What Is POV in Writing, and How Do You Use It?

What is POV image 1“What is POV?” is a question budding writers often ask me.

It stands for Point of View. And the most common problem I see in aspiring novelists is an inability to grasp this concept.

Veteran editor Dave Lambert says, “No decision you make will impact the shape and texture of your story more than your choice of Point of View.”

So what is POV in writing?

  1. Point of View is the perspective from which you tell your story. You may choose to tell it in First Person (I); Second Person (you); or Third Person (he, she, or it).
  2. The secret to making it work is to limit yourself to one perspective character per scene, preferably per chapter, and often per book.
  3. The cardinal rule is to never violate #2. Which means no switching perspective characters within the same scene. And definitely not within the same paragraph or sentence. Yes, that happens, and it’s a giant no-no.

POV Example:

[Third person POV perspective character] Suzie slipped into American History 101, late as usual, wishing Dr. Luck wouldn’t give her his usual scowl. He wondered if it was possible for her to ever show up on time.

That’s called head-hopping (being in the head of more than one character at  time). And here’s what’s wrong with it:

  • It implies an omniscient viewpoint, which is archaic.
  • It violates the secret (#2): one POV character per scene.
  • That single perspective character serves as your camera. Your reader experiences only what that character sees, hears, thinks, feels, smells, and tastes.

So how can your reader learn anything about any other character?

From what they say, and what your POV character says/thinks/feels/believes about them.

If Bill is your POV character and you’re writing in the third person, you could not write, “Bill said he was happy for her, but Mary didn’t believe him.”


Because you know only what your perspective character knows. And Bill cannot say unequivocally what Mary believes. But he can guess.

So you can write, “Bill said he was happy for her, but he could tell Mary didn’t believe him.” Or “…but he could tell from the look on her face that Mary didn’t believe him.” Or some variation of that.

Multiple POVs in the Same Story

In some of the Left Behind (Tyndale House Publishers) novels I alternated between as many as five perspective characters per book, but I made it crystal clear every time I switched.

Perhaps I had finished a scene where airline pilot Rayford Steele was the perspective character and found himself caught in a dilemma in London. Now I want to switch locations and perspective characters.

So I would add extra space between paragraphs, insert what’s called a typographical dingbat—like this: ### —and then fully introduce the new POV character:

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Buck Williams sat hunched over his laptop…

In my latest novel, The Valley of the Dry Bones (Worthy Publishing), I employ a single perspective character for the entire book.

Primarily, remember that regardless which POV you choose, you’re limited to one perspective character per scene. Period.

What POV will you choose for your work-in-progress, and how many perspective characters will you use?

Related Posts:

Showing vs. Telling: What You Need to Know

The 11 Best Books on Writing I’ve Ever Read

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

  • Cheryl Thiessen

    My novel is in first person. I originally started it in third person, and intended to jump between two character perspectives, but I decided to stick with first person because there is a lot going on that my protagonist is unaware of, and I wanted my readers to also remain unaware. Even though I thought the other character’s perspective would be really interesting, I felt it benefitted the reader more to be left in the dark. I could have still kept it in third person with the single perspective, but after I rewrote chapter one in first person, I loved the more intimate feel of being in her head. I’m very happy with how it has turned out.

    • Great, Cheryl. Sounds like good reasoning.

      • Adrian

        My novel is in second person. I think it’s interesting to read in second person because you can feel what the character feels, see what the character sees. It’s also a great element for suspense – for example, the reader knowing something that the character doesn’t. “No!” the readers scream in their heads. “Don’t cross the bridge! It’s going to explode before you get to the other side!” The only problem is, it’s difficult to make it work.

        • Adrian

          Ugh….change “second person” to “first person.” I feel it now, Jerry.

  • Dominic Copeland

    Thanks Jerry. A simple yet powerful way to strengthen our writing. I appreciate these tips they make me a better writer.

  • David Young

    Is the omniscient POV absolutely verboten? Does it offend readers? Does it offend editors? As an oral story teller, this is my default POV. I have had a disagreement with someone editing my novel. I have told a scene that gives information that no one of the characters could know. She assumed, in error, that I was telling it through the eyes of one of the characters. That is not the case. I was basically telling it from the third person. He suggested alternative did not flow smoothly. I think I could tell it smoothly by breaking it into two segments, which she did suggest, but I still think the story flows more easily as I have told it.

    • Is the omniscient POV absolutely verboten?

      That’s my opinion, yes.

      Does it offend readers?

      I don’t think ‘offend’ is the right word, but I believe it’s archaic and confusing.

      Does it offend editors?

      Again, it might not ‘offend’ them, but it will cause them not to buy your manuscript for publication. If you want to pay to be printed rather than be paid to be published, that’s another story.

      As an oral story teller, this is my default POV.

      Naturally, that’s a whole different medium.

      I have had a disagreement with someone editing my novel. I have told a scene that gives information that no one of the characters could know.

      In that case, you would have a disagreement with me too. :)

      She assumed, in error, that I was telling it through the eyes of one of the characters.

      You should have been.

      That is not the case. I was basically telling it from the third person.

      The third person does not preclude telling it from the perspective of one of the characters. My current novel is third person limited for the entire manuscript and has a single perspective character throughout.

      Her suggested alternative did not flow smoothly. I think I could tell it smoothly by breaking it into two segments, which she did suggest, but I still think the story flows more easily as I have told it.

      Flow and POV should be two separate elements, but the writer providing information unknown to any of the characters calls for an omniscient POV and is going to be a tough sell.

      • David Young

        Thank you, Jerry. This is helpful. I did appreciate your reply to Amy Green about knowing the rules.

  • Rebecca Hricko

    Thanks, Jerry. I had observed this rule, but I didn’t realize just how important it was. I’m using the second person point of view (in my very slowly progressing book), and I want to try to keep it to one person. My character is an introvert, so my focus is on what goes on inside her head, even when she is in dialogue with other characters.

    • I assume you mean third person, Rebecca. I think I threw you off by switching the definitions myself in the original version of this blog. It should have read this way:

      First Person (I); Second Person (you); or Third Person (he, she, or it).

      • Rebecca Hricko

        Yes, I mean the third person. I was never good at keeping technical terms straight!

  • Glenda

    No dingbats for me! :) First person, I think, will best help readers to flow through my Non-fiction/Inspirational book.

    • Yes, Glenda, it would make sense to switch perspectives in a nonfiction book.

      • Glenda

        Care to elaborate? It WOULD make sense? Which POV(s)? And what kind of dingbats? (I’m actually flying blind here, at present…) h e l p

      • My bad. I meant it would NOT make sense.

