I have a few favourite authors whose books I read regularly, and I recently bought the latest offering by one of them, excited to join the cast of characters once more and find out what they were up to as well as looking forward to having a break from all the writing I’ve been doing.
My book was delivered, I sat down with tea and biscuits and a sense of anticipation and started to read. Half a dozen pages later I put the book down, frustrated. There are quite a few characters who feature in these books, each with their own distinct personalities, but what I found frustrating was watching the point of view dance all over the page, to the point where I couldn’t read any further and had to put the book down. On one page alone I counted four POV changes within a single scene.
Despite my frustration, I found this interesting for several reasons:
- This is an author whose books I enjoy, who enjoys a fair degree of success, yet for the first time ever I had trouble reading their work
- I realised that the author’s style had influenced my own work, as several of my early Ambeth beta readers had called me out on the POV changing within a scene, rather than each character getting their own clear section (as it should be)
- I wonder if this means I’m improving as a writer, if I’m able to see this so clearly when I wasn’t before
So, I’m not going to try and explain the ins and outs of POV here – I’m no expert and Kristin Lamb, who knows far more about this than I do, wrote about it wonderfully well in her recent blog post:
I realise there is a POV called omnipotent, whereby the narrator can see into each character’s head, but the writing in this particular book felt to me like head hopping (I love that term), in that no one character remained in focus for long enough and the whole thing became very confusing. I am pressing on with it, as I love the characters, but I’m finding I can only read a short section at a time.
However, I’m wondering is there a wrong or a right way to approach POV in our writing? Surely the voice that comes to us is the one we have to write. Can we become so caught up in the rules that anyone who does something different is seen as being wrong? Is this sort of writing pushing the boundaries, some sort of anarchic statement, or is it just annoying because it’s difficult to read?
OK, so this blog post is shorter and possibly less legible than normal, but that, I believe, is because NaNo is eating my brain. I’m 36,000 words in plus am still blogging and a doing bit of work for clients, so it’s been a busy month, what with trying to keep the family clean and fed and to school on time as well. However, my NaNo novel is going really well, I love the character and, unusually for me, know exactly where the story is going and how to get there – I just have to write it.