I was lying in bed this morning reading an older Nora Roberts book. It was one of her earlier titles, and I have to say I was a little surprised by the Point of View switches from character to character in the same scene. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE Nora Roberts fan. Always have been, always will be. But, I did want to point this particular fact out because as a reader, I found it confusing and difficult to follow ,and I wouldn’t want any other writer to make the same mistake.
I’m not sure if editing has changed that much on POV over the years…I have noticed Nora doesn’t do this as much in her recent books…or if POV has become a more controversial topic, but I’d like to give you a quick example of what threw me in the book.
“…Calculating her weaknesses, he pressed his advantage. It was the perfect way to keep her close, keep her busy. ‘I’d rather no take the time to start advertising and interview secretaries right now. If you could help me out, a few hours a day, I’d really appreciate it’.
She thought of his office, decided it didn’t need a secretary so much as a bulldozer. Well, perhaps she could be of some use after all…”
The two paragraphs above were in the same scene on the same page. In the first paragraph we are in the male character’s POV. He’s thinking about her weaknesses. In the second paragraph, we jump to her POV and she’s thinking about his office and how badly he needs a secretary.
I call that head hopping. In this particular scene, it isn’t all that confusing, but when you move into scenes that are more internal than external, i.e. bedroom scenes, you can see where the reader could get lost as to whom is thinking about whom.
In my experience, I’ve found it is best to stay in one POV per scene. Preferably within the same chapter, as I’m not a real fan of scene breaks either, but definitely within in the same scene. Just keeps your writing tighter, crisper, and easier for your reader to follow.
Perhaps Nora is of the fame that it doesn’t really matter, but from my experience with modern day editing, it’s better to keep your scenes to one character’s POV and your entire book to a limited number of characters’ POV’s.
Now go get some writing done today.