One of the most important things, when writing in third person point of view, is to make sure the reader knows who's head their in, preferably within the first sentence. It's no use opening a chapter with a big description of the surrounding scene, if the reader is too busy wondering which character you're talking about to notice your elaborate descriptions.
One way to make sure the reader knows who's point of view they're seeing the novel from is to mention their name early on in the chapter/scene. Like this:
Marlee hovered in the doorway to the village hall, scanning the room. There wasn’t a single person here that she wanted to talk to, but she had already tried staying home and avoiding everyone.
Once you're in the scene though, and everyone knows who's head they're in, you still can't forget point of view. You have to remain careful to not mention anything your character doesn't know. Even if you've just come from the other character's world, you need to write as though you dodn't know what just happened.
An example is this scene from Reckless Rescue. The hero, Tyris, is unconscious, and my POV character, Marlee, has no idea who his is, or where he's from.
What she felt wasn’t real attraction, it couldn’t be. The excitement bubbling along her veins was because of what he represented. A world she had never seen. A world without the hardships and restrictions they faced here. A world where she could make her own choices.
She examined his face one last time, as if she could see an imprint of that world in its shape. If… no when… he woke up, perhaps he would talk to her about it.
Point of view is more than that though. It gives us a chance to really get into a character's head, hear their thoughts, and get a real feel for who they are. Don't forget to write the scene in your POV character's voice as well. If you're referring to another character, make sure you use the name that character would use. Don't call your POV character's mother “Yasmyn”, say, “her mother”. If the character doesn't know another character's name, then use a descriptive tag until they do (and perhaps a little while after).
When I write from Marlee's POV, I'm careful not to refer to technology she doesn't know exists, even in well known sayings. She tends to be a little more excitable and dramatic than Tyris.
Marlee felt like she’d been head-butted in the stomach by a goat. She had that same feeling of all the air rushing out of her lungs, followed by the knowledge that in a few minutes, she’d be on her behind in the dirt. She jerked back, out of his arms. “How can you agree with them?” Her eyes filled with tears.
If I'm in Tyris's head, he's more focused on technical things, and he tends to be slower and more measured. He sees the world differently to Marlee, and focusing on this helps highlight the differences between the two main characters. In this scene, right after he regains consciousness, he has no idea where he is, who Marlee is, or what she is doing.
The rhythmic clack-clack, clack-clack pulled Tyris from sleep.
He lay in a hard, scratchy bed, the light dim. He couldn’t see much, but his eyes were drawn to the only movement—a shape in the corner of the room. A girl sat at some sort of wheel, her hands moving surely, engrossed in her work. He watched her for a moment, his mind blank except for the sight in front of him.
Her dark hair hung past her shoulders and her young face, lit only by the light of a single lamp, was absorbed on the wheel in front of her. There was something appealing about the way she was completely focused on her work, not even aware that he was awake. She didn’t pause to check her phone, didn’t glance up at a television.
Like character voice, point of view gives us a chance to really establish who our characters are, and draw us into their world, seeing it through their eyes. Don't waste it by having them all sound the same.
What point of view do you prefer to write or read? Do you have any tips to share on writing different points of view?
This is a very useful post with great examples. I found with my manuscript it helped to highlight the text in different colours for the POVs so I always knew whose head I was in (although it’s worth checking it’s not lurking in a style when you upload it to the internet – I found pink and blue text randomly through the manuscript!)
I’ve done something similar, in going through and adding up the different POV scenes, to see if they were somewhat equal (they weren’t!) Highlighting is a good idea too. I have had points where I didn’t realise I changed POV part way through a scene, and I had to fix it while editing. It’s hard to keep track, especially if you have a longer break from writing in the middle of a scene.
I didn’t dare add up to see if my two POVs were equal with Baby Blues because I’m fairly certain they’re not! Even though it’s as much Marcio’s as Helen’s story.
Mine weren’t! Tyris had 60%, and Marlee only 40. Didn’t seem to matter. 🙂