Wednesday, June 1, 2016

V is for Viewpoint

Paula looks at telling stories from a character’s viewpoint.

She slammed the door behind her, and didn’t hear his grunt of frustration.
If we’re telling the story from ‘her’ viewpoint, we can’t include anything she didn’t hear.

As he went into the house and closed the door, two men came out of the house further down the street.
Now we’ve jumped out of ‘his’ viewpoint, and we’re telling the reader about something he doesn’t know about.

She was too modest to realise they were all enthralled by her sweet singing voice.
This sentence takes us completely away from the heroine’s viewpoint because (a) would she really know she was too modest? (b) how does she know they were enthralled if she doesn’t realise this?

In short, if we are in e.g. the heroine’s viewpoint, we are limited to what she can see, hear, smell, taste, touch – as well as feel and know. She can’t see the expression on someone’s face if she has her back to him (unless she is facing a mirror) and she can’t know what someone else is thinking (unless she is a mind reader!).

All this sounds very obvious, but I’ve been amazed at how often some writers jump away from the character’s viewpoint - and, in doing so, take the reader away from the character.


  1. Great post! I have been guilty of all of the above.
    Another thing I've learned to watch for is "flying body parts."
    His hands can't "fly" to his face.

  2. Very true
    That's a good point Paula. A mistake we should all be careful of not making

  3. Getting a handle on POV can definitely be a tricky thing.

    Head hopping, or moving from one character's POV multiple times, in a scene drives me crazy, too. I find if an author does that it totally pulls me out of the story.

    1. Agree about head hopping, but I'm also very aware of the times writers (including myself!) slip out of POV into 'author intrusion'!

  4. I'm so glad you wrote about this. This is something I struggle with all the time and have to remind myself not to slip into omniscient voice, especially.

    1. I think it's something we all have to watch out for, maybe more so in romance than in other genres, as we need our readers to engage with our characters.