Another POV for Point of View

Pat raised this topic in her first post, and since she’s heard from several others on the mysteries of point of view, I’ve decided to offer my own experiences. I suspect every one of us Wenches could contribute a different perspective, and with different conclusions, too.

When I wrote my first book, I didn’t know the term “point of view”, nor would I have recognized it if it tripped over my keyboard. I let every character have his or her say –– not just the hero and heroine, but all their family members, friends, rivals, and just about anyone else who wandered along. Even the keeper of the tavern where the hero and heroine paused for refreshment (and probably for a break from all that talking around them) had a short speech, reflecting on the weather, the beauty of the heroine, the quality of the horses in the yard. . . well, you get the idea.

But imagine my shock –– my horror! –– when my masterpiece finally caught the eye of an editor whose first suggestion to me was to cut out the extraneous pov’s. Hauling out the word-machete, I went to work, cutting and slashing out all those extra voices. Not surprisingly (well, ok, back then I was surprised), the story tightened up and became much more focused in the process. It’s not easy for writers to admit, but there are times when editors are RIGHT.

So I learned my lesson. My historical romances are now limited to the heroine’s point of view, and her hero’s with it. To keep things interesting, I usually add a lesser pov for the villain/antagonist as well. I try to limit myself to one head per scene so readers don’t have to keep jumping, too.

Recently I’ve ventured into writing fictionalized historical biography, where first person is the current “voice of choice”. What a challenge, as both Pat and Susannac noted! My heroine, Sarah Churchill, the first Duchess of Marlborough, had to be in every scene, either as a witness or a participant. All action and description had to be colored through her sensibility and opinions, and other characters could exist only in relation to her. Even harder was conveying a sense of passing time through that single voice; my story covered forty-five years, and through Sarah’s words alone, I had to express the changes in her as she aged from a young teenager to a grandmother, from a favorite at court to a bitter outcast in exile. Yet it was an enjoyable challenge, too, one I’d recommend as a “break” from more traditional narrative.

So what’s left, you ask? Only second person, the final frontier. You never know. Before you know it, you may end up as a character in your own book.

Susan/Miranda

30 thoughts on “Another POV for Point of View”

  1. Can’t wait to read the Sarah Churchill novel. I just finished a biography about the Marlboroughs, and I find both Sarah and her husband fascinating.
    I had to learn pretty much the same POV lesson. I came to romance via the Georgette Heyer highway (as so many of us did) and she has odd bits of POV sprinkled allover the place (the valet, the butler, etc.), and she switches fluidly back and forth between the main characters in any one scene. I LIKE that, but as so many others do not I’ve had to retrain myself to focus my POV.
    When ever anyone says that “head-hopping is a no-no” I always want to send them one of Rita Mae Brown’s books (like HOTSPUR where she jumps from human to horse to fox to crow back to a different human and then does it all over again).

    Reply
  2. Can’t wait to read the Sarah Churchill novel. I just finished a biography about the Marlboroughs, and I find both Sarah and her husband fascinating.
    I had to learn pretty much the same POV lesson. I came to romance via the Georgette Heyer highway (as so many of us did) and she has odd bits of POV sprinkled allover the place (the valet, the butler, etc.), and she switches fluidly back and forth between the main characters in any one scene. I LIKE that, but as so many others do not I’ve had to retrain myself to focus my POV.
    When ever anyone says that “head-hopping is a no-no” I always want to send them one of Rita Mae Brown’s books (like HOTSPUR where she jumps from human to horse to fox to crow back to a different human and then does it all over again).

    Reply
  3. Can’t wait to read the Sarah Churchill novel. I just finished a biography about the Marlboroughs, and I find both Sarah and her husband fascinating.
    I had to learn pretty much the same POV lesson. I came to romance via the Georgette Heyer highway (as so many of us did) and she has odd bits of POV sprinkled allover the place (the valet, the butler, etc.), and she switches fluidly back and forth between the main characters in any one scene. I LIKE that, but as so many others do not I’ve had to retrain myself to focus my POV.
    When ever anyone says that “head-hopping is a no-no” I always want to send them one of Rita Mae Brown’s books (like HOTSPUR where she jumps from human to horse to fox to crow back to a different human and then does it all over again).

