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Hello, writers.

Tonight I (well, SenSho, but I'm posting this for her) want to talk about POV (point of view) slippage. But you, of course,  can talk about whatever you want.

As we’ve discussed before, most fiction nowadays is written from the POV of one
character, or sometimes two characters—rarely three, and anything more than
three is really unusual. Unusual in the sense of you need to have a really good
reason for doing it.

POV slippage occurs when the writer shows us something the viewpoint character
couldn’t have seen (eg another character’s thoughts). It can happen when the POV
character witnesses something happening in another time or place—though there
are ways to work around this. You just need a plot device. A hidden camera. An
old woman who tells tales. A Pensieve.

A common form of POV slip is showing the POV character’s facial expression,
though of course you can get around this by using a mirror or a video camera or
merely telling us the thought that goes with the expression. Or you can have
another character comment on the expression—that’s one of my favorites. “What
are you scowling for?”

But some of the hardest POV slips to catch when you’re self-editing are the ones
where the POV character sees him/herself as s/he never would.

If your POV character pouts, snarls, sulks, or whines, chances are you’ve got a
POV slip. (I see a lot of pouting in middle grade writing, when writers
sometimes unconsciously describe children as adults see them, rather than as
children see themselves.) You and I never pout. Nor do we snarl. We are far too
reasonable. We are reasonableness itself! It’s just that other people are
sometimes kind of annoying. So we get annoyed.

We don’t snarl, but we might, with regret, have to speak sharply. We don’t
pontificate, but we do try to explain. We don't sulk, but sometimes we do need
to get away from everybody. We might, rarely, whine, but it’s far more likely
we’ll merely point out a difficulty. Or complain. I can see us complaining,
because sometimes we just have to.

Obviously the phrases I used above might not suit your style or voice, but you
can find words that do. The important thing is to remember that POV characters
always have a perfectly sensible reason for getting a bit impatient, even
if it looks to the other characters like the POV character is cursing and
throwing things.

All of this is with the usual caveats that 1. famous writers can do whatever
they want and 2. as teh Guru says, you can do whatever you can get away

Tonight’s challenge:
A Callow Youth and his/her Stout Companion have braved swamps, isthmuses,
dragons, onions and least grebes to recover the lost Jewel of Togwogmagog. Now
they are headed home, with the jewel. Or at least they thought they were. One
night in an inn in the busy port city of Port City, the Callow Youth discovers
the jewel has gone missing.

1.    Show the youth discovering the jewel is no longer in his pocketses.
2.    Rewrite the scenelet from the POV of someone else—innkeeper, stout companion,

Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check
them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute
Write and/or Writer Beware.

Originally posted to GussieFN on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.

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