        • Glenda

          Got it! Many thanks. :)

  • Ty Epling

    Thank you for this opportunity. This has been one of my hang-ups. I have 200+ pages written in third and first person. I like the flexibility of third but like the personal first person better. I know it is hard to pull off, but want to give it a try. POV is first person unless I learn something compelling from the Guild as we go along.

    • I’m confused, Ty. Are you writing in third and first person, or have you chosen first person exclusively?

      • Ty Epling

        I have written 200 pages in each POV. I have chosen first person exclusively. After reading both, I find third person is more distant than I want my POV character to be. He has emotional problems and is receiving counseling. Hard to bring that out third person for me.

        • Then that was not wasted effort. Turned out to be good training, eh? I do believe the day will come when you will find that you CAN write just as personally and evocatively from the third person limited, interspersing enough first person self-talk to get the same effect. But do what works best for now for the sake of your current project and, of course, for the sake of the reader.

          • Ty Epling

            Thank you. I believe writing with the Guild will be enough to make the right decision for publication. There is much to learn and I am now ready.

  • I agree that very few people can do an omniscient narrator well. Often, it’s a mistake a writers make because they’re unaware that they’re constantly changing POV. However, sometimes you come across a writer where omniscient narration is a standout aspect of his or her voice. In the Christian realm, I’m thinking of Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s justification for using it that has stuck with me: http://anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com/2014/11/yet-another-post-about-omniscient.html

    It’s not so much about hard-and-fast rules as understanding them, being aware of what is most often done, and being very sure (and very good) when you break a rule.

    • Well, there are superstars like the incomparable Francine and then there are those who can manage one aspect of departing from convention while making such a mess of so many other aspects of the trade that they wind up paying to be printed rather than being paid to be published.

      Isn’t it fun though that rules are made to be broken? :)

  • Genevieve Curtis

    I have 2 POV characters in my novel. So far, I have changed POV when I start a new chapter, but it will get more tricky as the two characters start to interact. I’m not sure how to work that in yet regarding POV.

    • Just remember that you get one point of view character per scene. If you switch POV characters more frequently than each chapter, you want to make that crystal clear to the reader.

      • Genevieve Curtis

        Thank you for helping us see all the different aspects of writing that we need to be aware of as we write. It’s a lot easier to learn as you go as opposed to needing to fix all of the work at the end of the project. I saw your example of changing POV within the chapter. So helpful to have concrete examples

  • Jim Holt

    I understand the temptation to switch POV’s. When I go back and edit what’s been written I often see my error as I try and read it as a third party would. I didn’t realize this was such a strong rule. In just a few short weeks you’ve helped me immensely with simple digestible things like this!

  • Sarah Herman

    I don’t think of it as being a problem or an issue, but it is confusing as you are writing. You are creating, thinking in your mind what comes next. As, you write, it pours out of your brain non-stop, you don’t think about “what person am I speaking in or in other words the POV.” I have written things like, “As she spoke, Carolyn knew that she was not seeing the entire picture. She, herself has already been down that road and was still on the same path she had taken many years before.”
    Things like this, make me question, am I doing this right? Is this in the right perspective? I think, most often I write from the character POV. I am in their heads, so it gets confusing to remember, who is talking and what they should or would be saying at the time or at that moment. Talking in past tense and future tense versus the present tense is sometimes very confusing, as well. I find myself telling this great story, only to go back and read what should be different words, terms, as the tense is wrong. I believe that times, past, present and future all tie in with the POV.

    • As you grow as a writer you’ll realize that once you’ve established your perspective character you don’t need all those phrases like “As she spoke” and “Carolyn knew” and “she herself.” You’re in her POV, so you can simply write, “Carolyn had been down this road years before…” and keep moving.

      • Sarah Herman

        I think I have gotten better from the first book – but when you are only on book two or three you have a long road ahead :) Thanks for the insight

  • I am using 2 POV in my novel, alternating between chapters. One is first person, the other third. One of my editors picked that up and reckons I should change it to third person all the way as she thinks readers might find it confusing. One of my close friends hates that style in books when I love it. So I am not sure what to do at this point though my other editor offered a few options or to even flip a coin to come up with a decision. Personally I thought using different POV helped differentiate the two main characters.

    • Laurie Kehoe

      I did the same thing. Mostly it is in third person but I include short chapters that are in first person present. There is a series of books by W. Michael and Kathleen Gear where they did that and it worked very well. What I did do though is try to separate it. However, I did switch POV in the same chapter by using the break characters.

      • Laurie Kehoe

        BTW, it was one of the first things I had to learn when having my work edited by other authors. That and don’t overwrite. I can’t say enough how much it helps to have the advice of those who succeeded at this business of writing.

      • Thanks, I’m going to find those books.

        • Laurie Kehoe

          They are called First North American Series. People of the Wolf is the first. Each one after is People of the …

    • The switching of POV styles would make me, as a reader, too aware of the writing and the fact that I was reading–when what I want is to forget both of those and be swept into the story alone.

      • Laurie Kehoe

        You are swept into the story. Both the Gears and I used it as a dream sequence and separate chapter, to set it apart from the regular events. I did it the same way because I really liked how it took me away from the actual story to be in the head of the dreamer – to separate the two worlds as it were – the world we live in and the world of Anne’s dreams.

  • Joe A. Bowden

    How important is the growing call for “deep POV”, and is it becoming a deal breaker?

    • “Deep POV” is just a fancy term for the way we all should have been writing all along.

      • Joe A. Bowden

        Thanks – that is what I thought was the case. I found it is not too difficult to leave out a lot of tags, etc.

  • Josephine Strano D’Urso

    In the fiction novel I’m writing I have 2 POVs, the two main characters. Only in one instance do I insert a third POV, also an important character, and it takes up only a few paragraphs of the book. In this case is the third POV a no-no? Thanks for all the wonderful tips!

    • If that third POV is really only 2 paragraphs in the entire novel, Josephine, I’d find a way around it.

      And you need to remember that ‘fiction novel’ is redundant. :)

      • Josephine Strano D’Urso

        Ooops, you are so right! Yet I keep seeing it all over the internet. Thank you for your response. I will have to look at that third.pov again.

  • Judy Peterman Blackburn

    I’m using third person, (he, she, it), but I go back and forth between the four or five main characters. I put three *** in where it changes characters point of view. Maybe I have too much going on? Not sure.

  • Sandy Wells

    I’m using 3rd person POV in my first ever novel. I have six main characters and several minor. Each character gets his or her own scene, at least now. When I sat down one day to reread the beginning chapters I discovered I had broken the cardinal rules. Needless to say there will be considerable rewriting to be done.

  • I find that First Person works best in non-fiction while Second Person works best in fiction. First Person in a book of fiction feels limiting to me as a writer. And Third Person seems to put too much distance between me and my story. :)

    • I assume you mean third person, Susan. I think I threw you off by switching the definitions myself in the original version of this blog. It should have read this way:

      First Person (I); Second Person (you); or Third Person (he, she, or it).