    Reply
  4. Thanks for the comments, Tonda. And you’re right: there are many things that Georgette Heyer could do that us lesser mortals never can.
    BTW, I just visited your own web site, and you nailed one of my major cover-art-anachronisms: why DO art directors insist on putting 18th century heros in cheesy AfterSix style shirts, unbuttoned to the waist? It isn’t just that it’s historical wrong, but since their shirts would have pulled on over the head, it wouldn’t have been feasible, either. Grr!
    I’ve worked as an interpreter on an 18th historical site. I’ve worn my stays all day, and I agree with you — if they fit correctly, they’re not uncomfortable at all. Hmmmm….there may be a good, whalebone-supported Wench-worthy post in there for the future…
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  5. Thanks for the comments, Tonda. And you’re right: there are many things that Georgette Heyer could do that us lesser mortals never can.
    BTW, I just visited your own web site, and you nailed one of my major cover-art-anachronisms: why DO art directors insist on putting 18th century heros in cheesy AfterSix style shirts, unbuttoned to the waist? It isn’t just that it’s historical wrong, but since their shirts would have pulled on over the head, it wouldn’t have been feasible, either. Grr!
    I’ve worked as an interpreter on an 18th historical site. I’ve worn my stays all day, and I agree with you — if they fit correctly, they’re not uncomfortable at all. Hmmmm….there may be a good, whalebone-supported Wench-worthy post in there for the future…
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  6. Thanks for the comments, Tonda. And you’re right: there are many things that Georgette Heyer could do that us lesser mortals never can.
    BTW, I just visited your own web site, and you nailed one of my major cover-art-anachronisms: why DO art directors insist on putting 18th century heros in cheesy AfterSix style shirts, unbuttoned to the waist? It isn’t just that it’s historical wrong, but since their shirts would have pulled on over the head, it wouldn’t have been feasible, either. Grr!
    I’ve worked as an interpreter on an 18th historical site. I’ve worn my stays all day, and I agree with you — if they fit correctly, they’re not uncomfortable at all. Hmmmm….there may be a good, whalebone-supported Wench-worthy post in there for the future…
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  7. I look forward to reading your book on Sarah Churchill. When you did your research, was it mostly secondary sources or did you get to read her letters, diaries (if she kept one), etc.?
    -Michelle

    Reply
  8. I look forward to reading your book on Sarah Churchill. When you did your research, was it mostly secondary sources or did you get to read her letters, diaries (if she kept one), etc.?
    -Michelle

    Reply
  9. I look forward to reading your book on Sarah Churchill. When you did your research, was it mostly secondary sources or did you get to read her letters, diaries (if she kept one), etc.?
    -Michelle

    Reply
  10. Rather you than me, Susan. First person is tough enough without covering the voice of 45 years!
    I’m thinking Georgette got away with headhopping because she was writing “light,” not intense. Romances aim for an emotional intensity that requires all of the senses filtering through at once. Literary fiction can go anywhere it pleases.
    Have company walk in just now–see you later!
    Pat

    Reply
  11. Rather you than me, Susan. First person is tough enough without covering the voice of 45 years!
    I’m thinking Georgette got away with headhopping because she was writing “light,” not intense. Romances aim for an emotional intensity that requires all of the senses filtering through at once. Literary fiction can go anywhere it pleases.
    Have company walk in just now–see you later!
    Pat

    Reply
  12. Rather you than me, Susan. First person is tough enough without covering the voice of 45 years!
    I’m thinking Georgette got away with headhopping because she was writing “light,” not intense. Romances aim for an emotional intensity that requires all of the senses filtering through at once. Literary fiction can go anywhere it pleases.
    Have company walk in just now–see you later!
    Pat

