A Few Tips for More Complicated POV Issues

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I recently shared some Point of View Basics that every writer should know. As always, such posts raise even more questions! I'll take some time to answer a few of those questions that dig deeper into more complicated POV issues.

Question: What is your view of having the same scene in both the heroine and hero's POVs? I'm working on a scene at the moment that I'd like to tell in both POVs to contrast the girl's over-analytical, dramatizing POV with the guys low key "what you see is what you get" POV. But I'm not sure if it's a good idea.

My Answer: As far as having the same scene in two POVs, that will depend on your voice and story. I think it can be done, and I've seen it done well (and have done it myself on occasion). One caution is to make sure not to jump back in time when switching POV's, but instead to continue the scene at the point where the other character leaves off.

I also see some writers switching POV mid-scene as a cop-out, to avoid having to do the hard work of SHOWING what the other character on stage is feeling. It's much easier (but not necessarily better!) to change POV and hop over into the head of the other character and use internal narration for the reaction. While not wrong to switch, we have to make sure we're not trying to short-cut the more complicated job of showing reactions and feelings.

Question: When writing a scene that involves multiple POV characters, how can a writer determine which character is BEST to use for telling the scene?

My Answer: I usually ask myself, who has the most at stake in this scene? Or which POV will add the most drama, conflict, and tension to the scene?

Sometimes, if the scene is a toss-up (meaning I could tell the scene equally well from any of my character's POV), then I go back and see who hasn't had center-stage in a while and try to give them their due time.

Question: I have a character planned who I want to give some POV snippets, but I'm not introducing this character until midway through my book. Any suggestions on how to best handle this?

My Answer: First we need to ask ourselves why we want to introduce another POV. What purpose will it serve the plot? Is it really necessary for the story? If we have to wait to introduce this character, we may want to ask ourselves if we're starting the story in the right place. Usually any main character that is pivotal to the plot needs an introduction into the story fairly early on, even if we only mention them by name, foreshadow, or allude to them.

However, for a series, we may be able to get away with introducing a main character from the next book slightly later in the book. Just be aware that a completely new POV later in the book may jar your reader.

Question: When is it okay to move from third person POV to omniscient?

My Answer: We need to pick either third person or omniscient and stick with one rather than switching back and forth.Third person involves getting inside our character's head and living out the story as much as we possibly can from her perspective. An omniscient narrator, on the other hand, is looking down on the story and viewing everything at the same time.

Sometimes writers unknowingly shift from third POV to omniscient. This subtle but jarring shift happens when we're inside our character but then move outside her head so that now she's looking at herself as if suspended above her body. We do this when we have our character describe her own smile, eye color, or any other bodily action that would noticeable by others, but that she wouldn't notice about herself.

Question: If I write a YA novel in first person but want to have a short snippet in third from the antagonist's POV, would that be okay?

My Answer: Some authors do a good job of switching between first and third POV but almost always do so at a scene or chapter break. Again, before doing so, I would ask if the technique is completely necessary. Are there other ways to accomplish the goal?

In the case of antagonists, sometimes we can add suspense by getting into the antagonist's POV and thus showing the disaster that's heading toward our heroine (when she has no clue). On the other hand, sometimes we add more suspense when we hint at the danger, or lay clues, but don't spell it all out by getting inside the antagonist.

My Summary: Know the basics about POV. But as with any writing "rules," once we know the fundamentals, then we can mold and make them whatever we need for our unique stories.

What other questions do you have about POV or any other writing techniques that you'd like to see me address in a future blog post? Ask away! :-)


  1. I think you answered my questions; this was a very informative post. I've never tried writing a story with multiple points of view; I can see how it would get complicated, though. But one of my favorite books is called The Smart One and the Pretty One; it's told from the point of view of two sisters and every chapter it was one or the other sister telling the story. Your post also made me think of the French film He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, starring Audrey Tautou, where the first part of the film was told from her point of view, and the second half was told from the leading man's point of view. It was interesting to see how much the story changed when it was told from his perspective.

    1. I think it's a great idea to look at how others successfully handle multiple POV changes, to see what works and what doesn't. Some do a great job of utilizing the shifts as part of the story element, rather than just switching around with no thought. :-)

  2. Some excellent tips here!

    Personally, when I get a POV shift from one of the heroes to one of the villains, I always lose a lot of interest. I've been so wrapped up in the heroes and their struggles, and the villains are nowhere as compelling to me. If you need to give us a peek into the villains' plans, I think it's best done through the eyes of a captive, a spy, or (best and most dramatic of all) a sympathetic character who is being seriously tempted to evil.

    Anyone else feel the same way? :)

  3. Very informative and great answers to the questions. My question to you and your readers, what do you think of books written from another charater's POV? Like Meyer wrote "Twilight" from Bella's POV. Then wrote "Midnight Sun" (I think that was online only?) from Edward's POV. I just can't get into that as I already know the storyline and what will happen. I prefer to have the POV mixed into one book, but it has to be done well so it doesn't interrupt the flow.


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