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Wednesday, January 27, 2010



The big issue of the day with editors, as far as I can determine, is POINT OF VIEW (POV for short) with capital letters. I've been writing a number of years and published in romance/women's fiction for fifteen years, on and off (mostly the latter). And until last year I honestly thought the two were synonymous. Then to my everlasting sorrow, I learned that some very strict guidelines apply to romance that separate it from women's fiction. And the greatest of these is (drum roll here) POINT OF VIEW.

A romance shall have no more than two points of view, those of the hero and heroine. And they shall not be in the same scene and depending on the editor's POV, maybe not even be allowed in the same chapter. If an unlearned author describes the thoughts and/or feelings of both H&H in the same scene, this unforgivable sin is labeled as head hopping. And being labeled with the derogatory term of headhopper is synonymous with being an amateur.

I must have a higher opinion than romance publishers of the intelligence of their readers. I believe them quite capable of figuring out whose thoughts the writer is revealing at any given time. And I think that most readers, like myself, can relate to the emotions of more than one character in a given scene. For me, at least, it enriches the story, to experience the scene from more than a single point of view.

Head hopping seems to have become the current buzz word for any story or article that doesn't confine itself to one subject. RWA President Diane Pershing in the April, 2009 issue of Romance Writers Report (RWR) said apologetically that she would head hop in her message to the members in that issue. And I personally found her message with varying themes interesting and easy to follow.

Apparently having more than one POV has not always been a cardinal sin. A friend loaned me The Gift by Nora Roberts last Christmas. It contained two short novels and was published in 2004 by Silhouette Books: Home for Christmas, 1986 and All I Want for Christmas, 1994. I read part way through the first story before I suddenly realized that I was hopping from one character's head to the other, often in two adjacent sentences. What a shock to learn that the undisputed Queen of Romance was a head hopper. I haven't read Nora lately so maybe she has abandoned this vice in all her latest books. But I sincerely hope not.

I thought about my discovery all through the holidays and came to this conclusion. The issue shouldn't be whether to hop or not to hop but how to hop seamlessly so that the reader is not even aware of it. For I believe if POV is used with subtle skill, it will enrich the story and involve the reader more deeply. If it's good enough for Nora, it's good enough for an amateur like me.

I have had recent editors who would not allow head hopping. I respect them as excellent editors and consider them friends. And although I didn't agree with their POV, I revised my manuscripts to fit their guidelines (when in Rome……..) because I owed that courtesy to them and the publisher. I also have had recent editors who have no problem with my head hopping scenes and I am thankful for them. Which way are my stories better? I think there may be more than one POV on the answer.

To conclude, I am going to give you two versions of the same scene from one of my recently released books. This is the most blatant scene of head hopping I've ever written. I'd really like to know which way seems best to you. So please give me your POV on POV and I may be convinced to change my own POV!

Joanna and Pete meet again after many years at their high school reunion.

Scene One: Example 1

Joanna was aware of Pete as if he were seated beside her. She went through the motions of eating while her mind absorbed the information she had just learned. Betsy had married Walt DeBolt, forsaking her dreams of moving to a big city. While she, who dreamed of always living in Greenville with Pete, had left and never returned until now. She formed and discarded a hundred ways to say hello to him. Finally as the meal ended, she simply stood and walked toward the front.

Pete was shaking hands with the minister and thanking him for coming when Joanna
approached. Leaving his sentence unfinished, he came to meet her.

“Hello, Joanna.” He reached to take her hand,paused, then bent to brush her cheek.

Warmth traveled with the speed of light from hand to cheek as flesh touched flesh for one briefmoment and left a star-struck girl longing for more.

Standing close enough to feel his breath on her forehead, Joanna answered softly, “Hello,Pete.”

“You're as pretty as you ever were.”

“Thank you, Pete.” His eyes were the same steel blue and she thought he had never looked more handsome. But she didn't know how to say that without sounding intimate.

Scene One: Example 2

The room was rapidly filling and people moving past blocked her view of the front. Then Pete was tapping the microphone and greeting the graduates and Joanna closed her eyes to shut out all distraction to the sound of his familiar voice.

"Good evening, graduates, and welcome to this final reunion in honor of the old Greenville High School." Somewhere out there in that sea of faces Joanna was watching, listening. His hands felt clammy holding the mike. "Tonight is the result of weeks of planning and work by an excellent committee who graduated in my class, and I've promised not to say how many years ago that was."

