Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010
© Kathy Ide, 2010
In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.
~ POINT OF VIEW ~
Point of view is one of those fiction-writing techniques that readers rarely notice, but publishers and professional authors are keenly aware of. If not done properly, readers may sense that something doesn’t feel right, though they may not know what. Errors in point of view (POV) will brand a writer as an “amateur” to a publisher, and no matter how good the story may be, it will probably never see the light of publication.
“Point of View” means the perspective (or perspectives) from which the reader watches the story unfold. The point-of-view character is the “consciousness” of the story. The reader sees, hears, smells, tastes, and experiences everything that happens through that character’s perceptions.
Since your POV character would not know what anyone else is thinking or feeling, you must focus on that character’s own thoughts and emotions. While you are in one character’s point of view, be sure to identify what he or she is thinking, what he or she observes and senses, and how he or she feels. (But don’t just tell the reader what emotion the character is experiencing. Show it through actions.)
A POV character may be able to guess what those around him or her are thinking or feeling based on what they do, how they look, etc. Describe the other characters through the eyes of the point-of-view character.
Be careful not to describe attributes of the POV character that he or she would not be able to observe. (For example, “Debra’s cheeks reddened.” If Debra is the POV character, she can’t see the color of her own cheeks—unless she’s standing in front of a mirror. She could, however, feel her cheeks grow warm.)
The point-of-view character should be identified in the first sentence of a chapter or section by describing what that character is doing, observing, and/or saying. Early on, a description is inserted of the character’s surroundings—where he or she is, who else is around, why they are there, how the POV character feels about being there, etc. The rest of the chapter unfolds as this character sees and perceives what happens around him/her.
The first point-of-view character mentioned in the book’s first chapter should be the main character, the number-one protagonist, the character through whom most of the story will be lived. You may have more than one POV character, but don’t use more than three or four, or your reader may get confused. Also, make sure to introduce each of your main characters within the first few chapters, and don’t let too many chapters go by before the reader is back in each character’s perspective.
When you change from one character’s point of view to another, insert either a chapter break or a blank space with a single centered pound sign (#) or one to three asterisks (***). The beginning of each section or chapter should identify immediately whose point of view the reader will be in throughout that section.
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Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Network (www.ChristianEditor.com). To find out more, please visit www.KathyIde.com.