Get Out of My Head!

February 2, 2012

I’m taking an online class taught by author Julie Leto at RWA on Story Logic: The Key to Keeping the Reader Engaged. Okay, so far I’m just following along and reading through the discussion, and there is much discussion. The topics have included character logic, goal-motivation-conflict and backstory, point of view logic and the first five pages, and there’s more to come.

The biggest issue for me is still POV. I didn’t realize it was an issue until I won several critiques by published authors and an agent back in October. I talked about this a little then.

I’ve continued working on my manuscript, but I keep going back to the places where I originally “got into my minor characters’ heads,” and I have to admit that although I didn’t realize that I had done it, I kind of like what I did. It seems strategic, and it works for me.

But will it work for an editor?

The POV changes that I’m considering keeping, all occurred in the last paragraph of the chapter, just a few lines, and suddenly one of the minor characters whose heads I generally “stay out of” is seeing something in a way no one else in the story sees it. It happens at the end of almost every chapter. As I rewrite instead of removing these point of view changes, I really want to add them to the chapter or two that doesn’t have a minor character POV change, and to put them in the new chapters that I’m writing.

Now I did find other POV changes that I realized I needed to fix, but these were not done the same way. They were more random. I really like ending the chapters with these POV changes. I think it has impact, and some of the people who have been reading for me seem to agree.

So what do I do? Originally I thought I was writing from one point of view, my heroine’s, but the hero had a strong voice of his own…and I just wrote. Without a doubt I made the very amateur mistake of getting into the heads of too many characters, and I’m working my way back out, except for these final paragraphs at the end of chapters.

I didn’t plan it, I didn’t even know I’d done it until I began looking for POV changes after I received my critiques.

What would you do? Are too many POV changes distracting? Can strategically placed POV changes that put you into the heads of minor characters work? Or should a writer stay out of the heads of minor characters? What kinds of challenges have you had with POV?



6 Responses to “Get Out of My Head!”

  1. Hey, Tari!

    With my first manuscript, I “head hopped” like crazy. When I go back and read the manuscript I even confuse myself. 🙂 For a long time, I was so afraid of switching POV that I stuck to one POV per chapter (hero or heroine). Eventually, I started changing from hero to heronine within the same chapter. And recently, I started adding in POVs for minor characters. I just finished the first draft on a manuscript with four POVs, and in the–I can’t even remember what draft of this story I am on now–manuscript I’m editing now, I’ve added a third POV, but not until the end. It could be jarring, but I’m hoping it sets up the second book in this series. We grow and learn as long as we’re writing, but to really grow and really learn we have to be fearless. I like the idea of each chapter ending with a POV switch. It’s different. It’s daring. Since I haven’t read your manuscript, I don’t know if it works, but I say it’s worth a shot. 🙂


  2. taristhread Says:

    Thanks Elley!! I’m going to go with it, we’ll see what happens.

  3. yhosby Says:

    I think it’s okay to use different character’s POV (even if minor ones) as long as you use a scene break for each different one. That way it’s less confusing for the readers, and the editors, agents, etc. won’t mind it as much.

    Keep smiling,

  4. Gillian Colbert Says:

    POV changes definitely need to be strategic. I generally stick with just a few. My current WIP has POV’s of the two main characters and the occasional aside by two minor characters. When I do throw in a minor character’s point of view it is at the end of the chapter. They can definitely provide impact.

  5. Nan Hartwell Says:

    Are you hopping in and out of just one minor character’s head at the end of the chapters? Is it the same character every time? I think it could be very interesting–if it is the same character every time. I’m not so sure about it being any random minor character.

  6. I can remember (many, MANY, moons ago) when it first became something of a fad in romance novels to head-hop with each new chapter — usually two characters taking turns, and usually between the hero and heroine. Before that it was sort of taboo. After that, the whole thing seemed to go to the winds. I started my novel with one POV, tried to use more than one, and just didn’t like it. I felt like I had no control of the narrative flow and the story was all over the place. Keeping it in one character’s viewpoint is restrictive, but I mean that in a good way, i.e. tighter and more focused. The challenge of giving info through only one POV led me to use more dialogue and action in order to show things from the MC’s POV. IMHO, there tends to be too much interior dialogue when there’s lots of head-hopping. In some books I don’t mind a little hopping, as long as you clearly identify who is who. A friend of mine let me edit her first book and I went crazy with the head-hopping, not just from one paragraph to another, but sometimes from one sentence to the next! But when I tried to explain POV, she had no idea what I meant and insisted on keeping as-was. It’s a good story, but the jumping around in POV makes it seem awfully amateurish. It’s not selling well, and that’s a shame.

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