Novel Writing: Point of View Character

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Your point of view (pov) character is the character from whose point of view the story is being told. This isn’t necessarily your main character. Because different characters will have different feelings, different thoughts, different experiences, you can write a whole new story simply by changing the pov. A story about a fire told from the pov of someone trapped inside a burning building will be different from a story about a fire told from a fire fighter trying to rescue the person trapped in the burning building. They don’t have the same experiences. The trapped person maybe feeling guilty for carelessness or thinking about her family. The firefighter will be talking to other firefighters and thinking about his job. Those aren’t his memories, his home burning to ashes, so his pov will be different.


Trapped person:
It happened so fast. I watched in horror as the grease fire leapt up from the pan. It licked my antique lace curtains and set them ablaze. I should have done something, but it was a grease fire and I had no flour to put it out. The fire made shot work of the curtains and by then it was so big I could hardly stand the heat much less hope to quench it. I ran to the phone to call the fire department. The conflagration seemed to chase me as I ran. There was no going back to my kitchen. **** the architect who decided to put the kitchen next to the front door of this apartment. I ran into the bedroom and shut the door, hoping that would slow the flames. I crossed over to the window and opened it. I could hear the sirens far away—too far away and coming far too slowly.

When they arrived a handsome firemen jumped down from the truck and yelled something to the other firemen. They nodded to him and scurried about the truck. They hurried so slowly as I watched the fire ate through my bedroom door. Finally, they got their hose hooked up to the fire hydrant. The handsome guy with the piercing chocolate eyes set a ladder under my window, looked up at me and began to climb. Would he rescue a damsel in this dress?

We got a call about 8 in the morning. I burned my tongue trying to gulp down my coffee, then stuffed half a donut in my mouth in a vain effort to absorb the pain. We checked our gear and raced to the scene of the fire. Firefighters have to know the city streets better than cabdrivers. We have to take the fastest route and there’s no time to consult a map.

We arrived in what some folks call a middle class neighborhood. Smoke billowed out a window in the middle of the block and we headed straight towards it. My truck screeched to a stop like a home run hitter sliding into first base. I jumped down.

“There‘s a lady in that window,” I barked to my men. “She‘s probably trapped. I‘m going after her. You guys handle the fire.”

They wasted no time, though I wished those old geezers could move faster. Thee was no time to waste.. I grabbed a ladder and steeled myself against the heat that I could feel even from the street. There was no time to waste. I placed the ladder firmly on the ground beneath the lady’s window and looked up at her. She was pretty so I flashed her my best “There‘s no need to fear” expression and began to climb.

How many Points of View Can You Have?

As many or a s few as you want. Some novels have one pov throughout the whole novel. Some have several. The key is to keep them separate so the reader always knows who the pov character is. In my novel I start a new chapter when I change the pov.

Establishing Your POV Character

Let your reader know who the pov character is in the first sentence. If Mary is your pov character, then write:

May opened the door and Jon stepped through.

Rather than

John stepped through the door when Mary opened it.

The first sentence establishes Mary as the pov character. You could conceivably start with the second sentence and go on to tell the story from Mary’s pov as we did with the story about the fire, but your reader might find this confusing because the sentence starts with John.

Establishing a clear pov makes the story more real to the reader. Mary can’t read John’s mind (unless your novel is about Mary‘s psychic powers), so if I write a scene through Mary’s eyes, then in that same scene tell what John is thinking, I run the risk of breaking the spell for my reader. If I do that, the reader will either put the book down or read on with a critical eye. The way I handle this is I show Mary guessing John’s thoughts from his eyes, gestures or facial expression.


Mary sucked her teeth. She could see in his eyes that he was lying. He probably was with the chick before he came here. Why else did he even mention her unless she was on his mind?

When you have an idea for a story or a scene in your novel, toy around with it to see from whose pov it can best be told. Again, you can have more than one pov character throughout your novel, provided you keep them separate in a way that is clear to your reader.

Stay tuned for the next chapter on mechanics
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