Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Point of View: Handling a Temporary Change

My latest work-in-progress is written in a third person, subjective point of view. That is, I refer to my main character in the third person, e.g. “she”, “her”, but the story is told from her perspective, with her thoughts and feelings. However, as I write my latest chapter, I’m thinking about including a scene that doesn’t directly involve my main character. I’ve never done this before. I usually stick to one main character POV or alternating POVs of two main characters. But in this instance, I think the scene is needed:

a) to increase tension in the story

b) to add a complication to the circumstances my character is in

c) because my MC’s location is limited by her circumstances and she wouldn’t likely overhear or know about the conversation

The challenge is how to do this effectively. First, if it’s not my main character’s POV, then what POV do I use? An omniscient POV? Or do I choose a character that could come into the story again later (since I’m only at Chapter 7 of my first draft, this could happen, though it’s not my plan). Second, how do I transition to this scene to make it flow naturally?

I’m going to look for examples to see how authors have done this in MG novels. Maybe try it out a couple of different ways to see what works.


  1. Examples of what others have done is a super way to go. Also, first drafts are game for anything, so maybe you'll end up with a second POV. It usually seems to me that a recurring second POV works better than a "special dispensation" POV shift for a particular situation. In the end, it's whatever we can make work -- which is both so freeing and so nebulous. :)

  2. I've written only adult manuscripts in 3rd person. Children's has always been 1st person. 2nd person, is near impossible! I've actually changed the POV in some manuscripts to edit the story from a different angle.

  3. I did alternating pov's in Sliding on the Edge. I will say I took a lot of heat for doing that, but in the end it worked. I also changed my tense. Wow did that stir the pot. I had a reason for doing what I did. If you also have a reason it will work. If you want to "talk" email me. I love to talk POV. It's one of the most powerful tools writers have.

  4. Andrea, I'd recommend looking at Diamonds in the Shadow by the incredible Caroline B. Cooney. Most of the story is told through the MC's POV but she uses very short scenes interspersed throughout with another, anonymous POV and it increases the tension dramatically.

  5. Marcia, it sounds better to me too, to have a recurring POV, but I'll have to figure out how to do it. The new POV comes in at about Ch 9.

    Karin, I haven't changed POVs for a novel yet, but I'm considering doing that for my last one, which alternates POV, to change it to one POV for my own sanity. C. Lee, I found an alternating POV challenging, but it sounds like you pulled it off.

    Kate, thanks for the book recommendation. I've already put it on hold at my local library!


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