      First person may feel limiting to you, but many beginning writers are most comfortable with it, especially with their first novel. I was.

  • Mona Hatchette Purvis

    I needed this discussion today. Jerry, I’m writing a book based on the lives of Millie-Christine McCoy. I want to tell the story in first person. It is Fiction, but they were a very real set of conjoined twins born into slavery in North Carolina prior to the Civil War. They were amazing women and their story needs to be told. Here’s the dilemma: they are two people who always referred to themselves as one. Can I use each voice equally as first person? I know this is unique, but so were they. POV, dialect and dialogue are where I’m working the hardest.

    • If I were editing that book I would urge you to write it in the third person as the narrator, introducing the twins individually and allowing them to speak in the first person separately, as they are individuals and converse with each other, right? Surely they don’t speak in unison as the collective ‘we’, or do they?

      To me it would make sense if it had this tone:

      Though Millie and Christine McCoy share a body [and at some point you would be specific about what they share and what separate, etc.], they are distinct individuals with their own personalities and opinions.

      “That’s true,” Millie says. “In fact, I…”

      And then you can quote Christine and let that conversation proceed naturally.

  • Elizabeth Braithwaite

    How strange is it that I’ve given my main character 1st and the other supporting characters 3rd? The povs are always broken up by a chapter break. The idea is that the others told their story to a poet, and hers is the last piece. So she’s filling in what is left, what is most important. It makes her the focal point, at least I think. Maybe it’s just weird, and I’m crazy…

    • I’d have to see how it looks. It sounds contrived, frankly, like I’d be very aware of the construct when I want to be swept into a story and forget I’m reading.

  • Your explanation makes a lot of sense, but are there exceptions, such as nursery rhymes:
    Mary had a little lamb,

    Its fleece was white as snow,

    And everywhere that Mary went,

    The lamb was sure to go.
    The POV changes from Mary to lamb to Mary to lamb.

    Jack and Jill went up the hillTo fetch a pail of water.Jack fell down and broke his crown,And Jill came tumbling after.The POV changes from Jack and Jill, to Jack then Jill in the same sentence.

    • No, I would maintain there is no POV change in either instance. In the first case it’s third person multiple, Jack and Jill. They go up, they fall down.

      In the second, it’s third person limited from Mary’s perspective. She has a lamb that follows her. We see the lamb from her perspective, not from the lamb’s. And neither do we see her from the lamb’s perspective. If it said, “… and the lamb was none too happy about it…”, THEN you’d have a POV shift. :)

      There might be a case for a shift to the lamb’s POV due to the phrase “was sure,” if you take it to mean “was determined,” but I’ve always taken it to mean “was known” to follow. In other words, if you saw Mary, you saw the lamb.

  • Great topic, Jerry! This can be a definite bugaboo for a great many aspiring novelists. Even as a veteran author, I’ve begun writing a book in first person and later decided to switch and revise because an alternate viewpoint served the story better. For me, that’s often the deciding factor: what viewpoint BEST serves the needs of my story and in which I’m most comfortable telling it.

    I’ve published books told in first and third-person, respectively (never in the same book, though). At present, both novels I’m working on are third-person “limited” viewpoint. This is the one I use most and am typically comfortable with. The key in any viewpoint is to avoid author intrusion. You, the writer, should be utterly invisible! Some writers I know find it helpful to write a certain amount in a specific viewpoint and then read it aloud to gauge how it sounds, both from the aspect of voice and character. Happy writing!

    ** And my apologies if I caused any confusion. By viewpoint I do mean point-of-view. I use the term interchangeably.

  • Love the points you made here. My novel is third person, and it actually is very similar to yours with Left Behind. I use the same “typographical dingbat” (didn’t know what it was called-thanks!), and only have 1 pov per scene, with a total of 4 characters having a pov. I knew when I started writing it 4 years ago that I’d make it third person, which is my favorite kind of writing. Probably your influence :)

    • Third person limited is probably the most voice for fiction. Very functional and normal sounding.

  • I’ve always preferred second person for fiction, but people are writing more first person novels now also. I have read a few first person novels and I was able to get used to them eventually.

    How would you write a fiction book in third person? “You enjoyed movie and decided to walk home rather than take a cab. When the cab driver let the other passenger out and turned onto a dark road leading to the river, you knew you had made a bad decision.”

    • Sorry, Lois, I threw you off by switching the definitions of second and third person in the blog originally. Hope that’s been fixed by the time most read this. But otherwise, yes, your example is correct. And it would be a most cumbersome way to write a whole novel.

      First person novels are fairly common too. My first 13 were first person.

      • Thanks for clarifying it, Jerry. I thought that didn’t sound right but when you get my age you are easily confused so I thought was just me!

  • Kathy Shaull

    Thank you for addressing this issue! I recently had to set aside a novel I was reading because of the POV hopping from one paragraph to the next. I’m using third person, and I have only 2 POV characters. And I am fierce about checking this during revision. Do you have any tips on how to quickly clarify which character is on board in a new chapter?

    • Unless you’ve changed from the previous chapter, it should be clear. If you change, introduce the new perspective character by name, location, time, etc.:

      Louise Fitzgerald pulled into the parking lot at LA’s 3rd Street Promendade and glanced at her watch…

    • Robert Murphy

      I gave up on one book by a big time author because I couldn’t tell which decade they were in – Viet Nam, present day, or one that could have been either. But when I switch points of view, I add extra blank lines between paragraphs for physical separation. I’ve read some books where the author has a mini chapter with each change in perspective.

      • I like either technique. Whatever makes it clear to the readers. You never want them frustrated or wondering, as you were.

  • Gary Frazier

    Good article, except that second person is you and third person is he, she or it.

    • Yep, that was my bad and the first thing I noticed too. Would you believe I was trying to show how everyone needs an editor?

      Yeah, me either. Thanks, Gary.

  • Lola Lavy

    Jerry, I’m still somewhat confused on this. What does Second Person (you) mean? I’m writing the book so it IS me??? I understand First Person (I); that’s me also, and Third Person is just describing what the other person says, does, etc.?? I’m sorry; I guess I’m just dense or something. Do you have an article online elsewhere with several examples in it? I would surely appreciate reading it.

    • Cheryl Thiessen

      Lola, second person is very uncommon, but I’ve seen it in choose your own adventure books many years ago. It would be something like this, “You walk down the narrow hallway and come to a door. The door creaks open and before you can stop yourself, you walk through it into the darkness beyond.”

      • Lola Lavy

        Cheryl, thank you so much; I can’t imagine using this POV! I am writing in third person most of the time, but after seeing Jerry’s blog on POV, I’m sure I’ve violated the “cardinal rule” somewhere! Again, thank you so much.

