Point of View

As a reader, my own preference is for some variety in point of view. An alternative pov can enrich a narrative, and I often feel that books with only one can be flat, as if they lack a dimension.

On the other hand, it can be a difficult task to leap from one character to another without leaving the reader behind. To avoid this, I have two rules: 1) only one pov per chapter and 2) the pov must be clearly established early on in each chapter. IMO head-hopping is the only thing worse than reading a chunk of text (or dialogue) without a clear pov.

My YA work-in-progress has two main characters, a boy (Marko) and a girl (Janet). The way the story is structured, the boy is the main character, the girl a secondary character, although it’s a close thing. So far, I’ve written 25 chapters, 14 from Marko’s viewpoint, 7 from Janet’s, with 4 that could be from either. There is no obvious pattern to the pov switches. There are some chapters where either one or the other is not present (no contest), others where both are present, but the drama determines pov, and a few where the decision is a toss-up. Wherever the choice is not obvious, I’ve generally opted for Marko, as he is the main character.

What I mean by a pattern is this: I have a book here by Sophie McKenzie called Blood Ties. She has two main characters, Theo and Rachel. McKenzie’s approach is to share out the pov duties equally between the two. Theo gets all the odd chapters, Rachel all the even ones. I wonder if this approach is necessary, or even wise. Towards the end of the book it seems an artificial constraint.

On the other hand, I’m not sure if my approach is any better.

Anyone got any suggestions?

4 thoughts on “Point of View

  1. Margo Lerwill says:

    I’ve seen it done both ways and enjoyed both. I think I enjoyed the even-odd a little more, but that might have been more about the writing and the story than merely the alternating POV’s.

  2. Jennifer Hillier says:

    I have four POVs in my current book (pretty typical for a thriller), and I follow the same rules you do: one POV per chapter, clearly established (usually in the first sentence). I would add a third rule, which is that the character telling the story must be the absolute best person for the job at that point in time. And of course, the story must always be moving forward.

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