So let’s talk POV (the “point of view” from which a story is written). There are a lot of options out there, but basically the top three utilized today are:
- Omniscient: A story told from the viewpoint of the author or God rather than through a character. (Example: Rebecca Overton didn’t know it, but her life was about to change forever.)
- First Person: A story told from one character’s POV utilizing the pronoun “I.” (Example: I didn’t realize it at the time, but my life was about to change forever.)
- Third Person: Utilizes pronouns like "he" and "she" (versus "I") and is most prevalent in commercial fiction at this time. (Example: He knew she didn’t realize it, but he was about to change her life forever.)
When I starting writing romance a number of years ago, I knew that Third Person was the prevalent POV for romance novels, but until I entered contests, I didn’t know that the cardinal rule was only one POV per scene. Everything that was thought, felt or seen in a scene had to be through one person’s viewpoint, either the hero’s or the heroine’s. The reason for this is that if not done properly, utilizing more than one POV per scene can cause confusion with “head-hopping—seeing the scene through one character’s eyes and then suddenly switching to seeing it through another character’s eyes in the next sentence or paragraph. (Example: Laura sighed, wishing he would kiss her. Jonah wanted to so badly, but she’d burned him once and he wasn’t going down the road again.)
Not only can headhopping totally confuse the reader, but it can kill the momentum of your scene and, quite frankly, is the kiss of death in a contest or a proposal. As a result, many romance novels today alternate with one scene in the heroine’s POV and then the next scene in the hero’s POV, but few utilize multiple POVS in the same scene. Now I guess that’s okay for a lot of authors, but I’m sorry, when it comes to love scenes, I’m the type of gal who wants it full throttle—yeah, I want to know what she’s thinking, feeling or desiring … but I also want to crawl inside his mind, too, and get it in stereo. I mean, come on, romance is just too good to be one-sided, right?
Okay, I know what you’re thinking—better follow the rules till I get published. And, yes, there are any number of reasons you’ve been told that multiple POVs don’t work, such as the head-hopping confusion factor or that multiple POVs might reduce tension (not a good thing!) by letting you know too much about the characters, how they feel, think every step of the way. But I learned from a very wise editor that if you follow a few simple rules, you can experience a freedom and depth with characterization that a one-POV scene cannot provide. For me personally, multiple POVs have helped me to increase tension, explore characters and motivation in more depth, and deepen the readers' emotional involvement with the hero and the heroine by getting inside both of their heads during a tense or romantic scene.
What I like to do for drama’s sake is to flesh out a scene in one POV for a number of pages and then during a pivotal or dramatic point, BOOM, switch POVs! The best way to do this with clarity and avoid head-hopping is to adhere to a few simple rules:
1.) Always double-space to indicate a change of POV.
2.) Always begin the next POV with an action by the character whose POV is beginning.
3.) Keep your POV switches to a minimum within a scene and always flesh out each POV with several paragraphs or pages (i.e. NEVER switch POVs with every sentence or paragraph).
In the following love scene from A Passion Most Pure, I switched POVs three times—from the heroine’s POV to the hero’s and then back to the heroine’s again, but I think it heightens the drama, at least it does for me. See if you like it, and if you do, you may just find that for you, breaking the one-POV-per scene rule is not such a sin.
I’d love your thoughts about your favorite POV or multiple POVs, so let us know. I will be out of pocket most of the day, but I will check in this evening. Meanwhile, the rest of The Seekers will be on hand to share their “points of view.” Have a blessed day!
Through her eyelids, she could feel rather than see the flickering sun as it danced and shimmered between the fluttering leaves of the massive oak overhead. Intermittently its warmth was stolen for a moment, as it was now, by a stray cloud in an otherwise perfect sky. Somewhere high in the canopy of boughs, a mockingbird chattered, luring a smile to Faith’s lips as she rested, content in her wait for the warmth to return.
"You know, there's a good chance you could burn those beautiful legs."
Lord above, she was paralyzed, unable to move anything but her eyelids, which flew open in utter horror. She blinked, sunlight blinding her eyes to a shadowy figure standing over her. Collin McGuire.
He assessed her bare legs with a grin, which promptly produced an onslaught of heat in her cheeks. "I'd be careful, you know. Looks like your face is pretty red too."
All paralysis gone, Faith yanked her skirt down and shielded her eyes from the sun. She stared up at him for the first time in over three years. Oh, God, please don't let him see me shaking. With a sweaty palm, she clutched at her dress.
Methodically, he sat down on the blanket beside her, his long legs stretched out next to her own. He leaned back, tugged at a piece of grass and put the stem in his mouth. He chewed it slowly, deliberately.
