7 helpful considerations for choosing a point of view character

The most popular point of view (POV) in genres like romance novels is third-person limited POV with two or more point of view characters. That means that you’ll stick to the perspective of one character per scene (or even per chapter), but can switch to a new POV character between scenes (or chapters).

For each scene, you have to decide on a POV character. Since readers will witness the scene through the eyes of the POV character, that’s a very important choice.

How to choose the right point of view character for a scene

Here are a few considerations that might help you pick the best POV character for each scene:

  1. Emotions: Which character experiences the most intense or the most interesting emotions in this scene?
  2. Stakes: Which character has the most to gain or to lose in this scene?
  3. Suspense: What information do you want to reveal to readers–or to keep hidden a while longer? If a character knows something that you want to keep hidden from your readers, pick another character as a POV character. Concealing information from readers when the POV character knows about that information and should normally be thinking about it is cheating.
  4. Identification: Who do you want readers to identify with? Point of view is a tool that steers how close readers feel to the characters. Sharing the character’s thoughts and feelings gives readers a chance to connect with the character.
  5. Descriptions: Which character would notice the details you want yourreaders to notice? If you want to describe a character or a setting, do it from the point of view of a character who has never met that person and is unfamiliar with the setting and therefore has a reason for noticing and thinking about the details. 
  6. Subtext: Whose thoughts and feelings reveal something that contradicts her actions or dialogue and is not obvious in her body language or facial expressions?
  7. Involvement: Who is the most active character in the scene? Making the POV character a passive observer who’s not involved in the action can be a bad idea, at least if you do it too often.

Especially for the important scenes (the opening scene, the climax, the last scene, love scenes…), consider carefully whose point of view would make the scene more powerful.

For more POV violations and how to avoid them, check out my book Point of View. It will help you to avoid head hopping and to pick the best POV for your book.

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