        • Cheryl Thiessen

          You’re welcome. I can’t imagine using it either, but it does work in choose your own adventure. As in my example above, you could then say, “If you go through the door, turn to page 52. If you slam the door and run back down the hallway, turn to page 10.” etc. Haha. Maybe some day I will try a choose your own adventure project, for my kids.

          • Lola Lavy

            Cheryl, I think it’s great practice to write using different POV’s as some instructors have suggested. However, finding time to do this can be a problem for me – I tend to pick what’s comfortable and stick with it. My novel is finished and it is over 150,000 words. NOW, having received so much instruction through the Writer’s Guild, I’m rewriting and I’ve a long way to go so I’m toying with the idea of multiple viewpoints, third person limited because the novel is multigenerational and there are many characters other than two major ones. What do you think about this approach? And thank you for your answer!

          • Cheryl Thiessen

            I hear you about finding the time. I don’t have time to mess around either. I’m not sure I can advise you about your multiple viewpoint dilemma. I’m not experienced enough. I can tell you I’ve read many books that alternate between characters’ viewpoints, and I think it works quite well. I guess the only thing I would think is you’d have to really be careful how many perspectives you choose. But again, I am not experienced in this area. My book is in first person and stays in the protagonist’s head the entire time. Think about whose viewpoint is going to benefit the book and the reader the most, and maybe stick with those.

          • Lola Lavy

            Golly, Cheryl, I envy you in that sticking to first person throughout is tempting! By now, I’ve done several research projects on POV since Jerry’s and my conclusion is that you have to make it crystal clear which character is speaking, etc., make just one character the major POV in each scene, and NEVER switch POV’s in a paragraph or sentence. My dilemma is having three generations to cover; I cannot make my protagonist the POV before she is born! And it is important to give each generation a “voice” that contributes to who she is and becomes. Am I being too wordy here? Sorry, no pun intended – it’s wonderful to have a writing friend!

          • Cheryl Thiessen

            Your book is really long, and sounds like it spans a huge amount of time. Have you considered breaking it up into a trilogy, or even two books? I’ve seen many series that are done that way, and continue the story with the next generation. I’m not sure at what point in your book the protagonist is born, but until she is, she’s not the protagonist.

          • Lola Lavy

            Cheryl, I understand that she isn’t the protagonist until she is born, but the book does have a protagonist in each generation, the oldest generation being portrayed mostly in the memories of the second generation who is the grandmother of the major protagonist in the book. As for the protagonist’s birth, it occurs quite early in the book. And yes, I have thought about breaking the book up into two or a series, but FIRST, I have to get it edited and rewritten to the point it will sell. My major goal is revealing the faith of each generation and how it affects them and the lives of those around them in a very practical sense as well as in the inspirational, even miraculous – just a small thing (ha, ha!)

          • Cheryl Thiessen

            You are ambitious, Lola! Sounds like a huge project. I am also in the editing stages of my book, and it feels like I might be there for a long time! I wish you well in your process.

          • Lola Lavy

            Thank you, Cheryl. I wish you well also and if you have a dilemma, problem, etc. or question for me, ( or advice!) don’t hesitate to keep in touch.

      • Lola Lavy

        Cheryl, thank you so much; I can’t imagine using this POV! I am writing in third person most of the time, but after seeing Jerry’s blog on POV, I’m sure I’ve violated the “cardinal rule” somewhere! Again, thank you so much.

    • First person: I went to the store and met Jack. We…
      Second person: You went to the store and met Jack. The two of you…
      Third person: Bill went to the store and met Jack. They…

      • I see the second person used frequently in textbooks and on documentaries as scenarios and examples.

      • Lola Lavy

        Jerry, thank you for the reply and I also received advice from another writer – the Forum is wonderful!

  • Lola Lavy

    Jerry, I apologize for asking this question as a thought just occurred: Check the new Christian Writer’s Market Guide I just received from you a few days ago. Voila! Right there on page 451 is an article titled “Only One Point of View” by Dave Lampert. Of course, if you have another online resource you want to share, I’ll be checking it out.

  • Robert Murphy

    Great article, I’ll have to recheck my story because I think a good deal of it changing perspectives. Although there are 2 major points of view, my main character and his wife. I do have a couple of other points of view later in the book to introduce critical characters and add intrigue, so that I’m not giving the punch line halfway through the joke so to speak.

    • That sounds dangerously close to an omniscient viewpoint, which would–in my opinion–be giving the punch line too soon. To my mind, when you introduce a new character from the perspective of your POV character, you’re getting to know them the way you would in real life–knowing only what you observe and hear and can assume about them from that.

      We don’t know for sure what people are thinking when we meet them, so we draw conclusions from their expressions, statements, body language, actions, even their tones of voice, how they hesitate before answering certain questions, if they lose eye contact at certain points, etc.

      When you jump into their perspective upon introducing them, my fear would be that you do the opposite of adding intrigue. You eliminate any mystery about them because we know what they’re thinking.

      • Robert Murphy

        Thanks, I’ll definitely have to take another look at it. I like the way that I introduce a minor character near the end of the book so if it doesn’t work here, I can save it – or at least the idea – for some future writing.

        • Well, you certainly don’t want to avoid introducing minor characters any time you want, but you don’t want minor characters to be POV characters anyway.

          • Robert Murphy

            Thanks, that’s going to be very helpful as I continue my rewrite.

  • Felicia Bowen Bridges

    Jerry, I’m working on book two in a series (different characters and settings but tied to one another via online relationships). In the first book, I wrote only from the protagonist’s POV (third person). In book 2, because a good bit of the action involves other characters, I’m using multiple POV characters. Should I be maintaining that same single POV for all books in a series?

    • I would, but you don’t have to. The rule is one POV character per scene and making it crystal clear to the reader when you switch. Do that and you should be OK.

  • Joshua

    Jerry, this is just what I needed to hear. Thank you

    I’m working on a novel in which the central character is portrayed in the first person POV. But there are other scenes where the central character isn’t present that need to be told in the third person POV of any of the other characters. But I’ve never seen this before in any book I’ve read – Can you have both first person and third person POV in the same book? If yes, how do I structure it as not to confuse the reader?

    I know that your Red Rock mysteries has a first person POV as well as some scenes in the third person.

    • Well, you ask the question and then answer it in your next paragraph. :) Yes Chris Fabry and I did it in our Red Rock mysteries, so what do you think? Did we structure it in a way that didn’t confuse the reader?

      • Joshua

        Thanks. It was clear. I saw that you wrote the names of the characters before their scenes. Is this a general rule for multiple first person POVs or its just yor style?

        • We thought it was best for young readers. For adults I think just identifying the character clearly is enough.

