Monday, January 28, 2008

Writing for Presents 3 POV

For the third in this random and irregular set of notes about writing romance, I'm answering a question that was asked me over on the IheartPresents blog and one that was raised on eHarlequin. Both are on that tricky topic of POV - point of view

This is the first question: (from IHeartPresents)

The Presents guidelines ask for male or female pov but most of the books I read seem to have both, so that is what I am aiming for.Is there any editorial advice out there on this? Thanks…

And here's my answer:

As an author for the Presents line, the only editorial advice I’ve been given on this - and most other editorial questions ! - is to write the book the way that makes it the best possible story.

So if I feel that giving the hero’s POV will add something to the story, deepen the conflict, reveal more about a character, whether the hero or the heroine, then I’ll write it that way.

There are some stories where I have needed to show the hero’s thoughts and mind process to increase the tension, and other times when leaving him as an enigma works better - as the editors so often say. ‘It’s all in the execution’.

It is very definitely a personal preference for the way the story is developed. Some readers prefer only to know the heroine’s viewpoint - others prefer to learn more about both characters as the story develops.

The other point is that when the hero’s POV isnt given through the story, then often the last chapter or so involves a long explanation of ‘why I did this’ or ‘what I meant then .. . ‘ Which could make for quite a slow ending.
I suppose it really comes down to whether you want to read a book about a woman falling in love or a book about two people falling in love - personally, I’m fascinated by what brings two people together, their mistakes and misapprehensions and the ways they learn the truth about each other.

But I’ll always approach the telling of it from that very important angle- the one of making it the very best story, exciting, intense and emotional, that I can.

Question 2 - which was asked over on Presents Paradise thread on eharlequin

Is there a set rule with regards to the amount of POV changes in a chapter? How many is too many?

And heres my answer:
One again - to emphasise - there are no set rules about changes of POV . In fact there are no set rules about anything!

As one editor said to me, the only 'rule'is that you write your book in the way that makes it the best story possible.
POV though - the advice I'd give is

1. Make it clear just whose head you are in - people think 'headhopping' is changing POV lots of times in a scene. It's not - it's changing POV lots of times in a scene without letting the reader know whose head you are in. Any confusion from the reader and you've made a mistake

2. Make sure that the person whose POV you're using only knows things that that person would actually know - that sounds obvious but I've read some real mistakes where the person whose POV it is knows that their own eyes are clouded or their face is pale . . .

3. The POV that you need to be in is the one that gives this particular bit of the scene the most drama, tension and impact. If you are in a POV that will give away secrets, explain things too easily etc then you're wasting tension. A POV change isn't just to show you how 'the other person' is thinking. It's there to increase the drama and add to the tension

4. But also you have to be very careful that you do't just give his feelings in his POV - and neglect to have him tell the heroine anything. The reader might know but not the poor heroine - and she's not a mind-reader.

Now perhaps I should add one final extra point here. I know that a lot of authors - and some editors will say that there should not be many changes of POV and particularly not within a scene. Some editors have told me that any change of POV within a scene is head-hopping and that the only change of point of view should happen at the end of a scene when they believe it is allowed.

What I'm talking about here is my experience and what I've learned after 20+ years of writing for and being edited by Harlequin Mills & Boon out of the offices in Richmond, UK. And in all those years and all those books the only 'rule' has ever been to write the book in the way that makes the best story possible.

That's a rule I'm happy to follow - and as with everything else - it's all in the execution. And what I'm talking about is the Presents contest and that is being edited from the Richmond UK office.

And if you want to read some more on POV - or anything else - it's all in my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance.

1 comment:

Michelle Styles said...

I still remember your remarks from your first book, Kate. The ability to change POV in a scene is an advanced technique. It is a skill that can be learnt. Braiding, I think you called it. I still aspire to it.
I tend to start each POV change with a double carriage return, indicating a change of scene, but my editor will probably take the change of scene out.
The important thing is for the story to flow and for the reader to know whose head they are in.
Ten changes within a page is probably confusing. And a change of POV after dialogue is probably more easily achieved than flitting from one head to the other.
As always it is all in the execution.


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