    Reply
  13. Pat–
    That’s a good point about Georgette, and aiming for emotional intensity rather than “correctness.” She was also the pathfinder for the genre, so she could do pretty much whatever she pleased, without worrying if she was following the rules.
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  14. Pat–
    That’s a good point about Georgette, and aiming for emotional intensity rather than “correctness.” She was also the pathfinder for the genre, so she could do pretty much whatever she pleased, without worrying if she was following the rules.
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  15. Pat–
    That’s a good point about Georgette, and aiming for emotional intensity rather than “correctness.” She was also the pathfinder for the genre, so she could do pretty much whatever she pleased, without worrying if she was following the rules.
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  16. Michelle,
    Thanks for inquiring about Sarah Churhchill!
    When I first began the research for this book, I’d no idea exactly how much material there would be. Yes, there have been numerous biographies about Sarah and her husband, a heroic military genius, over the last 300 years, some berating her as an overbearing harridan or unnatural woman, some painting her as an equally unnatural paragon of her age.
    But it’s the wealth of primary sources connected with her that made writing this book both fascinating, and challenging. Sarah was a prodigious letter-writer, and because she spent much of her married life separated from her children and husband (she was serving at court, while John, as a career soldier and diplomat, was often away on the Continent on a mission or at war), her letters thoroughly document her thoughts, fears, and concerns.
    They also document her quarrelsome personality: she was always battling with someone over something, and many historians suspect that the reason so much of her correspondance survives is that she kept nearly all the letters she recieved as well as copies of those she sent in case she needed them later as evidence in court.
    Sarah was also one of the first “celebrities” to understand the power of the media — and to comprehend the importance of getting her side of the story out there. She relished public squabbles, and she didn’t mind making enemies of anyone who stood in her way. She regularly paid journalists and other more slanderous pens to write not only her version of various events at court and in politics, but to attack her enemies.
    Towards the end of her lengthy life, she even commissioned a tell-all autobiography of her life. Because she named names and dished with a ferocity that today would have landed her a job with the National Enquirer, the book was an enormous bestseller in 18th century London, still being reprinted 100 years after her death.
    If anything, there’s almost too much first-hand sources from Sarah, rather than too little. I really enjoyed getting to “know” her, and I hope readers will, too.
    Best,
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  17. Michelle,
    Thanks for inquiring about Sarah Churhchill!
    When I first began the research for this book, I’d no idea exactly how much material there would be. Yes, there have been numerous biographies about Sarah and her husband, a heroic military genius, over the last 300 years, some berating her as an overbearing harridan or unnatural woman, some painting her as an equally unnatural paragon of her age.
    But it’s the wealth of primary sources connected with her that made writing this book both fascinating, and challenging. Sarah was a prodigious letter-writer, and because she spent much of her married life separated from her children and husband (she was serving at court, while John, as a career soldier and diplomat, was often away on the Continent on a mission or at war), her letters thoroughly document her thoughts, fears, and concerns.
    They also document her quarrelsome personality: she was always battling with someone over something, and many historians suspect that the reason so much of her correspondance survives is that she kept nearly all the letters she recieved as well as copies of those she sent in case she needed them later as evidence in court.
    Sarah was also one of the first “celebrities” to understand the power of the media — and to comprehend the importance of getting her side of the story out there. She relished public squabbles, and she didn’t mind making enemies of anyone who stood in her way. She regularly paid journalists and other more slanderous pens to write not only her version of various events at court and in politics, but to attack her enemies.
    Towards the end of her lengthy life, she even commissioned a tell-all autobiography of her life. Because she named names and dished with a ferocity that today would have landed her a job with the National Enquirer, the book was an enormous bestseller in 18th century London, still being reprinted 100 years after her death.
    If anything, there’s almost too much first-hand sources from Sarah, rather than too little. I really enjoyed getting to “know” her, and I hope readers will, too.
    Best,
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  18. Michelle,
    Thanks for inquiring about Sarah Churhchill!
