Tuesday, January 28, 2014



Point of view is the camera lens through which the story is told. Behind the lens is a character, typically the protagonist.  Everything the character sees, hears, feels, thinks and reacts to makes up his point of view.

The two most common choices for point of view are first person and third person. First person (using "I") is the most intimate and can put you right into the character's head. But it is also restrictive. You can only write scenes in which the point of view (POV) character is present. Third person gives you a little more freedom. Chapters and chapters in how-to-write books are devoted to developing point of view. It's a huge topic and it's important that it's handled well. Point of view can also be fun to play with.

Typically in a childrens book you will find one point of view character. The reader stays with that character throughout the whole book. It's easier for a young reader, rather than having to make leaps and bounds as the story moves from the mind of one character to another. On the other hand, an adult book may have six or more POV characters, adding richness to the story.

Can you put more than one POV character in a childrens book? Yes!

(Shelley Hrdlitschka's Sister Wife is a great example. It tells the story of life in an isolated religious community through the points of view of three girls.)
It's challenging. Each time you change point of view you need to give the reader a little bit of help. A new chapter or at least a break between scenes is a good idea. The rule "One scene, one point of view" is a good rule to follow. More importantly, you need to make the voice for each point of view character different. If all the characters sound and think the same way, what are you accomplishing besides confusion?

One of the biggest benefits you can gain from more than one POV character is enhanced suspense. You can stop the action in one POV character at an exciting part, move to another POV character and then make the reader wait until you return to the original character.  (A great quote on my bulletin board is "Never take the reader where the reader wants to go!" - multiple points of view can help accomplish this.)

Suspense is the reason I chose to use two points of view in my novel The Way Home. Tory and her beloved pony Lucky are separated because of a forest fire. By going back and forth between their points of view (often leaving Lucky in dire circumstances at the end of a chapter) , I built suspense.

My teen novel If Only began as Danny's story. Danny and his twin sister Pam are victims of an assault on the way home from school. Pam is attacked by a stranger in a mask while Danny "hugs a tree." Danny's guilt was what intrigued me originally (this story is based on a true story of a girl and her two brothers that I read in the newspaper.) As I wrote from Danny's point of view, Pam kept asking for her voice to be heard too. Her reaction to the assault is different from Danny's and the book quickly moved into two points of view.

I helped the reader by starting each new section (there are no chapters) with the name Danny or Pam in bold. Danny's sections are told in the third person (suiting Danny's more reserved private personality) and Pam's sections are told in the first person (she is a much more outgoing and demonstrative child.)

It was a little riskier to write The Way Home in two points of view because it is geared toward much younger readers than If Only. But in both books, it added richness and suspense. I'll definitely explore point of view more!  

Some advice from Simon Wood in Crafting Novels and Short Stories  ...

Managing multiple POV characters is a tough act but don't make it a juggling act. By making clear switches from one POV character to another and creating a hierarchy of key storytellers with distinctive voices,  you can create a multifaceted story that no one will forget.



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