Too many shifts in the
point of view.
Point of view
is a way of saying who is witnessing the events, whose eyes are
seeing the action. Generally, a scene should have only one point of
view; that is, the reader should stay inside the mind of one
person. Otherwise, the plot takes on a dizzying aspect as the POV
jumps here and there.
Leaping back and forth with the POV is a mistake in a novel. Here’s
the reason: all novels ask the reader to suspend disbelief, as
novels are fiction. But when the POV switches frequently between
characters, suspending disbelief becomes harder because the reader
has a seemingly supernatural ability to go from brain to brain.
Here is an example of point of view that flits around so much as to
don’t understand why Sandra puts up with him,” Jolene said,
wondering if Ally was interested at all. “I mean, I’d have bailed
out of that relationship a long time ago.”
“Me, too,” Ally replied. She didn’t want to upset Jolene, who she
knew could get angry thinking of Sandra. “I would’ve been long
The waiter arrived with their wine. They were quiet until he filled
their glasses. He returned to the service area.
Brushing her hair from her forehead, Monica smiled at Ally. Monica
knew Ally had her own problems with her boyfriend. She wanted to
yell, “Follow your own advice. Leave him.” But she knew better.
“Sometimes Sandra acts like a fourteen-year-old.” Jolene glanced
again at Ally, trying to read her eyes. “Ally, you okay?”
Ally made a dismissive gesture. “I’m living the dream. Couldn’t be
better.” She wondered if her words sounded hollow, and friends
could see through her.
See how we hop around as we read this, from one mind to another at a
if the point of view is maintained with one character, you might
ask, how can the reader learn what other characters are thinking?
Two ways: We can observe the other character and thus learn
what she is thinking, or we can speculate about what she is
thinking. Instead of writing, John was puzzled, which
instantly changes points of view to John’s, we write a puzzled
look was on John’s face. The POV character is observing John’s
puzzlement. Or we can speculate: instead of saying John was
puzzled, we can write: as if John was puzzled or
apparently John was puzzled. Observation and speculation don’t
switch the point of view.
4. Interior monologues:
Interior monologue is a fancy way of saying thinking. The
novelist Jack Bickham offers this definition of a scene: “It’s a
segment of story action, written moment-by-moment, without summary,
presented onstage in the story ‘now.’ It is not something that goes
on inside a character’s head; it is physical. It could be put on
the theater state and acted out.”
Thinking isn’t cinematic; it can’t be acted out on a stage. Most of
the time, the reader can intuit what the character is thinking—a
character’s dread and nervousness, or thoughts of love, or desire
for revenge—without the character having to think it because the
character is saying and doing certain things.
Some interior monologue is often necessary, of course, but too much
will stall the novel’s momentum. A character’s thoughts are almost
never as interesting as her actions or dialogue.