Waiting for the laughter to stop, Pete scanned the crowd. He didn't see her. What if he was looking at her and not recognizing her? When the room grew quiet, he introduced Betsy, Vada, and Thelma who were seated beside him at the table, then asked for a round of applause. He thanked the Home Ec. class and other students who had helped. He introduced the Board members and mentioned the building of the new school, all the while thinking about Joanna. Finally he asked the town's current Protestant minister to bless the food and sat down.

"Have you seen Joanna?" Betsy whispered as they were served.

He shook his head. "Have you?"

"No, but Vada saw her when she came in."

He chewed, swallowed, drank, spoke when spoken to and was totally oblivious to everything but the certain knowledge that Joanna was in this room.

Joanna had not been able to see Pete since he sat down but she was as much aware of him as if he were seated beside her. She went through the motions of eating while her mind formed and discarded a hundred ways to say hello. Finally as the meal ended, she simply stood up and walked toward the front. Betsy saw her weaving between clusters of classmates forming and rushed to meet her.

Hugging her fiercely, she said, laughing, "Oh, God, Joanna Flemming. You're really here. I can't believe it."

"I can't believe it either, Bets. We must be dreaming."

Pete was shaking hands with the minister and thanking him for coming when he saw Betsy rush through the crowd and knew she had found Joanna even before he saw her. Leaving his sentence unfinished, he walked toward her. She looked up as he approached and he would have walked a thousand miles for the smile that lighted her face.

"Hello, Joanna." What else was he going to say? He took her hand and knew it wasn't enough. With an oddly awkward gesture, he pulled her closer and brushed her cheek.

Still standing close enough to feel his breath on her forehead, Joanna answered softly, "Hello, Pete."

He looked into her uplifted face, her warm brown eyes, and his tongue seemed to stick to the roof of his mouth. Finally he croaked like a lovestruck adolescent, "You're as pretty as you ever were."

"Thank you, Pete." His eyes were the same steel blue and his suit reflected the color in them and she thought he had never looked more handsome but she didn't know how to say that without sounding too intimate.

Later in the evening, they finally have a chance to be together:

Scene Two: Example 1

The song ended and the band segued into a slower beat.

“Will you dance with me, Joanna?” Pete asked, from behind her.

Wordlessly, she turned and accepted his hand. He put his arm around her waist, her arm slid automatically to his broad shoulder and time and place became meaningless.

“I like your dress. Reminds me of what you were wearing the night of our graduation.” He smiled at her.

She smiled back. “I'm surprised you remembered. That was a long time ago.”

“I've never forgotten...anything about that night.”

“Nor I,” she told him truthfully.

They danced in silence, each acutely aware of the other in every step they took together, in every place their bodies touched.

“I've missed you, Joanna.” Her name was a caress on his tongue.

“Don't,” she said, feeling the pleasure-pain in every cell in her body.

“Have you missed me?”

“I've missed you.”

“Why didn't you answer my letters?”

She drew a quick breath as she thought of finding Pete's letters in a locked drawer in her father's study after his sudden death. Letters with a familiar looped scrawl that bore foreign stamps,now faded with time. She felt again the sharp pain his words of love and promise had brought.

The frustration that caused her to pound her father's immaculate desk in a screaming rage that bruised her doubled fists.

“It doesn't matter now.”

“Maybe not.” His words sounded unconvinced.

The night, the music, the man who held her seemed unreal to Joanna but the intense aching inside was very real.

The band began to play a haunting tune.

“Joanna.” His voice was muffled against her ear. She looked at him and saw his longing. “Let's get out of here.”

She nodded wordlessly. Yesterday was gone and who could know what tomorrow would hold?

But she had tonight. She was here with Pete again and there was magic between them as there had always been. She wouldn't think about consequences now. Just for tonight, she would listen to her heart instead of her head.

“Come on.” Still holding her hand, he led her across the crowded floor and out to the dark lot where his car was parked.

In the shadows of the gnarled pear tree, he gathered her into his arms and kissed her without restraint.

It was graduation night all over again. Blooms of silver-white formed a scented canopy that enclosed their moonlit world. Tomorrow Pete would be gone; there was only tonight. How could she tell him how much she loved him when words were not enough? Of its own volition her body found a way.

The long kiss ended. In the awed silence that followed, they held each other once again, the long undreamed of separation over.

