POV is an acronym, or shorthand, for Point of View. I could bore you with all the technical details, but in laymen’s terms, it has to do with deciding who will actually be telling your story. New writers often make the mistake of choosing God to tell their stories, but we’ll cover omniscient–and why you shouldn’t write in it–separately.
In modern POV practices, you are expected to tell your story through the eyes of the characters in the story, either in third person (He/She) or first person (I). Movies do this when they use the camera angle to mimic the view a particular character (or animal) in the scene has.
POV allows modern novels to compete with movies by giving the reader an experience they can’t get from a movie yet–the ability to temporarily become someone else. POV does this by recreating the human experience. It not only means seeing through the view point character’s eyes, but walking in their shoes. There is no separate narrator in view point fiction. Every word of the narrative gets filtered through the lens of the view point character’s perspective. Even with dialogue, your view point character may mishear or miss key parts of the other character’s words, and that would be reflected in how you quote him.
Let’s say your view point character is LaShawn. What she sees, what she hears, what she feels, what shes tastes, what she touches, so does your reader. What she knows, your reader knows. What she does, your reader does. Where she goes, your reader goes. What she thinks, your reader hears.
Conversely, what she doesn’t see, your reader doesn’t see. What she doesn’t hear, your reader doesn’t hear. What she doesn’t taste or touch, your reader doesn’t, either. What she doesn’t know, your reader doesn’t know. Where she doesn’t go, your reader also doesn’t go.
You may be thinking, “But there’s no way I can say everything that needs said if I stick to that with my hero!”
Perhaps. This is why you are permitted more than one point of view character. Though, when you are starting out, it is best to use as few view points as possible, because view point characters require more characterization than do non-view point characters. Ideally, you will want to know your view point characters as well as you know yourself, or at least as well as you know your spouse or best friend. The better you know your view point character, the easier it’ll be to stay in point of view.
Thus, staying in POV is as important to the writer as getting in character is for the actor. In fact, having been trained in stage acting as a child, I can attest that the skills are quite similar. So similar, any stage training you may have will serve you well as a writer.
Regardless, the better you become at staying in POV, the closer your reader will identify with your hero, and the more engrossed they will be in your book. And, if you’re submitting to publishers, the more engrossed the aquisitions editor is in your novel, the more likely you are to make the sale.