Staying in the POV Character’s Perspective

By Suzanne Hartmann

(Part of Top Ten Ways To Show Instead of Tell)

A fun way to stay in the POV (point of view) character’s perspective is to pretend that a camera sits on top of the character’s head and it has a probe that picks up the person’s thoughts and knowledge base. You can only write what the camera can record (what the character sees, hears, or experiences) or the probe senses (what the character feels, tastes, thinks, knows). To move beyond this is to step outside of the character’s perspective. Even having the person think something that would be out of character is a slip out of that person’s perspective.

You slip out of a character’s perspective when you:

1) give a great deal of detail about a person, place, or event (even if it’s in the POV character’s internal thoughts because it’s not something the character would be likely to truly think about). EXAMPLE: The POV character’s business partner walks into the room and the protagonist “thinks about” his partner’s background and how they met.

2) tell something that hasn’t happened yet. EXAMPLE: “If only John had known that this encounter would lead him into the darkest time of his life.”

3) tell about something that the POV character can’t see (although she might be able to hear it). EXAMPLE: As soon as the shyster walked around the corner, he pulled out his cell phone and called his boss.

4) have the character think in a way that he or she is incapable of thinking. EXAMPLES: a) A child watching someone give CPR to his mother won’t use medical terms to describe what’s being done. b) An alien who has never been to Earth wouldn’t know what a telephone is, so he would have to describe it instead of simply calling it a phone.

5) have the character think details about something so common he wouldn’t truly think about it. EXAMPLE: A doctor performing surgery wouldn’t think a running narrative about what he’s doing and why.

6) have a character explain something to another person that they both know already. EXAMPLE: A detective wouldn’t give a fellow police officer a run-down on how to process a suspect.

If you find any of these instances in your writing where you creep outside of the POV character’s perspective, the first thing you need to do is determine whether the information is truly needed. If so, drop in only the bits which are absolutely essential for the readers to understand the story. And you MUST find ways to slip it in that fit the character. If your character is a child, you must show everything the way a child would see or think about it (or have an adult character make a comment about the situation). If an explanation is needed, give the character a reason for giving it (maybe the doctor is being evaluated and must explain each step throughout the surgery to the evaluator). Be creative, but whatever you do, stay within the POV If you don’t, it will come across as what it truly is: telling simply for the sake of giving information.


Suzanne Hartmann is the author of PERIL: Fast Track Thriller #1, and Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level, a blueprint for new authors to guide them through the process of writing and revising a novel.

Suzanne is a homeschool mom and lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and three children. When not homeschooling or writing, she enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and Bible study. On the editorial side, she is a contributing editor with Port Yonder Press and operates the Write This Way Critique Service.

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