Skip to main content

Point of View In Writing

A couple of  months ago I entered a first paragraph critique contest co-hosted by Steena Holmes at "Chocolate Reality."   Needless to say,  it was an eye-opening experience. Although the reviewers described my piece as “gripping,” they also identified a point of view (POV) shift in the paragraph.  One of the critiquers indicated it was difficult to determine which character owned the scene.

Of course, this was not the response I hoped for.  I was consumed by a rush of emotions. First came denial, I thought, what do they know anyway? One of the members of my writing group is an English professor and he didn’t notice the POV shift.  This feeling was followed by despondence and self-deprecation, i.e., I suck, I can’t even get past the first paragraph without a problem. I’ll never be published. Finally, came acceptance.

Before tackling any changes to the paragraph, I decided to conduct a bit of research to make sure I had a firm grasp on point of view (POV).  What I learned has proven invaluable.  Point of view shows the reader whose eyes the story is told through. The most commonly used POV’s in literature are first and third person.

In first preson POV, the narrator is the character within his or her story.  This approach limits the reader to a single person's thoughts and observations. However, the advantage is the reader is able to connect to the narrator by knowing his or her most personal thoughts and feelings. If a book requires multiple characters to tell a story, then first person POV should be avoided.

Third person POV is the most commonly used approach in fiction. The narrator is an uninvolved person who knows everything. Third person can express plot twists occurring at the same time ,but in different places. Also, the narrator is able to switch between characters to describe each of their thoughts and feelings. Lisa Binion at “Fiction Writing Site, ” warns that too much character hopping can confuse the reader. She says it is best to approach each scene from the perspective of the character with the most to lose.

Point of view shifts can be subtle. For example, the one in my first paragraph was overlooked by numerous eyes before the problem was identified. The following is the original and the revised version.

Inside room 424 of the cardiac wing at Charleston Memorial Hospital, Jorge Mendoza hung tenuously between life and death. The sixty-seven-old patient’s chest heaved with each uneven breath and his olive skin appeared sallow and sunken under the dim lights. Just five feet away, the massive silhouette of a man lurked in the shadows as Jorge lay vulnerable and alone. With the stealth of a thief in the night, the stalker crept to the bed and covered the patient’s nose and mouth with his hand. Jorge jolted awake. His right eye scanned the room while the other drooped as the result of a recent stroke. When he looked up, Jorge met the menacing blue gaze of his attacker.

Notice how the point of view changed from Jorge to the stalker. Now, the next version sets the scene from Jorge’s perspective (please keep in mind the following is the first re-write and I have not edited for conciseness yet).

Inside room 424 of the cardiac wing at Charleston Memorial Hospital, Jorge Mendoza 's mind reeled with anticipation and panic. Despite the doctor’s admonitions to calm down, he simply could not. There was too much at stake. Although the rest of Jorge’s family had visited today, his eldest daughter, Soledad, the one person he needed to speak to, was out of town. Jorge could trust no one else to pass on the knowledge he possessed. Although he left hidden messages where he hoped Soledad could find them, Jorge could not chance letting 400 years of family secrets die with him.

The swish of the hospital room door distracted Jorge from these problems. He glanced at the clock on the wall, it was 12:00 a.m.  Midnight rounds had just begun. Hoping to avoid another scolding from the night nurse about his sleep habits, Jorge shut his eyes and pretended to slumber.  Just as he had mentally prepared himself for the familiar feel of the blood pressure cuff upon his arm, a large hand clapped across his mouth and nose, cutting off his air. Jorge writhed and twisted under his captor's grip.  His right eye scanned the room while the other drooped as the result of a recent stroke. When he looked up, Jorge met the menacing blue gaze of his attacker.

As you can see, the new scene is totally set from Jorge’s eyes. I won’t deny that having to re-write the scene was frustrating, but identifying my weaknesses early in the writing process will help me in the long run. Have any of you struggled with point of view shifts? If so, it would be interesting to know how you identified and corrected the problem.

Popular posts from this blog

Opinions Pleaaaaaase!!!!!

Hello All,

I recently began a new WIP.  Although I'm happy with my outline, I've struggled with the beginning. This said, I wrote two opening paragraphs. Both lead to the same place, but they take a very different paths to get there. I just can't decide which one I like better.  If you have a minute or two, I'd  appreciate it if you'd give your opinion. Which paragraph would keep you reading?  Also, please be mindful that these are very raw first drafts.  I'd be happy to return the favor anytime.  Thanks in advance for your help.

Opening #1A cold chill broke across my arms when he entered the room. It happened every time I saw him. By now you'd think I'd be used to him Yet, here I sat, dreading his very presence. You see, to everyone else he was a man of flesh and blood. A man who devoted his life to treating the sick.  To me, he was Doom—bringing false hope to the incurable—deliverer of tragedy, ready to do his worst.  My dad and I had been confronted…

Flexing My Writing Muscles

Hello all, it's time for another installment of the ISWG hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. For more information about this group, please click on the following link: Insecure Writer's Support Group

First of all, I want to wish each and everyone of you a happy New Year. In my experience people reserve their first post for NY resolutions, etc, but I've decided not to bore you with promises.  What I will say is I'm looking forward to a fresh start--New Year, New Me.

Due to all the stress that comes with returning to nursing school, I haven't written at all. However,  I did make it to my writer's group last month.  After missing three months of meetings, I felt a little out of sorts.  The sense of familiarity and comradery I usually encountered with the members was somehow off   I didn't let it get me down.  Instead, in the spirit of the New Year, New Me thing, I endeavored not to miss anymore meetings.  I've also come up with an idea for a short story.  It'…

From The Dust Marinade to a Gourmet Work of Fiction

Hello all, it's time for another installment of the Insecure Writer's Group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.  To learn more about this wonderful membership please click on the preceding link.


After several weeks of juggling family and nursing school, I finally get a much needed break. Specifically, Spring Break. Woo hoo!!!! Unlike some students who go wild during this time and head to the beach for fun in the sun, I plan to hunker down at my desk and catch up on my writing. It's been a month since I've written anything, and I'm jonesing to escape into my world of fiction.

My short story is about two-thirds complete. If all goes according to plan, I hope to have it done by the end of next week. Then I intend to pull my first novel from its dust marinade,  and return it to the writing kitchen, where I hope to create a gourmet work of fiction.  If I can find the time.

Once school resumes, every second of every day is consumed by my studies. I truly feel like a fish out…