Two chapters in and just one to go before I’ve finished this ghostwriting sample. After a false start yesterday I’ve just blasted through a couple of thousand words in a morning. Are they the right words? Hard to say until I read them back through. But I’ll hold off doing that until I’ve finished the final chapter.
Today saw me tackle a new POV. The novel I’m pitching for has multiple points of view, so one of the things the editors are looking for in the sample is the ability to narrate effectively from the perspective of several different characters. The outline I’m working from follows the tried and tested genre structure of one-chapter-per-POV, which makes switching between them easy enough. Some would argue it’s a crude technique, but it’s one I’ve used in my own writing on many occasions and, with the right story, it works supremely well.
I’ve often encountered snobbery about the use of POV. Some people feel that ‘real writing’ (by which they mean ‘literary fiction’) should involve the seamless and effortless transition of POV from one character to another, to omniscient and back, without breaking stride. Fine. It’s one way of doing it. I’ve written this way myself and, yes, it’s tough to get it right. But that doesn’t make it right, nor is it the only way to skin a cat.
If you’re just starting out writing fiction, sooner or later you’re going to agonise over POV. Should I choose third person or first? When should I move from one character to another? Can I mix it up and use multiple techniques in a single book? Should I avoid those cheap pulpy genre tricks I keep hearing about … like only changing POV when I start a new chapter?
My answer to all this navel-gazing is ‘don’t sweat it’. Try things out. If you have any kind of feel for fiction, you’ll soon recognise what works for your story and what doesn’t. Sure, you need to be consistent within a narrative. Alternatively, have a good reason for not being consistent. The key is not how you handle POV per se, but how you handle the characters whose POV you’re using.
Get your reader caring about the characters, and everything else will fall into place.