Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Is this story giving you whiplash?

Princess Perfect knelt beside the pond, carefully ensuring her new white lace dress didn’t get in the dirt. She didn’t want Nanny yelling at her again. “Hello, Mr. Frog. Are you there?”
Mr. Frog was hiding at the bottom of the pond, under his favorite lily pad. He decided to wait until she’d called him three times. Three was always the magic number in fairytales.
“Princess! Princess! Oh there you are.” Nanny was all out of breath. She hated having to walk all the way down here to the pond. And she just knew the Princess’ dress would be dirty and she’d be the one having to wash it then iron all that horrible, fiddly lace.

Have you worked out the problem with the story? (Apart from the fact that it’s terrible.)
Did I hear you say POV? Yes indeed it has POV issues. Head hopping. Headbanging headhopping, in fact, with every paragraph from the point of view of a different character.

This, dear author, is not allowed. Many authors struggle with the need to keep a scene all in the point of view of one character. If the fight scene begins in the POV of the villain and the princess drops a brick on his head rendering him unconscious, the scene has to end then. It can’t continue because he doesn’t know what is happening anymore. The new scene can begin immediately, after a scene break, in the POV of the victorious princess, but the author can’t just switch POVs mid-scene. Even worse is the author who tells the fight scene by switching back and forth between the villain’s POV and the princess’ POV. No, it does not give a “more balanced” view of the fight. It gives the average reader whiplash and a desire to not read the rest of the book.

The trick is to plan whose POV the scene will be in and to make sure that person can see enough of the action to tell the story with clarity, emotion, and immediacy. That way, only the villain will end up with a headache.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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