A Troubled POV that Cost me $18

KasieBW
By Kasie Whitener
Columbia II Chapter Member
I was forty-five pages in before I finally realized what was wrong with Resurrection Impure. It’s one of the books on a list of vampire books I’m working through as part of my genre research (“The 10 Best Vampire Novels Nobody Has Read”).
I had the vague sense that something was off about this book. I noticed the chapters began with random poetry-like interludes that didn’t seem to make any sense. Whose voice is this? What information is being shared here? Why is this passage necessary?
The narrator was head-hopping, that novice-writer error wherein the narrative shifts the point of view from one character to another seemingly at random. One chapter began by telling us clearly what a particular character was thinking and later in the same chapter, killing that character off.
Even when George R. R. Martin kills off main characters, it’s not done in that character’s actual chapter. How could the narrative continue if the point of view was lost?
So what is Point of View (POV)?
In First Person the narrator uses “I” and cannot report what other characters are thinking or feeling unless those characters share that information.
In Third Person Limited the narrator uses “he” and “she” but focuses on one character’s inner thoughts and feelings and expresses the other character’s thoughts and feelings only when they volunteer that information. Otherwise, the POV character may speculate:
Eleanor guessed Pete felt left out and made eye contact with him, smiled, and winked.
The narrator doesn’t say “Pete felt left out” because that would be from Pete’s POV and the story is from Eleanor’s. Instead, the narrator tells us what Eleanor thinks Pete is feeling. The filter of what Eleanor thinks Pete feels is an important tension-building dimension in the story.
Third Person Omniscient narrator uses “he” and “she” and provides insight to multiple characters’ POV. Inner thoughts and feelings are available to the reader though obscured from other characters.
But even with Third Person Omniscient, POV must be maintained for established periods. Martin uses an entire chapter with the character’s name. Other writers use spacers between passages when they change angles — like a camera changing its viewpoint.
The real problem with Resurrection Impure is that it couldn’t have been workshopped. Discerning readers pick up head-hopping and ask the important questions.
The most frequent question we ask in workshop is “Whose story is this?”
Knowing the answer can enable the writer to nail down the perspective. With Resurrection Impure, I don’t think the author knows whose story this truly is.
Characters must be compelling. The male leads here are, but the only female character is so two-dimensional and puny that Daenerys Targaryen would surely smite her on site.
Having abandoned Resurrection Impure, I’d really like to have my $17.95 back.
Workshop your fiction before you publish it. Get readers who will figure out what’s off about it and help you correct it. Do the work.
Dr. Kasie Whitener is a professional educator and fiction writer. She blogs about the writing process at GenX Stories and about her life in transition at Life on Clemson Road. Her fiction has appeared in Spry Literary Journal and Enhance Literary Magazine. She is a member of SCWW Columbia II and a board member for Wordsmith Studio, an online literary community.

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