What’s the most common POV problem?

Picking a POV to begin with and showing the entire scene through that person’s eyes. I would suggest most issues can be cleared up if you “get into character” as a method actor would.

To do this, first establish who the POV is in the first paragraph–second if you open with a zinger line of dialogue.  Go through your manuscript and make sure the POV character is the first person named in each new scene and that we have something internal from them as quickly as possible to ground us in that view.

Next, in each scene, with pretty much every word in each scene besides pronouns and said, ask yourself:

1) How would my character put this?
2)How would s/he describe this?
3) Can they physically see/hear this?
4)Were they paying attention/focused on this? If not, where is their focus?
On #2), remember to ask that about all the people in the scene, too. Call people, places, things, etc. what your POV character would call them–including themselves.

If you deviate, do so deliberately, for instance, calling your POV character by their full name when they first appear, for plot reasons. Or describing a complex emotional state the readers must understand for your  plot to work even though the necessary words are beyond the character’s capabilities. Or writing an omniscient scene showing a plot-critical event none of your POV characters are present for.

If you are careful to use a standard, intimate POV the rest of the time, these moments will become effective tools wielded intentionally by expert hands rather than haphazard marks of laziness.

Now, since this topic includes description, I should note some authors like to do a description dump towards the beginning of each scene. Be aware some acquisitions editors prefer only describing scene elements as the characters interact with them in the course of the scene. Also be aware some acquisitions’ editors allow or even favor the description dump method.

So what’s an author to do? Certainly, it is unwise to introduce new scene elements near the end of a scene, after the reader’s already drawn his own picture. However, for repetition’s sake, I would at minimum suggest you save the description dump for new settings. It’s also most effective if you keep it to one paragraph, two at most.

Likewise, you can please both camps by providing your character an internal motivation to be paying that close attention to her surroundings. But do avoid using the same motive every time, lest you run into repetition again.

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