Different Kinds of POV Slips and How to Avoid Them

Photo credit: Sonnar3 on Flickr
One of my most common critiques when editing samples or full manuscripts revolves around POV slips. POV slips are incredibly common, in large part because there's a variety of them and because, well, when you're the author who knows everything it's easy to forget your POV character isn't privy to everything you know.

POV slips,  however, can be incredibly jarring and are a glaring, guaranteed way to remind the reader they're reading a book—in the sense that the writing draws attention to itself and distracts from the story, which is the opposite of what you want.

So what are the different kinds of POV slips? Let's take a look at some:

  • The switch. This happens when the POV outright changes to another character's perspective without a scene break. While not technically a mistake in omniscient POV, in just about any other POV (first person, third limited, etc.) this is absolutely a mistake, and a confusing one at that. While it's fine to write a story from multiple perspectives (although you want to make sure you have a vital reason for doing so), you definitely want to make sure to break up the POVs. Jumping back and forth between two or more characters in a single scene without breaking them up is a surefire way to give your readers whiplash.

  • POV character knows something they shouldn't. This has a lot of varieties too, and happens most often in third person. Your POV character shouldn't know what other characters are thinking (unless they're telepathic), feeling (unless they're empathic), secretly planning, smelling, seeing, etc without the other characters telling them. So, for example, if Arya is the POV character: 
Arya laughed. Helena thought it was the most beautiful laugh she'd ever heard. 
That doesn't work because Arya can't know what Helena is thinking.  
  • POV character sees themself (without a reflection). This happens most often with blushing, but there are other similar slip ups. Basically, while a character can experience what it feels like to blush, they can't physically see their face reddening without a reflection. Which is why I tend to go with "My face warmed" rather than "My face turned red." 

There are other varieties, but the common thread of POV slips is your perspective slips outside of the limitations of the perspective. There's a reason first and third person limited are limited perspectives—it means the readers can only know what the perspective characters know. They can only experience the world of the book through the eyes of the perspective characters. And even if you're writing a book with multiple perspective characters, you have to stick with one at a time within each scene and consider what that particular perspective characters knows and experiences at that particular time. 

It can be a challenging thing for sure, but hey, no one said writing a book was easy. And in the end, the challenge can force you to think in different ways, which is never a bad thing. 

Have you made any of these mistakes?

Twitter-sized bite:
What are different kinds of POV slips and why should you avoid them? @Ava_Jae breaks down this common writing error. (Click to tweet)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...