Scene two: Example 2

He met Boyd and Joanna on their way back to the table. "Will you dance with me, Joanna?"

Wordlessly, she accepted his hand and he led her back into the crowd. He put his arms around her waist, her arms slid automatically to encircle his neck. They began to move together and time and place became as meaningless as all the other faces in the room.

"I like your dress. Reminds me of what you were wearing the night of our graduation." He smiled at her.

She smiled back. "I'm surprised you remembered. That was a long time ago."

"I've never forgotten . . . anything about that night."

"Nor I," she told him truthfully.

They danced in silence, each acutely aware of the other in every step they took together, in every place their bodies touched. The music changed to the Beatles and LET IT BE and Pete unconsciously pulled her closer.

"I've missed you, Joanna." Her name was a caress on his tongue.

"Don't," she said, feeling the pleasure-pain in every cell in her body.

"Have you missed me?" He couldn't have stopped the words if he'd wanted to.

Their eyes met and he knew the answer before she spoke. "I've missed you."

"Why didn't you answer my letters?" he asked the question that had haunted him all these years.

Why hadn't she realized he would want to know? "It doesn't matter now."

"Maybe not." His words sounded unconvinced but he let it go and concentrated on the way it felt to hold Joanna in his arms again. What mattered was that right now he was feeling the strongest desire he had ever known for a woman.

The night, the music, the man who held her seemed unreal to Joanna but the intense aching inside her was very real. She felt as if she were going to suffocate.

The band began to play ARE YOU LONESOME TONGIHT?" and Pete listened to the words Elvis was singing, really listened. "Joanna," his voice was muffled against her ear. She raised her head and looked at him and he saw his longing mirrored. "Let's get out of here."

As he guided her toward the back door of the gym they bumped into other people but no one in the raucous crowd seemed to notice. "Come on." He led her around the old school and to the dark lot where his car was parked.

In the shadows of the gnarled pear tree, he gathered her into his arms and kissed her without restraint.

It was graduation night all over again and he was leaving the girl he loved, the girl he intended one day to marry. His mouth imprinted that promise on hers as he pulled her close, memorizing every line of her body pressed against him.

Blooms of silver-white formed a scented canopy that enclosed their moonlit world. Tomorrow Pete would be gone; there was only tonight. How could she tell him how much she loved him when words were not enough? Of its own volition her body found a way.

The long kiss ended. In the awed silence that followed, they held each other once again, the long undreamed of separation over.

Linda Swift divides her time between her native state of Kentucky and Florida. She has been writing since she was ten and is an award winning author of published poetry, articles, short stories, and a TV play. Her first two books were published by Kensington. Linda's current books include Circle of Love, available as an e-book and in print and Let Nothing You Dismay, an ebook, both available from The Wild Rose Press.

Linda's Awe-Struck Publishing books include Single Status, available as an e-book and in print and The Twelve Days of Christmas, an ebook. Her first published historical will be available in 2010.


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
Wonderful article.
Ah, you and I must be kindred spirits, I often think I am the queen of POV change. I love them. Use them all the time. Nothing better than knowing what the hero and heroine are thinking. People can call it head-hopping if they like, but I think it adds depth and excitement to the story. I wouldn't have POV change in every line. But I do sometimes have the two POV on the one page. But as you say,it all depends on how well you do the POV changes. All your excerpts were great,fabulous story by the way,it is already on my TBR pile, but the excerpts with the two POV's were by far the best.


Linda Swift said...

Hi Margaret. I thought I was here early but you were here before me. I suppose it's noon by now in Australia. Thank you so much for your comments. Do you think the preference has anything to do with generation? I know I cut my reading teeth on books written in two or more POVs and I don't think there was a separation betweeen romance and women's fiction until recently.

Celia Yeary said...

LINDA--I do admit, you seamlessly wove two Points of View into one scene. I'm reading a Five Star novel now which blatantly weaves the H/H POVs together on one page. Once I learned about POV--funny how we never noticed it before or knew about it--I do prefer one at a time. So, there's one area in which we disagree! What I do not agree with from editors is the strict "two POVs in one novel." That, to me, really, really restricts the story.For All My Hopes and Dreams, I had to petition to get the head ed to allow the MIL's POV. And you've read it--she drove the story, readers almost always commented on the mean old MIL!Celia

Dena said...

