she wouldn’t be able to tell him why she couldn’t say yes, despite how much she wanted to. He didn’t know about Sam. And she didn’t know how to tell him.
Now, we could write the next scene in Jake's POV, describing the anger he feels toward Jane as the 747 jets across the ocean. How she's rejected him. How he wanted to know she would be waiting for him. He'd heard she'd been preoccupied with some guy named Sam. She'd probably been sleeping with him, and that's why she bolted when he'd kissed her. Damn it! If he hadn't tried to undo her bra, maybe she would have been honest with him. Or maybe not. Maybe she really was the town slut, and he was better off forgetting about her.
Then, what if Sam is a three-year old mixed race baby that Jane's been trying to adopt. Sam can't have a POV, realistically. And what if Jake has always insisted that he wanted kids of his own. HIS own. ...
Pretty clear cut points of view. As long as each section is in either Jane's or Jake's POV, the reader gets both sides of the story and can be immersed in the drama.
No head-hopping. No confusion.
Just pure satisfaction.
Should be easy, right?
But is it?