          • Joshua

            Thanks, Jerry

  • Heather Hemsley

    My POV for my book is second person, and I have three character perspectives :) Thank you for writing this post, I really needed it.

    • Heather Hemsley

      My mistake, I meant third person :)

  • Jan Rouse

    I so appreciated this blog. I am an aspiring author and have sent my manuscript out to several agents. One was very gracious, and while she rejected my work, she offered advice on how to improve my novel and prepare it for publishing. One of her comments was ‘head bopping’. I never really understood that concept until I read this blog. Your example was easy to follow and I feel as if I have been enlightened. Thank yo so much.

  • Jerry, as always I enjoy reading your blogs. Myself, I like writing in the 1st person because I can adjust the dialogue to fit the character. So if the character is a trailer trash broad – I can gossip and talk trash. Or if the character is a educated snob – I can expound on the qualities of my exclusivity. Or if the character is an average Joe – Yeah, whatever, shut up and bring me another beer. To which the trailer trash wife says – Get it yourself! I’m going shopping!

    • I think you’re confusing your POV perspective character with dialogue. Naturally every character will converse in the first person, but what voice are YOU writing the book in?

      The clue will be in whether you’re attributing dialogue with “he said” and “she said” while narrating about the main character also in the third person, or telling the story from the first person perspective of one character.

      Regardless, the author should always adjust every character’s dialogue to fit. My last novel, to release May 3, is third person limited with one POV perspective character throughout, but I am careful to give every character his or her own distinctive speaking voice.

  • I learned about POV through your 2-year correspondence course in Christian writing. Now it’s very jarring when I see it violated. I have the following observations.

    First, I see popular writers violate POV, but I believe it downgrades their writing.

    Second, another reason why it’s important is that it takes a very disciplined writer to switch POV between paragraphs and not confuse the reader (in other words, even the best writers slip up and you’re wondering whose POV is controlling in certain paragraphs).

    Third, in my historical-fiction writing I take the reader through the past and then into the present to demonstrate that in the present we are often guessing what really happened in the past. I mark time-shifts by a chapter change, and then POV within that time frame by section changes. I do this because the correspondence course warned about leaving a storyline untouched for too many chapters: I would have too large a gap between storylines (time-switches) if I changed chapter every time I changed POV within a time frame.

    Your correspondence course helped my technique greatly and also demonstrated important techniques for enhancing creativity. I’ve self-published 9 novels and had 2 of them picked up by Tate Publishing (so far).

    • Laurie Kehoe

      I’m going through Tate as well.

      • Laurie Kehoe

        I’m not sure how it is with James, but as for us, we pay for the publicist, Tate pays for everything else. I have to say I’m okay with it so far. The cover is gorgeous and we’ve had a pitch session with Dr. Kevin McAfee who is interested in going further with “A Dream of Dragons” – set up by Tate. I still have to see how the book looks when published and the marketing plans they have to see if it lives up to what they promised but so far they have done good by me.

        • Most such firms build enough profit into what you pay for publicity to cover their costs for everything else, plus a profit margin, so regardless how the book does, they don’t lose. Your financial success will, naturally, depend on sales. Here’s hoping it’s a smash. Keep me posted.

          My goal is to get you to where you can land a publishing deal wherein you are paid to be published and the publishing house takes all the risks besides.

          • Laurie Kehoe

            Mine too! Which is why your blogs and the Guild are so important to me. I already see things I could have improved. I am so thrilled to be able to learn from a master like you. BTW, can I send you a book when it is published?

          • I’d love it, thanks! Box 88288, Black Forest CO 80908

          • Laurie Kehoe

            Thank you! I am honored!

    • When you say ,”picked up by Tate” you’re still paying though, right?

      • That’s a difficult question. Since I have self-published 9 novels on my own, I recognize the frustration of having to do everything myself:
        One: producing an error-free manuscript (every novel I published still has errors after at least 10 readings myself and checks by two independent, good reviewers)
        Two: Producing second-class cover art incorporating high-resolution digital photos, using photo-editing/layered graphics (e.g., a person in the foreground with two or three background photos seamlessly tied in)
        Three: Marketing my books with no training

        I have a MS degree in nuclear engineering from Berkeley, 26 years working for the government in predicting the future, the experience of designing a 20-hour creativity course and then teaching it to 200 scientists, engineers and secretaries at a national lab… and I still failed producing a competitive, self-published novel.

        Tate gave me free of charge the following:
        One: a macro-edit by an experienced staff on weaknesses in the plot or execution of the novel
        Two: A detailed edit by a lower-level editor, plus another person, an editor manager to act if reconciliation is necessary
        Three: An art department to produce a competitive cover missing the mistakes made by this jack-of-all-trade (myself)
        Lastly: A experienced marketing staff to educate me in marketing (plus a test that I had to take and pass demonstrating understanding of the author-responsibilities), a review of the local market including contacts by the publisher that led to multiple author-signings in businesses I hadn’t thought of before. Once I demonstrate my marketing abilities, Tate will take care of travel costs for signings over 90 miles away, provide all the books for the sales free-of-cost to me, and set up interviews with national media

        Now, I had to pay for the marketing, at a rather reasonable price. And that money covers the first book and every book after that, with no further costs. And that money will be refunded after a fixed number of my books are sold. So I ‘loaned’ them the marketing fee.

        And I have the guarantee that I have ultimate creative license on my books (this I couldn’t believe). The Tate representative told me that her parents had lost control of their book to a dictatorial publisher and wanted to create a company that wouldn’t allow that to happen to another author.

        Plus I liked the part of Tate’s statement of faith which said, The Bible doesn’t CONTAIN the word of God, it IS the word of God (emphasis added is my own).

        So, am I ‘paying’ or ‘loaning’?

        So, am I ‘paying’ or ‘loaning’?

        Plus, quoting from Tate’s website: “Authors receive 40 percent royalty from all direct sales while also benefiting from a 60 percent discount on their own personal book purchases—unbeatable in the industry! We also beat the usual 8 percent industry standard for distribution sales by offering our authors 15 percent.”

        • Laurie Kehoe

          I got the same deal. They will publish all subsequent books not only at no chargr but will pay me (assuming the book is good)

          • Congratulations! But don’t stop running the race. It’s a highly competitive field out there with most of the attention going to established authors.

            Believe in your work… that you have a message worth hearing.

            And pray.

            If pushing to get your books published doesn’t bring you closer to God, you’ve lost the most important race.

          • Laurie Kehoe

            Thank you James. Let’s keep each other running the race

        • Laurie Kehoe

          James, would love to keep track of how your novel is doing. Do you have a facebook page or website?

          • My facebook athor’s page is https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-68187-533-0.

            But answering the question, “How’my doing?” is like driving up alongside a runner trying to keep pace in a long race. The runner pants and responds, “Where’s the finish line?”