I liked example 2 in each scene. It is easier to follow.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Celia, and thanks for a well-thought out disagreement. We can certainly agree to disagree on this one. But I do agree with you on the restriction of more than two POVs per story. I have read your book with the wicked MIL and she was necessary to that story. And in fact, the book I am quoting from in this blog had subplots with TWO other POVs but they were cut by the ed. guidlines. So I guess it is a case of write what you want to, cut when you have to and hope for the best.

Linda Swift said...

Hello Dena,
I loved your reason for choosing Example 2 in each excerpt. I feel that is true myself, but that was the very reason I was given for NOT using two POVs. I was told that it was too hard to follow when the author jumps from head to head. Thanks for confirming what I believe to be true.

Stacey said...

Hi Linda,
I never knew what POV was as a reader. Never heard of it or thought about "head hopping" until I became a novelist and had a manuscript rejected because of head hopping. Then, despite reading articles on the subject, it still took me the longest time to "get" it. I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing wrong until one day the light bulb went off and I finally understood what that editor had been talking about. Now I don't head hop, except in the rare occasion, and when I do change POV in a scene or within the chapter, I take one character "off stage" before going into the other character's POV. I think I've only done that twice that I can recall. Now, when I'm reading a book with more than one POV in a scene, I have to admit it throws me out of the story. I also stick to the POV's of one hero and one heroine, although I don't see anything wrong with having more than one POV, particularly in a womens fiction story. I think that rule is applied more strictly to romance books.

Linda Swift said...

Thank you, Stacey, for your thoughtful comments. I think a lot of us share your experience with learning about POV. I'd never heard of it either and now I can't read anything without being aware of it. A workshop teacher I once had said it was okay to break the rules in writing as long as you knew what the rules were. I guess it is up to the author to do it or not, as long as you can get by with it. A matter of personal preference of authors and/or readers and maybe even what works in a particular story.

Kathy Otten said...

I'm a fairly new author and I'm still trying to master POV, because I tend to slip into an omniscent POV. But from my perspective, guidelines for POV are publisher specific. Catagory romances seem to adhere to the stricter, only H/H POV, one per scene and all that. Single titles seem to allow more variations to include POV of a close secondary character or even the villian. Sometimes things happen with the more complex plot lines that are outside the H/H first hand knowledge. I've also written pivital scenes that use both H/H POV. I think if it's done seamlessly, starting with one person at the start of the scene and ending with another, it is acceptable. Just don't go back and forth like a pendulum.

Linda Swift said...

Thanks, Kathy, for a concise definition of what seems to be accepted by the pubs. And I agree the key word here is "seamlessly." It's amazing what you can do if it's not obvious!

Sandra Sookoo said...

great post Linda! As an author and a reader, I dislike head hopping POV's. It's confusing, even when you know what's going on. I like to have it separated out, and when I write, sometimes I'll divide my chapters or give the h/h one chapter by themselves :-)

Terry Odell said...

Having written romance novels for 3 different publishers, I've never had one tell me only two POV characters are permitted. There are countless romances (I'm in the romantic suspense sub-genre) with at least 3 POV characters. I think Allison Brennan said she had 13 in her first (best-selling) novel.

Some publishers like scene breaks to signify POV switches. Some don't care. There are no "rules" but if you're working with one publisher who likes the breaks, I'd go for it. In other cases, a different publisher removed the breaks for an author friend of mine.

The only "rule" is that transitions need to be clean and clear. Anything -- anything at all --- that makes a reader stop to figure out what's going on is bad.

That being said, I didn't really pay attention to POV until I started writing. My personal preference as a READER is very deep POV, and that's how I write, but that's simply what I like.

Delle Jacobs said...

Hi Linda-

The so-called POV rules have been around for a long time, but the rules, so to speak, are inconsistently applied and differ from editor to editor, author to author. Contest judges in romance are deadly in their application of anti-head-hopping rules, but I haven't found most editors to be. But the rules themselves have no irm and fixed boundaries. What the editor likes is what she believes is the best writing, and if she says only one POV chracter in a scene or chapter, I'll try to give her that. I've been known to start a new chapter just for that reason.

My personal choice is to stay in one POV through a scene, but there are times when this doesn't work. Usually then I work hard on a transition that clearly shows the change immediately to keep the reader from feeling lost in the hop.

Head-hopping, or most authors and editors, is a matter of bouncng about without good reason, in and out of people, pets and rocks, just because. I've seen new authors change POV four times in one paragraph, to three different characters. Most seasoned authors don't do this, and change POV because the story demands it.

carl brookins said...

