POV Discipline

pexels-photo-287398Earlier this week I sent the completed manuscript for Leaving Darkness to the publisher. As the formatting, cover design, and other work commence, I plan to set aside some time to write about lessons learned. As indie authors, we should look at every opportunity to learn as we progress and hone our craft.

I decided to engage a development editor – that in itself was a smart move and a positive lesson in itself. The lessons in writing alone brought value – it was akin to taking an advanced college course in fiction writing. It helped that the editor I engaged was a college-level instructor as well.

An early and perhaps the most significant lesson from this graduate-level experience is learning what I dub POV Discipline. Of course, the point of view is how the story is told, and there are many examples. I wrote Leaving Darkness in limited third person, following the arcs of two characters, the protagonist and the antagonist. As you can imagine, this created the danger of mixing point of views.

I could have switched and restructured the antagonist’s portions to be seen from the protagonist, but doing so made no sense in the story I was trying to tell. I wanted to show the rise of one, the fall of another. My solution, as suggested by my editor, was to structure each chapter from one of the character’s point of view. Doing so was not easy, but it worked.

Still, there remained some elements of POV crossover. When POV discipline is not maintained from the start, it becomes very difficult to correct as the project matures. We gloss over POV step outs because the story is so familiar to us, yet when pointed out the error becomes so obvious.

Some are easy to cure – instead of, “He worried about what Bill was saying,” we can write, “Bill saw the worried look on Joe’s face after relating the bad news.” We still don’t know for sure that Joe is worried, but the message comes across that likely he is.

I never paid much attention to POV discipline in the past, but going forward it will be forefront in any future fiction project. I suspect some may be thinking, “Well, yeah, that’s obvious, Greg!” but for those of us without a formal fiction writing education, it can be a challenge. It would seem to maintain a consistent POV does not come naturally, rather it is a learned practice.

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