            I’m learning how to market the Tate way. I’m working on new books. I’m going to author signings and learning a lot.

            But book sales are not impressive yet. I’m proud of my product, but having trouble getting the word out.

            If I look at the book signings as a ministry, I’m spreading the gospel, talking a few people who were enraptured with science to take a 2nd look at the Bible. So, numbers are small but the Kingdom of Heaven is growing. I call that a win.

          • Laurie Kehoe

            We’re not at the marketing stage yet, still in process but we are looking forward to getting out there and working hard to see A Dream of Dragons. I will definitely keep track of your success

  • Susan Marlene Kinney

    I have a contemporary story, not yet published, which I write the heroine’s, hero’s and antagonist’s POV in their own chapters or scenes. Also, in my 1870 historical I’m writing now, I alternate POVs. Heroine one chapter and then hero for the next! You have wonderful info in this blog!

  • Gabriella Savarese

    Thank you, Jerry. This article made the POV issue very clear. I recently sent my YA novel to a professional editor and that’s one of the problems she pointed out. Every now and then I switched POV in the middle of a chapter or scene.

  • Ellamae

    The POV is clear and understandable. Can the third person (you) work in a book on health and spirituality? (I was once told that it should not be used.) For example saying something like, “Have you ever felt lonely among a group of people?” Or “Everyone of us has a longing at times that never seems to be filled.” Or “Haven’t you longed for something you can’t describe?” etc.
    I am talking about writing as if you are talking to someone and using “you” or “we.”

    • I erred initially on this blog, switching the descriptions of second and third person, but that’s been corrected now. So you’re really talking about second person.

      Yes, I think it could work in that scenario, but maybe not for an entire book. It might best function for opening anecdotes for individual chapters, per the examples you cite above. But then the overall voice of the book could be third person or first person from the expert’s perspective. So perhaps you transition out of the second person anecdote this way:

      …and you wonder if you’ll every feel like yourself again.

      Well, I’m happy to say there are are at least two alternatives to the solutions that never seem to work…


      Well, there’s good news. Dr. Joe Smith of ABC Medical says…

  • Grace Potts

    I’m writing my YA novels in POV1, two per book, because I do it better. I can describe stuff I can’t quite get together in POV2.
    BOOK ONE’S second POV is first POV in BOOK TWO, while a minor character in ONE becomes second POV. If there’s a BOOK THREE, an infant from BOOK TWO is first POV, while the guy from ONE and TWO slips back into second POV character. Or, vice versa; they still have to tell me what they want.
    Point 2 clarified things for me, Jerry, but I need one more thing. I write in scenes because I’m a little fuzzy about where to make chapter breaks.
    OK, progress report: my goal is 750 words per day. So far I’ve averaged 720 WPD on my WIP–but if you figure in what I’ve done on the sequel, it’s almost 1100 WPD. YAAAAAHHH!
    Grace Potts

    • The great thing about being a novelist, Grace, is that there are few rules more important than “reader first.” I make my chapters short enough to keep readers interested and I shamelessly end them at a point where they’re forced to keep reading. Make that your goal and have fun with it.

  • Charity Jennings

    I’ve been looking for examples of POV in my reading. Today I read a scene by a prominent author, in 3rd person, where the POV character walks into a guy’s office and confronts him. The guy in the office makes a phone call and I read both sides of the phone conversation. How can I know what the person on the other end of the phone is saying if my POV character can’t hear it?

    • You can’t, unless the non-POV character put the phone on speaker mode. That sounds like a goof on the part of the “prominent author.” :)

      • Charity Jennings

        Thanks for your response Jerry. I’m glad to hear I am catching on to POV.

  • Grace Potts

    Thanks, Jerry. For me, fun is the great driver. Grace

  • Connie Buckley

    HI! I’m writing a young adult novel in first person because that’s most often used in young adult novels and it felt right when I began writing it.

  • Martha Macomber

    I am writing my novel in third person throughout the story. To me, it seems easier to maintain that POV throughout than switch back and forth.

    • Easier on the reader for sure, Martha. :)

      • Kristi Ross

        Jerry, I am horrible about head hopping. Do you have any exercises to help me work on this weakness?
        Thank you

        • Not exercises, just this object lesson. View your lead/perspective character as your camera. You see, hear, taste, feel, smell, and think only what that camera does.

          Mary worried she was underdressed when Julie showed up at the party in heels.

          [Now, rather than hopping into Julie’s head and telling us she’s afraid she’s overdressed, because Mary has been established as the camera, we’re limited to her. So you can show us what Julie is thinking/feeling by how she acts and what she says, from Mary’s viewpoint…]

          “Oh, no,” Julie whispered as she embraced Mary. “I’m out of place, aren’t I? I should have called you and found out what you were wearing.”

          “I was just thinking the same thing,” Mary said, “but there are a lot more people here dressed up than down, so I’m the odd one out.”

          “Have to admit I hope you’re right, but for sure I’m over-accessorized, so I can slip you some of mine and no one will know the difference.”

          Had it been anyone else suggesting this, Mary would have worried what they were trying to pull, but she trusted Julie. She only hoped she was that kind of a friend. [Notice we’re in Mary’s head, not Julie’s–we know only what Julie is saying and doing from the Mary “camera.” That’s how you remember to stay with one POV character but can still learn about the other characters.]

          • Kristi Ross

            It sounds so easy, so why do I have such a difficult time not doing it? I’m working on it, but in the screen I wrote this morning I think i still did it. Grrrr!!

          • Send me a couple of paragraph sample.

          • Kristi Ross

            I’m nervous, but I’d be honored to! Thank you!
            Here’s part of what I wrote this morning:

            Pausing to ponder her question, Braden frowned, and asked, “I agree, but why do you ask that?”

            “Because I remember the first perfect one I decided to sell.” Staring into the distance her eyes grew misty as she continued, “She was bay, much like your filly. She was perfect. I didn’t need to sell her. I could have kept her and loved her all her days. But I had made the decision to turn my love of the horse into a business, instead of a life-long love affair.” It was her turn to swallow long and hard. “That was the turning point. When I committed to sell her, a wealthy Texan bought her. She went on to produce two All American winners for him. That sale launched my horse business,” closed her eyes, “and broke my heart.” She slowly pulled herself from that long ago memory, and gazed into Braden’s rich brown eyes.

            Braden watched the sadness wash over her. As she stepped back in to the present he asked, “Does it get easier?”

            “Oh, it softens a bit. It only hurts when I walk the path in my memory. I could have quickly told you about her and only experienced a twinge. But I chose to experience it so you could as well.”

            “I did.”