Great thoughts,thanks. I happen to write crime fiction, not romance, but the same construct applies. In my view and that of the experienced and successful publisher I happen to live with, there are only two questions which must be answered in the affirmative:
Does the author's handling of POV work well?
Does the author's handling of POV serve both story and reader?

Linda Swift said...

Good point, Sandra, about a separate chapter to change POV of H/H. Somehow I always feel as if I'm backtracting and repeating what I've already said (another cardinal sin) when I try to do this. I will give this more thought.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Terry. Thirteen POV characters? That must be a record! And I agree that it is necessary to satisfy the editor/publihser guidelines. And the measure of how good an author is if she/he can revise to meet the required changes. Thanks for your input on this.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Delle,
Thanks for the tip on romance contest judges. Not that I enter many contests but this is good to know. As for changing scenes to change POV, I recently had a editor who called that cheating and wouldn't let me do it. I had to save the change to a new chapter. But like you advise, I think it wise to go along with whatever is requested. Wouldn't it be great if there were more consistent rules so we wouldn't have to be in a state of confusion all the time? And I'll add to that it would be nice to have standard submission rules from different publishers instead of so many different ways of wanting font, headings, spacing, etc. Nobody ever said writing was for sissies, did they?

Linda Swift said...

Carl, I really like the mindset of that experienced and successful publisher you mentioned. And the criteria used makes a lot of sense. I don't want to put you on a spot, but that that in mind, which of the scenes in this article make a better story, in your opinion if you'd care to make a judgement?

Danielle Thorne said...

Obviously there are examples of a couple best selling Romance authors that head hop and do it well. If it can be done well--then it simply shouldn't be a problem. What becomes a problem is when someone commits the act in ignorance, or defiance. I've read several great ebooks this past year that head hopped so I don't think it's written in stone. In some it was done well--and in others, well, it was terrible and read very poorly. Guess the trick is, if you're going to break a "rule" you better do it well!

Danielle Thorne said...

Then try using "WELL" five times in one post like I did! lol

Tammy Doherty said...

I think whether or not a 3rd (usually villian's) POV is acceptable depends on the publisher. If you've target one publisher, then you better write the way they want. If you're willing to rock the boat and wait for a publisher to take a chance - then do it your way :-) And it has been my understanding that multi-POV's are generally considered women's fiction (meaning the main protag's POV but also one or more of the significant secondaries as well). And making "the rules" clear and standard would take the art out of writing :-)[but it would make it easier for the writer!]

I head hopped in my first manuscripts. But never in the same paragraph! I've read some more recent Nora Roberts books and she still head hops within a scene.

After having the head hopping pointed out to me, I did a great deal of thinking. The conclusion? One POV per scene works best - usually. When giving POV of both H&H, there should be something to let the reader know POV has changed. Sometimes an extra space between paragraphs (though before starting to write, I never knew that's what that space indicated). Better if the first sentence or paragraph of the new POV makes it blantantly obvious whose POV it is. And I think it should be done for significant lengths of story, not back and forth one line to another. For example, Linda, you wrote: "Why didn't you answer my letters?" he asked the question that had haunted him all these years.
To me, the tag line is completely unneccesary. You've established his eagerness to see her after all these years. Of course the question would have haunted him. Why change POV to toss in what the reader can already surmise by your excellent portrayal of their emotions earlier?

I like the single POV examples shown in you post. That isn't to say the 2nd examples in each set are bad, just my personal taste goes for the 1st ones. Your changes are fairly seamless, but I did have to think about "who is this?". Maybe because that was the point of reading them?

I was advised once that Nora Roberts can break any rule she wants, whenever she wants because she's, well, Nora Roberts. For the rest of us, until we reach that level of royalty we have to bend and sway to the decrees of the editors we write for.

Linda Swift said...

Well, Danielle, it's good to hear from you. And I think it is a custom here in the South to use "well" the same way the British I met use "right." When I first heard tht preface in a reply to a comment, I wondered, "What are they agreeing with?" And I agree with you that any deviation from standard practice must be done well.

Linda Swift said...