Her breath hitched in her throat. "What are you doing?" she stuttered, inching to the far edge of the blanket.
Collin turned to face her, his gray eyes nonchalant. "Sittin'." He looked away, tilting his face to the sun as if being there were the most natural thing in the world.
She stared hard at his jawline, clean and strong. Warmth washed over her. Her pulse raced chaotic. "I don't understand––did you follow me?"
He sat straight up and shifted to face her, no pretense in his eyes. The blade of grass continued to rotate in his lips. He plucked it from his mouth. "Honestly? I came here to vent. I was pretty mad, angry that you made it difficult for me to see your sister. I'm quite fond of her, you know, and hope to see more of her. Why’d you tell your parents you saw us on the porch?"
Faith blinked and looked away. She felt as if he could read her mind, and it made her uneasy. She shivered. "I didn't mean to, honestly I didn't. It just … well, it just … came out. We were fighting, and Charity said something hurtful. Then I did. And then I said that …"
When he didn't answer, she straightened her shoulders and thrust her chin to stare at him boldly––then caught her breath. He was only inches away, and she’d forgotten the mesmerizing effect of those eyes, so serene and light. They were a striking shade of gray, not quite blue, and as clear and deep as the purest spring. Her mother often remarked how eyes were the windows to the soul. Faith stared into the depths of his now and felt as if she were staring into the inner sanctum of Collin McGuire. The blade of grass was back between his teeth. His gaze locked with hers, and a strange calm came over her. At the same time, her heart accelerated, a paradox that confused and frightened her.
His smile faded as he stared back, transfixed, almost as if he, too, felt the startling connection.
It was like watching a scene in a play. He remembered her from high school, of course, and the memory broadened the smile on his lips. But he hadn't noticed how pretty she was. She’d grown up a lot since then. Gone were the steel braces that had shackled the legs of a fragile ten-year-old little girl who’d looked as if the next breeze would wisp her away. Even as a freshman, she’d been skinny and gangly with haunting green eyes. But now … He grinned, allowing his eyes to rove the length of her. He could tell by the blush on her cheeks that his gaze made her uncomfortable. He didn’t care. It was too much fun studying her––the slightly upturned nose, the delicately sculpted face, the glint of sun in the red-gold hair. And the eyes––as green as a field of grass with tiny specks of gold scattered throughout.
Her head jerked up and the green eyes glittered. "Me? I don't give a fig what you do or with whom you do it," she snapped. "Except for Charity. She's too young.”
The eyes had him riveted. There was something about Faith O’Connor that stirred him and he wasn't sure why. Charity's appeal far surpassed that of the pretty girl who sat beside him, and yet … there was something deeper he couldn't explain. Something he’d never experienced in the countless encounters he'd known. It thrilled him—and scared him––all at once.
He batted the acorn high in the sky and looked away, squinting at the sun. "Too young?" He spit out the chewed blade of grass to emphasize his point, his heart beating faster than usual. “Not from my vantage point.”
With great difficulty, he kept his breathing steady and calm, his eyes indifferent. Well, well, Collin McGuire, this is certainly uncharted territory for you. And although he desperately wanted to explore it, something stopped him cold. Faith O'Connor had the feel of a girl who could put a stranglehold on his heart. That was a path he preferred to avoid. His smile eased into arrogance. “As a matter of fact, I’d say she’s the perfect age.”
She shot off the blanket and glared down at him, elbows flaring at her side. "You leave her alone! She's not one of your common girls at Brannigan’s. She's a good girl. Too good for the likes of you."
“Too good for the likes of you …” The words of his mother assaulted his memory, flaming the fuse. Springing to his feet, he towered over her and gripped her shoulders, fingers digging in. For an instant, it appeared as if she didn’t dare breathe. "Don't ever say that again," he whispered, his jaw hard as rock. Fury pulsed in his temple. He tightened his grip. "Too good for the likes of me, is she now? Well then, what about you, Faith O’Connor? Are you too good for the likes of me?"
She caught her breath just before his lips found hers, and he felt the fight within her as he locked her in his arms. The taste of her mouth was so heady to his senses, a soft moan escaped his lips at the shock of it. She shivered before she went weak in his arms, and instinctively, he softened his hold.
She lunged back and clipped the edge of his jaw with a tight-fisted punch, her breath coming in ragged gasps. “How dare you—” she sputtered, the green eyes full of heat.
He grinned and silenced her with his mouth. She made a weak attempt to push him away, but he only drew her back with a force that made her shudder. He felt her pulse racing as his lips wandered her throat. The scent of her drove him mad. He kissed her with renewed urgency, the taste of her making him dizzy. And then, before she could catch her breath, he shoved her away, his heart thundering and his mind paralyzed.