          • [OK, Kristi, thanks. I’ll comment in brackets and see if I can be of help. In this sample you establish Braden as the Point of View perspective character and you’re writing in the third person, limited (or at least you should be limited) to him. Amelia is the one whose head you must avoid popping into, because you’re not in her POV.]

            Pausing to ponder her question, [Obviously Amelia has just posed a question, so we don’t need to be told that Braden is pondering her question when he pauses. Give the reader credit and resist the urge to explain. We get it. So you can just say: Braden frowned. You don’t even have to say he paused, because by frowning, he’s not answering right away, so we know he paused.]

            Braden frowned [because you have described action, and have begun a new paragraph, we know the next bit of dialogue will be his, so you can delete ‘and asked,’ and besides, since his dialogue ends with a question mark, to say he asked is redundant] “I agree, [rather than having him say he agrees, why not just have him nod? And then, remember this cardinal rule of dialogue–any time you can cut it, do it; slice it to the bone and you will always add power; so I would rewrite your first line above, thus:

            Braden frowned and nodded. “But why do you ask?”

            “Because I remember the first perfect one I decided to sell.” [OK, remembering the cardinal rule and its corollary (that dialogue must sound natural and never simply serve as telling), I would chop this to “Because of the first one I sold.” For one thing, two sentences later you reiterate that she was perfect, and if Amelia sold the horse, it’s obvious she ‘decided to sell.’]

            [here’s where you pop into Amelia’s head; it’s OK to say her eyes grew misty, because you’re in Braden’s POV and he would see that, but he cannot know for sure what Amelia is staring at, if anything; you could say she ‘appeared to stare into the distance,’ but you can’t unequivocally state it as you have] Staring into the distance

            [So, capitalize ‘her’ and continue here] Her eyes grew misty [add a period, and delete “as she continued,” which are needless words] “She was bay, much [delete ‘much,’ which is hedging] like your filly. She was perfect. I didn’t need to sell her. I could have kept her and [delete ‘kept her and’ and see how this says the same thing with fewer words and more power] loved her all her days. [this next sentence just repeats what you’ve already said] But I had made the decision to turn my love of the horse into a business, instead of a life-long love affair.” [the next sentence is a cliche and also violates POV] It was her turn to swallow long and hard. [I’ll show you below how to trim the next few sentences, again for much more power] “That was the turning point. When I committed to sell her, a wealthy [obvious] Texan bought her. She went on to produce two All American winners [irrelevant] for him. That sale launched my horse business,” she closed her eyes, [if you use this, it must be set off as its own sentence; here it looks like dialogue attribution, which it’s not.] “and broke my heart.” [in the next two sentences you’re totally into Amelia’s POV and don’t have to be–and shouldn’t be] Slowly pulling herself from that long ago memory, Amelia gazed into Braden’s rich brown eyes.

            [These last three paragraphs seem melodramatic and contrived. Note my suggested fix below]

            Braden frowned and nodded. “Why do you ask?”

            “Because of the first one I sold.” She seemed to stare into the distance and he saw her her eyes fill. “She was bay, like your filly, and she was perfect. I didn’t need to sell her. I could have loved her all her days. But I had made the decision, and that launched my horse business.” Amelia closed her eyes. “And broke my heart.”

            Braden watched the sadness wash over her. “Does it get easier?” he said.

            She pressed her lips together and shook her head. “Not for me.”

          • Kristi Ross

            That is fabulous! You teach so this thick skull actually gets it! Thank you Jerry! Thank you!!

          • Glad to help, Kristi. :)

          • Kristi Ross

            Jerry, what you are doing here is incredible. Thank you for your time and talent mentoring us aspiring authors! I know God is going to repay you tremendously for the what you are investing in us! Thank you and God Bless you!

          • Thanks, Kristi. You’re aware of my Guild, right? http://www.JerrysGuild.com

          • Kristi Ross

            Hi Jerry, sorry it took me a few days to respond. I had a bout with pneumonia.
            And yes, I’m a member already. It’s wonderful! I feel like I’m finally learning and actually honing my skills.
            Thank you for everything you are doing for us!
            Thank you,
            Kristi Ross

          • Kristi Ross

            Well, I typed it in here and even edited it, but now I can’t find it. Would you like me to try typing it again here, or email it to you?

  • nb

    Jerry, I am SOOOOO glad to have finally read how to use POV….it’s something I knew I had to deal with but was totally confused about it. The story I’m working on now is sort of modeled after your Left Behind series that I absolutely loved. I never would’ve known how to write this story w/o reading LB because there are about five characters whose individual lives all merge in a horrible way. POV was a real dilemma for me bc I just couldn’t figure it out. I know mine won’t be nearly as good as LB, but you gave me a model to work with. You’re the best, Jerry…..thanks

  • Elizabeth

    Third, but I use first person in certain chapters and scenes with the protagonist (at least I hope that this is what I am doing :)

    • You probably need to choose one voice and stick with it. If you start by referring to your protagonist in the third person he or she, don’t then switch to his or her referring to him or herself as I, except in dialogue, of course.

      • Elizabeth

        Jerry, did I say it correctly? What I meant was using the third person “Suzan didn’t want to hear about it, she had decided the moment the doctor told her about her suspicious. Now she lays on the sofa unable to find the right pillow to make herself comfortable, tossing around with an idea that was not only dangerous but a death sentence for her career as an Agent. ”

        “Her private cell rang; it was Eurodil and that could mean only one thing: the forensic doctor was in some kind of trouble.

        “Hello… Eurodil?” I told her not to repeat my name. “Where are you?”

        I shift to “I” bc I was told that it creates a sense of proximity but if it is clumsy then I’ll go back to third person. To say that “I told her” shifting the POV , is it right or wrong? I guess it is wrong . Then I’ll shift everything back to third for this whole chapter (just between you and me… I saw a famous writer doing this and even more shifting hte POV 3 times in the middle of the chapter and to be honest, I was really confused and had a hard time reading the book, but it was an assignment. I’m not trying to justify my mistake, just saying htat people get really confused about POV

        • Elizabeth, let me respond in brackets here:

          Suzan didn’t want to hear about it, she had [the ‘had’ makes this an awkward sentence, switching tenses–she didn’t, she had decided? Maybe you’d rather start the sentence over by saying ‘Susan had decided she didn’t want to hear about it the moment the doctor began telling her…’] decided the moment the doctor told her about her suspicious. [what does this mean, he told her about her suspicious? I assume you mean her suspicions, but how can he tell her what she suspects? do you mean he answers her questions?]

          Now she lays on the sofa [‘lay’ is a verb, so unless she’s having sexual relations on the sofa, she’s lying, not laying (that ought to help you remember the difference in the future–sorry for being so crass); and you have also switched tenses again, having gone from past tense (‘she had decided’) to present (‘now she lies…’) unable to find the right pillow to make herself comfortable, tossing around with an idea that was [and now you change tenses yet again, ‘was’ being past tense] not only dangerous but a death sentence for her career as an Agent [in this usage, ‘agent’ would not be capitalized].