Tammy, thank you for such thoughtful and informative comments. I'm sure you're right about standard rules inhibiting the "art" of writing. Spontaneous, creative writing is always the goal, isn't it? And half the fun of writing is the challenge of finding a good fit between our work and a publisher. And yes, the example you point out of an unnecessary tag is typical of my flaws. I tend to repeat what the reader already knows. A throw-back to my days teaching mentally challenged students. I think the opinion here is running very much in favor of one POV at least per scene and maybe even chapter. So let Nora go on her merry head hopping way to the bank and I'll try to limit myself according to popular demand.

robynl said...

I think the second excerpt holds more info. One gets more insight into the story.

Linda Swift said...

Thanks for your comments, Robyn L. You stated the very reason that I like to have two POVs on a single scene but it seems the majority of editors, and even authors don't agree with us!

MarthaE said...

Hi Linda! I liked the second examples of both scenes. They seemed fuller to me. The only thing I missed was Joanna's thoughts about the letters that weren't in the second example on Scene 2.

I love having the POV of both H&H as you get different perspectives which sometimes show where conflict may arise - and you want to nudge the characters to be more open or take a risk, etc! I think it allows more involvement by the reader. It doesn't bother me at all!

On the other hand - even though I read and review, primarily that reading is for pleasure and I don't often stop to dissect the technicalities - UNLESS it is disruptive!

Good topic and discussion! I will want to go back and read the other comments!

Linda Swift said...

Thanks for stopping by, Martha. I also agree with what you are saying which is why I've written a lot of scenes with both POVs. And the reason Joanna's thought about the letters weren't in the second scene was that I wrote that in when I had to revise the book and had to get more depth into her feelings to make up for the loss of Pete's feelings in this scene! You were very observant to notice that detail. And like you, when I'm reading for pleasure, I just zip right on through the story without analyzing the technical stuff. I hope that never changes or reading will lose its joy for me.

Romance Alley said...

Hi Linda,
What a great article and excerpts. I do believe as far as POV’s concern that whatever you use is not the issue, what matter is, how clear your POV shift and how you convey emotions even if you are not in the a particular character’s POV. Many use different POV’s but don’t use them accurately, and some are masters of head hoping but man they are good that they make it so smooth. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it LOL.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Hey Linda,

I don't mind multiple POV's in a novel nor do I mind multiple POV in a scene - not necessarily per paragraph - Learning what that meant was hard for me too and sometimes I have to go back and ask myself "whose POV am I in? Can I get the other character's emotion or point across from characters #1's POV?" If so, I try to. If not, I make a switch by using action or a question that puts the focus on character #2.

Clear as mud? LOL!

As for Nora, well, she wrote multiple POV long before POV became an issue - and IMHO she does it beautifully.

Great post.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Suzannah, and thanks for your complimentary comments. I do admire a woman with convictions and the willingness to stick to them! Are you a Taurus by any chance?

Linda Swift said...

Hello Pam. Thanks for your views on the subject. And I love your suggestion of using action or a question to get into the head and emotions of Character #2 without actually changing POV. I will remember this. And yes, it was very clear. And yes, Nora does multiple POV perfectly. That's why she's Nora, I guess. I appreciate your stopping by.

Linda Swift said...

Marianne and Judy, I'm going to sign off now and I want to thank you for the opportunity to spend this day at LASR guest blogspot. I also want to thank all who stopped by and left such thoughtful comments. It was so nice to see old cyberfriends again and to meet new people. And to all who heeded the call to comment, I appreciate your support. This has been a learning experience for me and a chance to look at the subject from a new perspective. And I hope everyone who stopped has taken something helpful away also. Wishing all of your dreams may come true. Goodnight, Linda
PS If anyone stops by later, please know that I will read and answer your comments tomorrow. So please feel free to state your POV on POV. It is important to me.

stacey said...

I like Example 2 It made me fill more contected to the story.

Elysa said...

I've been hearing the POV "rules" since I started writing romance twenty years ago. Nothing's changed. Some authors switch POV numerous times per scene and chapter, others like to remain in one POV per scene or chapter and others will tell the whole story in one POV. Editors also have their preferences. Fortunately for me, none of my editors have dictated to me how many POVs I can use in my stories or how often I'm allowed to change POV within a scene, chapter or story.

I do find that blatant head-hopping, where I'm constantly having to reassess whose head I'm supposed to be in, distracts me from the enjoyment of the story, but I'm no purist on POV. In a romance I usually like to see the hero and heroine's POVs along with the villain, if there is one. In longer romances where there's a secondary storyline or romance other POVs can also enhance a story.

