In fiction writing, a crucial element is deciding the POV (point of view) to narrate the story.
It could be first person, which makes it easy to create a voice, but hard to explain what happens to other people not in direct view of the protagonist. An example is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Third person limited is when the author uses only one person’s POV. Like first person, the limitation is that you can’t explain what happens to other people in the plot. An example is Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.
Third person omniscient is when the author tells the story from different perspectives, like a movie camera showing wide vistas and zooming in on someone, then zooming out and focusing on someone else. It gives great flexibility to show what’s happening in places away from the protagonist. The reader often knows something the protagonist doesn’t, which creates another level of tension.
Whatever POV you decide to use, it should be consistent. The reader needs to know whose ‘head’ he/she is in. The reader needs to feel the emotions of the character.
If you’re using the third person omniscient, an important thing is to avoid ‘head-hopping’. Head hopping is when the POV switches from one person to another too quickly. The author should keep the POV of one person for the whole section or chapter, and switching to the other person’s POV in the next section.
Here’s an example of ‘head-hopping’:
Alice stared into Todd’s eyes and knew he was the one. As he tipped up her chin, her heart raced and her skin burned for his touch. She felt herself melt in his arms as he pressed his mouth against hers. Her fragrance drove him crazy, her lips felt soft against his. He knew he should never have left her. She was the only one he’d ever loved. She shivered as he whispered, “I love you!”
In the above passage, the POV jumps from Alice’s perspective to Todd’s, in a muddled fashion.
Here’s a better version, with consistent POV (Alice):
Alice stared into his eyes and knew he was the one. As he tipped up her chin, her heart raced and her skin burned for his touch. She felt herself melt in his arms as he pressed his mouth against hers. Why did you leave me, Todd? But then he whispered, “I love you!”
OR, Consistent POV (Todd):
Todd tipped up her chin and stared into her eyes. He pressed his mouth against hers, and felt her melt in his arms. Her fragrance drove him crazy, her lips felt soft against his. He knew he should never have left her. She was the only one he’d ever loved. He felt her shiver as he whispered, “I love you!”
I like to write passages from different POVs, until I decide whose perspective works best in a situation. In my latest novel Shadowed Promise, I wrote the last chapter three times, from three different perspectives until I decided on doing it through the protagonist Moyna’s eyes.
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Sunanda Chatterjee is a practicing physician in Southern California. When she is not by the microscope making diagnoses, she loves to write fiction.