          Her private cell rang; it was Eurodil and that could mean only one thing: the forensic doctor was in some kind of trouble.

          “Hello… Eurodil?” I told her [no, you cannot switch from third person to first] not to repeat my name. “Where are you?

          I shift to “I” bc I was told that it creates a sense of proximity [first person has certain advantages and disadvantages, but you can’t alternate between first and third with the same character] but if it is clumsy then I’ll go back to third person. To say that “I told her” shifting the POV , is it right or wrong? I guess it is wrong . Then I’ll shift everything back to third for this whole chapter (just between you and me… I saw a famous writer doing this and even more shifting hte POV 3 times in the middle of the chapter and to be honest, I was really confused and had a hard time reading the book, but it was an assignment. I’m not trying to justify my mistake, just saying htat people get really confused about POV [yes, they do, and it’s OK to be confused and to ask. :)]

  • Grace Potts

    I see some people have their photos on here, which helps me tremendously to visualize you. When I have time to find the where-to on this site and figure out how, I’ll add my photo–but if anyone can’t wait, it’s on my blog, http://www.saytothewearyone,blogspot.com.

    • Grace, your blog address has a comma in it, which renders it inoperable, but even when I fixed that and got to your site, I don’t see a photo. Where do I find that?

      • Grace Potts

        There’s a black bar on the upper right side. Hover over that, and the sidebars will pop out.

      • Grace Potts

        Oh, yeah, and that’s one of my crit partners with me. :) Grace

    • Support

      Hey, Grace! To add a picture to your Disqus profile, follow these steps:
      Login at https://disqus.com/profile/login/
      Click the gear icon in the top right and select ‘Edit Profile.’
      Next to the Avatar box, click the drop down menu and select ‘Upload from computer.’
      Click ‘Choose File.’ Then select your picture, and click ‘Save’ at the bottom.

      • Grace Potts

        Hey, Support,
        Thanks. My pict is on a CD or DVD, whichever. I have to get a little time before I try to figure that all out. Grace.

  • Grace Potts

    . I’m still getting use to the tighter keyboard on my Surface 3. http://www.saytothewearyone.blogspot.com. I’m still getting use to the tighter keyboard on my Surface 3.

  • Grace Potts
  • Grace Potts

    SOrry, I’m learning. I can’t put the period after the com. http://www.saytothewearyone.blogspot.com

  • Grace Potts

    I give up. But not on writing. :)

  • Thanks Jerry. I’ve studied before about POV, plus have WD books about it, but I needed a refresher course. Your blog and the comments are very helpful.

  • Elizabeth

    There are pages and pages of lessons right here in what you said, and I need to print and study this, now I found out why it was so difficult to start a chapter. The sentence you wrote is clear, but to be honest, it didn’t occcur to me.

    Now as to the POV, I truly got that, but I had to test one more time, make sure that in certan circunstances it would be okay to change it, or not.

    Now, back to work. I admit I can never scrutinize things the way you do, but that doens’t mean I can’t learn to correct those mistakes…and I think there’s more to this limitation… For some reason a straight way of writing does not occur to me and I guess this is a science in itself and I am probably not alone on this.

    I remember you said something about ‘asking questions’ and I think I should ask “what am I tryint to say here in this paragraph’ and I did, but could not come up with an answer (I know it sounds like a joke).

    There’s got to be a way to increase clarity of thought for writers bc I find I am not alone in this confusing way of starting a chapter ( I just may be one of the worst case scenarios LOL)

    Thank you so much for the time you spend and all the corrections you made. To be honest, I haven’t seen any of that until you pointed it out, and that astonishes me, yet I do amit that I had a nagging feeling that the paragraph didn’t flow…. wonder why ?….thank Jerry, very much.

  • Carol Van

    Hi, I learnt so much from this example. Thanks :)
    Is it possible though to change POV, in 1 chapter, a number of times, even though it involves the same characters?

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      It’s possible, Carol, but not recommended. Every time you switch you must make it perfectly clear to your reader–which involves an extra space between paragraph, a typographical dingbat (***), and starting the next section with the obvious new perspective character, thus:

      …and it was clear to Jack that Mary had drawn all eyes just by entering the room.

      * * *
      Meanwhile, Jane was worried about the look on Jack’s face…

      Better to stay in one POV for each scene, and preferable for each chapter (my latest novel has one POV character for the entire book). The above scene could be handled like this, staying in Jack’s POV:

      …and it was clear to Jack that Mary had drawn all eyes just by entering the room.

      Jane sidled over. “Don’t think I missed that look on your face just now.”


      “Don’t play dumb, love. Everybody was looking, but you were enraptured.”

      “Well, I don’t know what you think you saw,” he said, “but–”

      Jane gave him a smirk and a “Sure, whatever…” as she moved away.

  • Glenda

    Currently, I’m using first person POV for my WIP, but I’m wondering how to keep the narrative moving in reflective moments as well as when adding professional and other research info into my manuscript.

    Also, if a journey is gradual, what’s the best way to “show what happened, how it affected you, and what’s happening now?” My goal is 10 chapters and a shorter book (100 pages or so).

    Your thoughts are welcome, thank you!

    • If you’re talking about your memoir, it will all be in First Person, even when you add research (which should, just as in fiction, be seasoning and not overwhelm the main course). “The Journal of so-and-so says this about that…” and the implied voice is, “Here’s what I learned.” f fact, you can do something like that sample sentence and add, in your POV voice, “…which made me realize this about myself, etc., …”

      Most journeys are gradual, but because this is a memoir it doesn’t have to be slow because you’re not covering every step. You’re dipping into various seasons of life to support your theme. I could see beginning a memoir with the most poignant anecdote from one’s life and then seguing into something like, “Of course, only now, as an adult, do I have some inkling what was really happening.” And that voice drops in now and then to tie things together. The how-it-affected-you and what’s-happening-now doesn’t have to come with each anecdote. Much of it can be reserved for the end. Whatever best tells the story and supports your theme.

      You know I hate to speak in absolutes, but I think you’re going to have a tough time finding a market for a 100-page memoir. It might have to be recast as a self-help or how-to book, but even for that it sounds short.

      • Glenda

        So much to think about. Initially, I had hoped for 200+pages. I appreciate your candor, Jerry. You’re an expert and I trust your knowledge and wisdom.

        Since my target audience is women with life-controlling problems, I thought a shorter book might work better for them, but upon further reflection, conveying God’s faithful love in my life invites a lengthier trek.

        Dipping into various seasons of life to support my theme, exactly.

        Back to digging deeper to mine those experiences.