Nov 102011

Who gets to talk?

Readers get attached to characters they care about and have built relationships with, just as in reality.  Kill off a favorite character from your reader base and you’d better believe you’re going to hear about it!  Alter that character’s world somehow and again, you’ll get feedback.  But what if the hero and heroine both have something to lose?  Then what do you do?

Cover for Sascha Illyvich's 1NightStand story by Decadent Publishing

Refer back to length of the story.  Who has the greatest loss, and the greatest gain?  Write from THAT one character’s POV and ONLY change scenes if word length allows for it and only if that character’s journey makes us feel something universal.

I recently read a story where head hopping occurred so much because the writer thought to write scenes like we see in TV.  Take Burn Notice for example:  We have Michael Westin, (The hero) Fiona (Heroine) and all the side characters, most notably Sam, the drunk former CIA op who we get to see frequently.  POV switches don’t really occur much because the story is narrated by Michael Westin, but when we do get those changes, Westin is still narrating. That works because people need to see a lot of visuals and TV/movies allow for those shifts to occur. The average attention span is not that long.

But FICTION writing doesn’t.  You’ll end up with unsmooth transitions, annoying head hopping issues that make the reader THROW YOUR BOOK THE FUCK AWAY!


ou do two things.  You show the reader what YOU want them to see; otherwise they’ll see something else.  And you make the story smooth.  By sticking to word limit/reason for changes, you’ll eliminate guesswork in your plotting.

Some writers can get away wit

h multiple POV changes.  Sherrylin Kenyon for example can, she has a built in audience that somehow doesn’t care about the change from the H/H to Ash or Stryker.  So does Laurel K. Hamilton, but because she writes in First Person POV, she doesn’t have that ability.  But if she wrote in third person, she could afford to change because she’s ESTABLISHED.  Chances are that you’re not them. (And if you are, thanks for reading my article!)

Christine Feehan does an excellent job of keeping the POV between her hero and heroine.  So does Richelle Mead. And Rebecca York.  Those authors are authors who don’t write what I do, but I learn from them because they’re where I hope to be someday.

To reinforce the key points, I’ll leave with my two rules for simplification.

  1. Tell the story from the character’s POV that has the MOST to lose
  2. Use word length 20k = 1 character.  40k, 2 characters.  60k-100k+=3 and ONLY three.

The obvious exception would be if you have a reason for a secondary story such as the one used in Back in Black by Lori Foster where she had the main conflict going on and for what I felt was literally a second story all it’s own, but was tied together neatly by the author.  That will be a different post though, when we break into deeper POV and more on storytelling craft.

That should simplify things in your stories.  Happy writing!

Sascha Illyvich

Listen to The UnNamed Romance Show Mondays at 1 PM PST and Thursdays at 3 PM PST on – hear from Sascha as he shares his work along with interviewing the hottest authors in today’s romance


  4 Responses to “Writers Point of View for Stories – Who Gets to Talk?”

  1. I can\’t tell you how many authors I’ve met who describe head hopping as their style. And, I did exactly what you said, I threw their books the fuck away. I’ve thrown a couple of mine away, too. Or at least stared at them with a jaundiced eye. This is a very difficult thing to master. I don’t agree with you on the POV/word count issue, but I do agree that switching POVs should be done prudently. Try not to hurt yourself buying a new red pen for my next sub. LOL Good post, Sascha. Recommending it.

  2. Great article. I admit I\’m a reformed head hopper. Sometimes i fall off the wagon, but it\’s typically caught in editing or a pass with my wonderful and lovely critique partners. I can definitely appreciate writing from one or two points of view. Love Burn Notice.

  3. It’s faster and easier if you keep things straight. It makes the readers much happier!

  4. Those authors are stupid. If they want to screw their careers up with artistic style, let them. It’s less competition for me. It’s NOT that difficult to master if you plot tightly. Thanks Margie.

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