Friday, October 22, 2010

Editing Tip #49: Point of View Options

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


One point-of-view option you’ll find in many older novels is the omniscient POV. A few modern-day authors use it too. But many readers find it confusing when the author “head hops” from one character’s viewpoint to another within a scene.

The omniscient point of view is not written from one character's perspective at a time. Instead the author oversees his story from a distance, occasionally revealing the perceptions of his characters when he deems it necessary or helpful.

The omniscient voice distances readers from the protagonist because it cannot convey a deep sense of a character's growth through the course of the story. Characterization is revealed by telling the reader what the characters are like, rather than showing. This puts the readers at arm's length, never close enough to any character to become emotionally involved in his/her life.

Another reason it's difficult to make omniscient viewpoint work is that it is so different from the reader's personal experience. In real life, you can't see what's going on in the next room. You can't know what will happen ten years from now, or even tomorrow. When a novel is written in omniscient POV, the readers will have more difficulty believing that the story is possible.

Writing in the omniscient point of view is tricky. Therefore this option is discouraged for all but the most gifted and experienced authors.

Implementing Your POV Choice

Once you've chosen the point of view option you will use for your novel, be consistent throughout the manuscript. For example, if you are writing in third-person point of view, beware of second-person statements in the narrative.

Incorrect: When they asked for directions, the answer was so confusing that you could never find your way.

Correct: When they asked for directions, the answer was so confusing that they could never find their way.

Determining which POV technique will work best for your story is one of the most critical determinations you will make. So choose with care. Look for good examples of each POV choice in your favorite novels. Then take a look at the POV in your work.

If you feel constrained by the limitations of the point-of-view option you have chosen, try a different one and see if you like it better. If you’re not sure what POV to go with, try one and see how it works. You can always change it later.


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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 ( and the Christian Editor Network ( To find out more, please visit

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