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POV IN CHAPTERS AND SCENES

August 24, 2011

            It is very important to structure chapters and/or scenes properly with point of view (POV). As I’ve mentioned in a previous installment, there is nothing more annoying that head-hopping. A lot of writers do it but it tends to confuse the reader and you don’t want to do that if you can possibly avoid it. Besides that, your prose should be clear and concise. There should be no mistaking who is who, and who is seeing, feeling, hearing or doing what.

            Let’s take a scene versus a chapter. Before we go on, I should define a scene. A scene is a section within a chapter, separated usually by a set of asterisks, a gap in the print, or some other means that tells the reader it is a separate section within the chapter. Some writers have multiple scenes within a chapter. Some do not have scenes at all, but just chapters. It doesn’t matter. Whatever works for you, the writer. The important thing is that a scene is an uninterrupted idea, from start to finish, that is part of the story.

            To avoid head-hopping, a scene should have one main POV character. Whoever that main POV character is, the scene should always start and stop with some thought, dialogue or action from that person.

            For instance, John is the POV character of the scene. The very first paragraph should start with him seeing, saying, hearing, feeling or doing something. No exceptions. At the end of that scene, it should end the same way, with him seeing, saying, hearing, feeling or doing something.

            Where this rule is often broken is when the author mixes first or third person with omniscient. I’ve seen this style before and it quite often leads to a weak and confusing storyline. It can also lead to author intrusion. Some authors may not go directly to omniscient, but they like to foretell events for the reader at the end of the scene. This is a huge author intrusion violation. As a reader, I don’t want to know ahead of time. I want to be surprised and find out when the character does. As an author, you shouldn’t spoil it for your reader.

            Little did John know how bad things would get when he finally opened that door.

            Oh yeah? How about a big cup of shut the hell up, Mr. Author?

            Moving forward. Whether writing scenes or just chapters, don’t lose control of your characters. It keeps things clear for you and your reader. Another part of structuring scenes and chapters is to have a bombshell at the end of each scene to urge the reader to want to go on reading (we’ll talk more about that in another segment). Sometimes, your bombshells may be revealed by the POV character. However, it is more likely that another character, circumstance or event is going to reveal the bombshell. In that case, have your POV character react to it before closing the chapter. Simple!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Donald Riggio permalink
    August 24, 2011 2:07 am

    Being an author who writes in the omniscient POV…I must say I agree with you 100% in your warning against letting a narrator foresee the future. If we’ve done our jobs as authors the reader will follow the path we’ve put them on without dropping little clues about what is to come.

    Donald Riggio – Author Seven-Inch Vinyl: A Rock and Roll Novel.

    • August 24, 2011 2:26 am

      Thanks Donald! Appreciate the comment. Yeah, nothing worse than the author spoiling the surprise before the reader gets there. I just read a book where that’s exactly what the author did almost every chapter. He wrote in third person for most of the book but always threw an author intrusion spoiler at the end of each chapter. Knocked the wind out of each bombshell.

      Seven-Inch Vinyl Rocks!

      Fred

  2. Ann Marquez permalink
    August 25, 2011 9:06 pm

    No authored spoilers. 😉 Excellent advice, Fred!

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