That said, for me jumping from head to head every other paragraph just seems like lazy writing, where the author makes the reader do the work, rather than doing it herself.

Elysa Hendricks

Linda Swift said...

Hi Stacey, thanks for stopping. Sorry I didn't get to your comments until this morning but I hope you'll check back. All the comments stating a preference for #2 examples mentioned feeling more connected to the story in that version. Maybe that is because those scenes were the original, written with more feeling by the author. I sometimes wonder if a little emotion is lost from the page every time we cut or revise?

Linda Swift said...

Elysa, you have made some excellent points on this subject. What you've said makes good sense and I think agrees with what the majority of responders here have expressed. I think what I write for the future will reflect what I now know about POV. But it is hard work to revise a whole book and put it in one POV per chapter. Which is what id did with this book from which examples were taken. It was a real lesson in rewrites, let me tell you! Thanks for your comments.

Linda Swift said...

A friend visited the blog and was unable to post her comments which she later sent to me in an email. I thought her remarks, which appear below,well worth cutting and pasting for others to read.

Hi Linda.
Very interesting subject. When I first began writing, pov was lost on me. I was the
biggest head hopper because I simply had to know what everyone was thinking all the
time. So many editors pointed out how distracting this was, not to mention rejecting
the MS. So one day, I looked at it as two phone receivers. One person tells me what
she thinks in one ear, the hero tells me what he's thinking in the other ear. Pretty
soon, you become confused or annoyed. I now feel it's important to hear one pov at
a time in order to get inside the mind of each character. Sorry to disagree with
you, my friend. Just stating my pov.

Linda Swift said...

Sharon, you don't need to apologize for disagreeing with me! This is why I wrote this article. I truly wanted to receive other authors' and readers' opinions on this issue. And it has been very gratifying that so many have taken the time and effort to express their thoughts in detail. The image of the phone receivers is excellent and only your creative mind would have thought of it in such a unique way. I'm going to remember that when I write scenes from now on. Thanks.

LK Hunsaker said...

If I pick up a book that head hops, I'm unlikely to read another by that author. It's not because it's a rule. I'll be the first to say that rules should be broken wisely as necessary. POV shift within a paragraph feels like a cheap imitation of the omniscient viewpoint and too many authors don't get the difference. There is a difference. Either write third person and stay in one character's head at a time, or write omniscient and be narrowly inside every character's head. Anything else is confusing no matter what the genre. I don't read Nora because of it. I can't fully get into the story if I'm trying to keep up who's thinking what.

You can still get everything in from one POV at a time by describing action and by using good dialogue.

I don't have any problem with multiple POV in one chapter as long as there are line breaks and a transition to be sure the reader knows a different character is taking over the story. No need to backtrack; just keep on with the story in another voice. I completely agree with the phone conversation comment above. It's like two people talking at once and I can't hear them both so I miss half of what each is saying instead of getting the whole image.

For the record, omniscient is very hard to do well. Mark Twain did, but be careful with this viewpoint. It's great for plot driven, thematic stories, but not so great with character driven stories which romance should be. Personally, I prefer deep third POV so I really get inside who the character is.

Tanya Hanson said...

hi Linda, what a great article. I never realized POW or head-hopping until I joined RWA chapters LOL, and since then I learned Nora is queen of head-hopping! I am pretty strict about wanting each character to have his/her own scene but my current editor likes them smushed if there is no change of place or time. As I reader and romance judge, however, I tend to notice it and find my fingers itching to change it.

I had always believed villains can add a third POV and I've seen that a bunch.

Thanks for the great excerpts and provocative post.

Linda Swift said...

LK, (can't remember at the moment what the initials stand for, sorry) thanks for your very informative comments. I really never thought of the head-hopping as a cheap imitation of omniscient viewpoint before. And I have certainly never done it with malice aforethought...more like one reader said above, I just want to be in everyone's head all the time. But I had no idea until I've read these comments that it bothered so many readers. And since I respect the opinions of so many of the commentators (from their reputations as excellent writers) I will heed their words. I don't think it will rankle me now when an editor asks me to cease and desist my head-hopping!

Linda Swift said...

Thanks for stopping, Tanya, and leaving your POV of POV. I guess the bottom line is know what you're doing but if an editor insists on having it done another way, then just grit your teeth and do it. The alternative is often not to your advantage if you, like me, believe in goal-directed behavior. And the goal is never to have our way at the cost of not getting that book published, right?

