As part of The Red Adept Double Caching Out Tour, please welcome Morgan C. Talbot, author of the Caching Out Series, our guest today. According to her bio, when she isn’t writing, she “enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn’t enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing.”
“I like to get into the heads of the characters; it lets me bond with them more deeply, and I love character-driven plots.
Suspense is drawn out when
the reader can only see
what one person at a time is doing.”
I didn’t used to know what POV was, or why it was important. When I was a young writer, I used to indulge in as much head hopping as I wanted and thought it was acceptable. Why? Because a lot of the books I read had omniscient POV (which is not the same thing, but I didn’t understand that at the time). Omniscient POV was big when I was a kid and a teen and devoured every book I could get my hot little hands on. I absorbed it along with all the other writing styles I saw. And then I did my best to emulate it.
Thankfully, times have changed, and the preferred POV for books these days is generally third-person or first-person (I’m a third-person girl all the way, but that’s another topic). It wasn’t easy to learn the difference between third-person limited POV, omniscient POV, and head hopping, but writing is my job, and I need to keep up with what’s acceptable in the market. The English language is a living, ever-changing thing (unlike Latin, a dead language), and the way we use it to tell our stories is also constantly evolving, so third-person limited POV it is.
Omniscient POV lets you into everyone’s head, and no one’s head (Narrator Mode), all at the same time. It kind of gives everything away, don’t you think? How can you have a mystery, or any suspense, when you as the reader know whodunit two hundred pages before the protagonist does?
Third-person limited POV traps you in one character per scene, so you’re only privy to their thoughts. Third-person objective doesn’t even let you hear their thoughts, but that’s not as much fun. I like to get into the heads of the characters; it lets me bond with them more deeply, and I love character-driven plots. Suspense is drawn out when the reader can only see what one person at a time is doing. It’s a great POV for thrillers, mysteries, romances, action adventure, and any plot that relies on details being revealed in good time, and characters suffering surprising setbacks at critical junctures.
Head hopping, on the other hand, is when third-person tries to be omniscient and fails. You get a page of Character A’s perspective and thoughts, then a couple paragraphs from Character B (and no one else’s), then back to A, then over to C, followed by D. It’s essentially third-person POV on a paragraph by paragraph basis. If the sections with each character are long, it’s not terrible to read. But in the long run, I find that such hopping makes it harder to get to know any one character very well. I can read half a book like this and realize I haven’t spent more than a minute or two at a time with anyone. I have a series of glimpses, but never a heart to heart. And that makes me sad.
Knowing I’m going to write a book in third-person limited POV helps me plan my scene list. I prefer to alternate scenes or chapters between my two main characters, so I know ahead of time that I need to give each character something interesting to do on a tag-team basis. POV is a subtle framework, but an effective one.
Thanks, Morgan! You can read more about Morgan C. Talbot and her cozy mystery series at Red Adept Publishing.