Proper POV Sells Stories

Creating the proper point of view for your story can make or break a sale. There are a few differences between point of view for short stories and for novels. Let’s stick with short stories, which are most effective with the singular POV. That is, the story is completely told from the viewpoint of one person.
To write successfully in singular POV, you must first understand POV. Whether you choose to write in first person, the I of storytelling, or third person, the he or she of storytelling, the action must take place entirely through the viewpoint of your protagonist. This means that the writer is objective toward secondary characters, but delves deeply into the POV character’s heart, mind and soul.
Deep POV goes a step farther. Not only do you get in the heart, mind and soul of your character, but the entire scene is narrated through his/her eyes. In other words, his/her voice takes over the story, even though it’s written in third person. This is very effective and fun to do.
While this has become a most popular method of presenting POV in today’s writing, before you can begin to work in that style, you must first understand POV.
Imagine yourself as your pov character and stand in the center of a room that has windows and a door. Listen. What do you hear? Look around you. What do you see? Now, think of someone coming down the hallway to your room. While you may know who it is because you’re expecting them, you can not see them so you don’t know what they’re wearing, the expression on their face, their body language. Not until they walk through the door.
In the same way, you do not know what you will look like to them when they enter. Don’t describe the protagonist except through clever dialogue by other characters.
Out in the yard, a dog barks. You can only hear the dog. You can’t see him, so from the sound of his bark, you don’t know if he’s a lab or some other large dog. A gun goes off. Where did the shot come from? Who pulled the trigger? You do not know unless you can see them through the window. This is your POV character or protagonist.
Let’s pause for a minute and consider:
Introspection: How did you feel? First, what’s going on in your mind when you hear the footsteps coming down the hall? Who do you think it is and why do you think they are coming? Why did the dog bark and who did he bark at? Who shot the gun, why and at who? Do you feel a deep gut-wrenching fear, or do you know that your neighbor often target practices and you think it might be him? Until you actually look out the window, you can’t know, can you? But you will have an emotional reaction to all these things.
Once you do meet who is at the door, you will have dialogue. But you cannot know what the other person is thinking or feeling unless they voice it in dialogue. The same with what’s going on outside with the dog barking and the gunfire.
As a writer, using this limited viewpoint, you can’t suddenly tell us that the bad guy, who’s been after your POV character, has shown up and is about to shoot him. Not unless your POV character sees him and knows who he is and sees that he is about to shoot him. A POV character still won’t know how he found him, or why he’s after him until there is dialogue.
A sense of place should also be presented through the POV character. He is seeing, reacting, moving through the setting. Don’t open your story with a setting, then put in your character. Present the character first so the reader can see the setting through his eyes and feel it through his emotions.
Do not hop about from one head to another, even if you’ve read books or stories that do. It’s a hard sell. That’s proper POV and holds true in first or third person.
You can see how important it is to know your characters well, most especially the POV character, but the others, too, through their dialogue and actions. Everyone does not react to any one thing in the same manner, he doesn’t even think the same way as someone else. Get inside the POV character until you know him as well as you know yourself.
That said, be careful you don’t become the protagonist in all your books. Readers will soon get bored with the same ideas, the same hangups, the same strengths and flaws.
When writing novels, several points of view are perfectly acceptable. Until you get a few sales under your belt, do not switch POVs within scenes. Give the character to whom the scene is most important the POV in that scene or chapter.
If you continue to study all aspects of your craft, write, write, write and submit, submit, submit, you will sell your work.

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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
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5 Responses to Proper POV Sells Stories

  1. Good advice, Velda, as always. Thanks for adding my Western Historical Happenings to your blog roll. All best,Jean

  2. Sound advice as always- I keep a lot of your blog posts in a file for valuable tutorings on good writing. Nice job again today!

  3. zhadi says:

    Excellent post, Velda – I’m gearing up for a third person narrative and this was extremely useful!

  4. Audrey says:

    I am an 81 year old blogger. Please take a look at my site on memoirs of my life: http://audreykaminski.blogspot.com/ I grew up in Baltimore with many happy memories. My old neighborhood in west Baltimore is too dangerous to walk through. There was a time when I thought I would never leave the city because of all it’s convenience. If you didn’t have a car you could ride a street car. Going down town was always a great pleasure. There were large Department stores, theaters and museums. Where I lived you could walk to the zoo, movie theater and a roller rink.Audrey

  5. Reblogged this on Alice White Author and commented:
    A blog by my friend/neighbor/mentor, Velda Brotherton. Great advice for point of view in your writing 🙂

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