Kaye said...

Just as a reader and not a professional writer, I was able to follow Example #2 better. Great scene!! Also, I enjoyed reading the comments and discussion among all the writers. Very interesting subject for writers in general.

Sherry Gloag said...

I liked version 2 in both cases, and felt the abscence of the info about Joanna's father keeping the letters from.

I like head-hopping POV switches when they are seamlessly done, as I mention in a review on my own blog a couple of days ago, but have come across so many other authors who switch a sentence at a time. The metephor of the two phones comes to mind. That's a brilliant description.
But at the end of the day the editor and publishers' opinions rule, so what you can do for one is taboo for another.
Like many others have already mentioned. When I started writing I never noticed head-hopping. When it clicked I had to work hard to correct it. Now most of my chapters start in one pov of view and switch to the second for the final half. Hopefully to prevent repetition and slowing the pace to yawning point.
Thanks for a great post.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Kaye, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments as a reader. After all, we are writing to please readers so we need to take the readers' preferences to heart! And from the comments this article has generated, I feel that it is the readers who prefer the head-hopping and the author/readers who have been programmed to reject it!

Linda Swift said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Sherry. And I like your idea of switching POV about mid-chapter to avoid confusion but still include what is in both minds. But (sigh) I was not even allowed to do that in one case. And again, we do what we have to do. Isn't is amazing that all of us read for years without even being aware of POV? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

M J Watson said...

Linda - A very good blog lesson and good examples. I, too, liked No. 2 in both examples. The story flows easily through both Pete's and Joanna's thoughts. At this point I write from one POV in a scene. Good
job. Joyce

Linda Swift said...

Thanks for your comments, Joyce. And for your vote for Examples # 2. (I was right fond of them!) But I'm going to be careful about head-hopping from now on as it seems to irritate a lot of people. And we want to keep the page turners happy, don't we?

Linda Swift said...

I ask a very good young friend to read this blog and give me her opinion on POV which she has done. I wanted to share her words with you. And my next contact with her I am going to ask why she has stopped reading and romance, especiall reading it since she has been an avid romance reader ever since I've known her. Here's her comments:

Once upon a time, I used to agree with you on POV, but when I used to write, I trained myself to stay in one head at a time. I looked at the first scene that your link took me too and read both examples of it. I now prefer one head at a time, and usually just the H&H. Yes, readers can figure it out, but I think it slows a reader down and makes them pause for just a second as they realize that they are seeing the world from another head. Not to mention, if a writer isn't skilled, it can be confusing. I don't doubt that Nora pulled it off, because of course, it can be done, but when one isn't Nora, one has to jump through the editor's hoops. Of course, me being your friend, I hope you have success writing in the POV that you prefer. My opinion on this is meaningless since I no longer read or write novels. However, I'm flattered that you asked for my opinion on this.

Linda Swift said...

Sorry about the omitted word above. I meant to say "why she has stopped reading and WRITING romance, ESPECIALLY.....
I am mortified when I check back and see my oh so obvious errors.

LK Hunsaker said...

Linda, I hope you don't think I believed you headhopped with malice! I come off stronger than I intend at times, depending on the day. ;-)

I think actually it's the most normal thing in the world for writers to use mixed POV and we all (or almost) start that way. It has to be because we do know all of our characters and want to be sure they come through, and showing all of their thoughts seems the natural way to do that. I did it until my writing instructor complained! Then I had to get more creative in finding ways to be sure it all got in there, but one head at a time. I found I liked my own work much better after I changed to single POV and I finally realized why it was that certain books turned me off. So no, readers may not mind (although my daughter who is an avid reader but does not write hates POV switching), but once you make that transition and get all of the fullness you want (and can get) with one POV, I bet you'll find reader comments appreciating it without knowing why.

Hope you'll have fun with your new experiment! Writing should, after all, be fun for the author as well as for the reader. ;-)

Linda Swift said...

Hi LK (is it really Lynn?) Thanks for stopping by again and for the clarification. But you really don't need to explain your earlier post. You made excellent points and didn't come off too strong at all (in my opinion). And you know, I think when writing a story, it may be easier to stay in one POV for a whole scene or even a chapter. But it is hard to revise a book and meld two POVs into one as I've done in every chapter on a couple of books. I'm so glad I did this subject for a guest blog as it has really attracted lots of good comments for all of us to think about.