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Posts Tagged ‘Correct P.O.V.’

September 15, 2014

Twelve Common Mistakes Found in Fiction Manuscripts

Mistake Number Two: Switching Viewpoints in the Same Scene

 

In this series of blogs, we’re going to make our way through all twelve of these common mistakes us writers of fiction must tackle to perfect our writing and get our manuscript publishing ready. In my last blog we discussed Mistake Number One in writing fiction, Too Much Description and Narration. So let’s have a look at Switching Viewpoints in the Same Scene.

Point of view is a technique all fiction writers must master to write effectively. The point of view choices when writing any genre and the difficulty involved in writing the P.O.V. correctly are directly correlated to the “person” in which the author decides to write:

First person – fiction and nonfiction (including “how-to” books and devotionals)

Example: In reading the book of Job, I found that God is ready to console me through my troubles.

Second person – nonfiction (including helps books, “how-to” books, and devotionals)

Example: When baking a cake, you must remember to turn the oven on and allow it to pre-heat before you put the cake batter in to bake.

Third person – most fiction is written in this P.O.V.

Example: Cyrus entered his dog Hunter in a dog show in the Obstacle Course event. Cyrus has won all kinds of blue ribbons with that amazing Scottie. “I love working with this dog,” he told a newspaper reporter in a recent interview. He’s really special.” And he’s special to me even if he hadn’t won any ribbons.

Omniscient – fiction in which the author presents the P.O.V. as though the reader is watching everything happening, but no characters’ P.O.V. is ever presented.

Example: Betty, Jean, Mary, and Sally decided to take a trip to Florida. Betty decided to drive, Jean collected coupons for restaurants, Mary reserved hotel rooms, and Sally chipped in a few hundred bucks for gas. (No thoughts of any character ever appear in the story.)

Because much fiction is written in the third person, we’re going to concentrate on that P.O.V. and how to avoid “messing up” by writing two different P.O.V.’s in the same scene. Let’s look at a few samples of writing P.O.V. incorrectly:

Example One:

Fred came home late from work on Thursday, hoping beyond hope that Chloe would have supper still warm for him. But I wouldn’t blame her if it’s all put away. I forgot to call her, he remembered as he went in the front door. “Hi, honey! I’m home!” he said.

Chloe came trudging into the living room, her hair disheveled, her clothes covered with dirt and grass stains. “What a day I had! The washer broke, Sammy fell and got a bloody lip, and I just slipped and fell out back when I tried to chase the neighbor’s dog out of the yard.” And Fred, you better not say a word about no supper on the table!

Can you analyze this little excerpt and see two points of view? There’s nothing more confusing to a reader than to try to get inside two or three different characters’ heads in the same scene. So how do we fix this point of view problem in this excerpt? Easy! Just delete one of the characters’ thoughts and concentrate on getting into the head of only one character per scene.

Here’s the same scene in the correct P.O.V.:

Fred came home late from work on Thursday, hoping beyond hope that Chloe would have supper still warm for him. But I wouldn’t blame her if it’s all put away. I forgot to call her, he remembered as he went in the front door. “Hi, honey! I’m home!” he said.

Chloe came trudging into the living room, her hair disheveled, her clothes covered with dirt and grass stains. “What a day I had! The washer broke, Sammy fell and got a bloody lip, and I just slipped and fell out back when I tried to chase the neighbor’s dog out of the yard.”

Oh, brother! Fred thought. I better not say a word about any supper, or I’ll be in the neighbors’ dog house!

Let’s look at another example:

Example Two:

Bruce always thought Tammy, the sophomore gal who sat next to him in chemistry class, was the most beautiful girl he had ever met. His heart raced like a horse to the finish line whenever he smelled her sweet perfume and looked into her baby blues. Yes, Bruce was lovesick.

But Tammy, on the other hand, found Bruce to be just another ordinary guy and no one she’d ever want to date. Oh, sure, he was cute, but she never really thought of him as “her type.”

Now, in this example, we’ve not “gotten into the head” of either character to see his or her direct thoughts; however, the way the passage is written portrays to us Bruce’s thoughts and Tammy’s thoughts without direct quotes. Again, we have two P.O.V.s in the same scene, which only cause confusion to the reader.

Now let’s look at how we fixed this P.O.V. problem here:

Bruce always thought Tammy, the sophomore gal who sat next to him in chemistry class, was the most beautiful girl he had ever met. His heart raced like a horse to the finish line whenever he smelled her sweet perfume and looked into her baby blues. Yes, Bruce was lovesick.

But Bruce felt, just from her vibes, that Tammy probably thought of him as just another ordinary guy and no one she’d ever want to date. Did she think he was cute? Bruce could only hope, but he had the feeling that she believed he wasn’t “her type.”

Okay, writer friends, there you have it. The pesky P.O.V. problem and how to fix it in a very, very short lesson. Hopefully, you’ve already mastered the P.O.V. technique. If not, I hope this blog has been of some help to you.

Next time, we’ll look at Common Fiction Mistake Number Three: A Negative Tone Throughout the Story.

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