Point of View Errors. Telly.

thinking capStarting now, let’s call Point of View, POV so I can type this faster :) POV is the character voice from which you are telling the story. Sometimes it’s more than one POV with switches in POV between scenes or chapters – Never Ever Ever in the middle of a scene. Head jumping is a whole other problem that will get your manuscript tossed back at you in a millisecond. That’s a topic for later. Today I’ve got something else on my mind.

I often read pages for friends and one comment I make in their side bar regularly is “POV. We know. Cut.” In other words, you’re in the character’s head ie it’s from their POV, so we know this, please cut the phrase.”

If you’re telling the story from Julie’s POV and her kids start fighting in the other room, you don’t need to say “She heard the kids fighting.” Or if you’re using first person POV. Skip saying, “I heard a toy break.” Just say WHAT the sound is, the reader assumes your character heard it or it wouldn’t be on the page for them to read. Ex: “Her daughter squealed in the next room.” or “Crunching plastic preceded a scream.” Both tell the reader what she heard without saying “And then I heard.” Same thing goes with:

I/she/he:

  • saw
  • smelled
  • touched
  • tasted

We’ve all read or heard by now that we are to show and not tell. This is also an example of that error. Use POV to bring readers into the story. Don’t pull them out by inserting phrases that make it seem more like they’re seated at a table being read to, the way we read stories to our children. “And then the little bear tasted his porridge…” style of writing isn’t awesome. Use POV to say “he lifted the spoon to his lips” or “he pushed the porridge between sharp teeth and …” you see. We KNOW. POV.

So, if you’re looking for a way to show more and tell less, or if you’ve been accused of this in a rejection without any real explanation, try rereading your manuscript. This time cut every instance where you instruct the reader as to what is perceived and swap it out for a sentence that states what has occurred instead. This one move can clean a manuscript up in a big way. Show don’t tell can be looked at in a number of ways. Too often we overlook this one, I think.

PS. I bring you this advice based on my own experience. I made this mistake far too long because I didn’t know I was making it. Once someone explained it, I formed a new writing habit that avoided this error and now, being a recovered from this problem, I see it in others’ writing. I want to make sure everyone knows how to identify and fix this POV issue. You can’t change it, if you can’t recognize it, right?

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