The last few weeks have been exhausting. However, I am back in the flow of editing my novel and organizing blog posts.
To resume from where I left off. One of the things that I have pinned on a sticky note on my desk, is smooth transitions for chapters and POV. For me this is crucial. If it stands out, it pulls the reader away from the story thus, putting the book back on the shelf unread.
I have put together six ways to ensure the POV change in your novel are smooth and make the reader finish and love your book.
- Limit the number of viewpoint characters in a book. I know you’re probably thinking, Game of Thrones has too many viewpoint characters. However, in Martin’s first book, he limited the POV eight (for an 800-page book) to the Starks, Lannister, and Daenerys. For the rest of the series, he already had the audience to increase the POV characters.
As a rule, you should have three or four viewpoint characters in an 80 000-word novel.
- Rotate the viewpoint characters regularly. The most important characters get the largest number of scenes; the minor characters get the others. Make sure that you do not leave a viewpoint character out of the book for so long that we wonder who it is when he or she reappears. If you are using Word, you can use the Document Map to see all your chapters to arrange them accordingly.
- Introduce your viewpoint characters in the first chapters of your novel. This grounds your readers in the novel and allows them to get comfortable. It will confuse the reader and most likely they’ll abandon the novel if a new viewpoint character is introduced more than a quarter of the way through the book. However, if a new POV is introduced later on, make it worthy of the space and make sense. For example, in Lord of the Rings. Once Frodo and Sam leave the fellowship, it divides the story into different POV. It makes sense because the reader knows all the characters before the change.
- Show viewpoint changes by a chapter break or a scene break. Give your reader a chance to breathe and adjust to the change. The start of a new scene or chapter will do the trick. There is little chance of confusion if you stick to this.
- Show which viewpoint character it is within the first few sentences after a break. You can do this by naming the character or having someone name him or her. If you are writing in multiple first-person viewpoints, you can simply put the character’s name at the start of the chapter or scene.
- Make sure that each character is unique. I want each viewpoint character to act as a unique filter for your story. If they are too similar, I will become confused. As a reader, I will wonder why you have not bothered to make this clear. Try to imagine the story from each character’s perspective through their five senses, their backgrounds, their motivations, and their goals.
Once you have covered these six points, you should not have problems with changes in viewpoint.
If you do, post your comments and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, questions or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.