Using POV as a Strategic Tool

Today I’m tackling the topic of POV from a different angle. Most of us will have the occasional POV slip, especially in third person. It’s a hazard of the job. Being the Great and Might Oz has its downside. Sometimes we let a bit slip that our current POV can’t know. Shrug it off. It happens, and I’ll probably write about that in the future, BUT for today, I’m going this route:

POV is a powerful tool in your writing arsenal. Seriously. With great power comes great responsibility, so use it wisely and get the biggest bang you can.  Every scene needs a character’s head to tell it. Before you begin that scene, think about your cast, their quirks, beliefs, motivations and the action going down. Then decide who to use to share your scene.  Choosing the right vehicle to get the point made is paramount to keeping your reader reading. Have you ever thought of it that way? Try it.

If you’re writing a humorous womens fiction and Babysitter was on the phone while kids destroyed the house. You tell through the babysitter, not the kids. They see no problem there. She however didn’t know you can’t talk on the phone with kids on the premises.

If you’re writing about a lady bringing her straight-laced new beau to meet her rowdy friends for the first time, use his POV. The scene is old hat to her, but to him…Wow. Who are these people?, (especially if they are much different than himself), he’s got nerves and anxiety and shock. He’s the better POV for that.

If your writing an episode of Murder She Wrote, and her leads take her to a *cough* gentlemens club. You use her, not the perp. Old lady detective would have the most interesting experience there, wouldn’t she?

The converse is of course true as well. If you don’t want the extremity of a situation to take the lead, or if your point is to show how much a character is comfortable, relaxed or immune to something out of the norm, use them. It builds a deeper understanding of the character and it may reveal a secret or two. Readers like secrets.

What if the uptight boyfriend in my earlier scenario, goes with the heroine to meet her rowdy biker friends and he is at ease. No nerves, maybe excuses himself to the mens room without asking where its located. Uh-huh. How’d he know that? Why aren’t the vixens, and metal bands getting a reaction from him? He knows something we now want to know. He has secrets.

Using POV from your cast in the right scenes, will help to deepen the readers understanding of them without you having to tell them how they feel or laden them with backstory. POV can reveal hidden secrets, create intrigue and propel your story in meaningful ways.

If you’re writing a thriller (Halloween is just around the corner, right) and your prim and proper adoptive parents take their new foster kids to a haunted house after the family fall festival, what are we thinking if we use Mom’s POV. She’s hesitant to take him. What if he’s afraid? He’s only 12. But, he’s completely unaffected. Completely. Now, the reader’s thinking Damien. Hmm. Page turning ensues.

What if your klutzy shopaholic knocks down an enormous holiday display of Manolos while drooling all over them? I’m guessing handsome stranger’s POV is better. She is humiliated. OK, you could use her. But, he doesn’t know her yet. What does he see? Her facial expression, the commotion around her. She’s absorbed in the chaos, while an admiring uber wealthy bystander takes in the whole scene, thus setting up his intrigue and communicating his attraction to her – to the reader while she’s still stacking stilettos.

To wrap it up. Your story rocks and you should tell it with the best voice to make the biggest impact. The Twilight Saga told completely from Jacob’s POV would be another story all together. So,go where the action is. Make the most impact with your words.

I hope  I got someone thinking today. Maybe even a little inspired? Happy Friday! Go get ‘em!

4 comments to Using POV as a Strategic Tool

  • Valerie Haight

    Holy Crow! (pun intended)I JUST re-read Jacob’s POV chapters and really got a feel this time of how bland Bella’s version would have been. Until Renesmee showed us her thoughts of her almost dead mother, we would never have known what state she was in b/c she was unconscious! Totally made that part of the book for sure. Nicely put, Julie, as always.

  • Right. Imagine the series from Jacob’s POV. Bella would have been portrayed as duped by the Vampires and perfect otherwise because Jacob’s POV was just that. Bella was the perfect flawless woman and the vampires were all bad.

    Choosing the best POV opens the story up for depth and revelation.

    As always, thanks for stopping by Val!! Love your comments and enthusiasm. Now, I may stop editing to peek at my Meyers’ books…for inspiration…yeah…that’s it. Now where’s my Animal Love t-shirt?

  • I like the point you make about the opportunity to show not tell how the other person is feeling from the POV character. Think of all the Margie Lawson workshop takers out there who can go to town with descriptions of facial expressions… e.g. As he slowly smiled, she watched his teeth, and they reminded her of the edge of her sharpest knife that she’d used to slice open her lastest victim.
    Darn good thing I don’t write suspense!! But the concept – I like it.
    Thanks again…

  • Mimi! That sounds like one awesome class! I LOVE writing workshops!! And Mimi- if you write a thriller, I want the first copy, but I may have to sleep with the lights on for like a year afterward. :/

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