    When I first began the research for this book, I’d no idea exactly how much material there would be. Yes, there have been numerous biographies about Sarah and her husband, a heroic military genius, over the last 300 years, some berating her as an overbearing harridan or unnatural woman, some painting her as an equally unnatural paragon of her age.
    But it’s the wealth of primary sources connected with her that made writing this book both fascinating, and challenging. Sarah was a prodigious letter-writer, and because she spent much of her married life separated from her children and husband (she was serving at court, while John, as a career soldier and diplomat, was often away on the Continent on a mission or at war), her letters thoroughly document her thoughts, fears, and concerns.
    They also document her quarrelsome personality: she was always battling with someone over something, and many historians suspect that the reason so much of her correspondance survives is that she kept nearly all the letters she recieved as well as copies of those she sent in case she needed them later as evidence in court.
    Sarah was also one of the first “celebrities” to understand the power of the media — and to comprehend the importance of getting her side of the story out there. She relished public squabbles, and she didn’t mind making enemies of anyone who stood in her way. She regularly paid journalists and other more slanderous pens to write not only her version of various events at court and in politics, but to attack her enemies.
    Towards the end of her lengthy life, she even commissioned a tell-all autobiography of her life. Because she named names and dished with a ferocity that today would have landed her a job with the National Enquirer, the book was an enormous bestseller in 18th century London, still being reprinted 100 years after her death.
    If anything, there’s almost too much first-hand sources from Sarah, rather than too little. I really enjoyed getting to “know” her, and I hope readers will, too.
    Best,
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  19. Wow! She sounds so interesting. Now, I really can’t wait to read your book. How interesting that she kept all her correspondence in case she was taken to court – I guess we’re not the first overly litigious society. 🙂 I may be inspired to try to find a copy of her “autobiography” too. What fun.
    BTW – I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED all your colonials – loved the sparhawks, loved the cranberry cove books. I really enjoy your regencies too, but I just wanted to put in a little praise for all your colonials.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  20. Wow! She sounds so interesting. Now, I really can’t wait to read your book. How interesting that she kept all her correspondence in case she was taken to court – I guess we’re not the first overly litigious society. 🙂 I may be inspired to try to find a copy of her “autobiography” too. What fun.
    BTW – I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED all your colonials – loved the sparhawks, loved the cranberry cove books. I really enjoy your regencies too, but I just wanted to put in a little praise for all your colonials.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  21. Wow! She sounds so interesting. Now, I really can’t wait to read your book. How interesting that she kept all her correspondence in case she was taken to court – I guess we’re not the first overly litigious society. 🙂 I may be inspired to try to find a copy of her “autobiography” too. What fun.
    BTW – I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED all your colonials – loved the sparhawks, loved the cranberry cove books. I really enjoy your regencies too, but I just wanted to put in a little praise for all your colonials.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  22. Ida, Loretta, Michelle —
    You’re right, Sarah Churchill was one unique woman. Hope DUCHESS does her proud (and how glad I am that she’s not still alive and able to declare me her newest enemy!)
    Michelle–
    Thanks for the kind words for my earlier colonial books. That time period and place will always be among my favorites, but alas, the rest of the publishing market doesn’t agree. Just as Regency is currently hot, hot, hot, Colonial America is considered cold, cold, cold. But styles and tastes are always changing, and you never know when 18th century America might come back in vogue….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  23. Ida, Loretta, Michelle —
    You’re right, Sarah Churchill was one unique woman. Hope DUCHESS does her proud (and how glad I am that she’s not still alive and able to declare me her newest enemy!)
    Michelle–
    Thanks for the kind words for my earlier colonial books. That time period and place will always be among my favorites, but alas, the rest of the publishing market doesn’t agree. Just as Regency is currently hot, hot, hot, Colonial America is considered cold, cold, cold. But styles and tastes are always changing, and you never know when 18th century America might come back in vogue….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  24. Ida, Loretta, Michelle —
    You’re right, Sarah Churchill was one unique woman. Hope DUCHESS does her proud (and how glad I am that she’s not still alive and able to declare me her newest enemy!)
    Michelle–
    Thanks for the kind words for my earlier colonial books. That time period and place will always be among my favorites, but alas, the rest of the publishing market doesn’t agree. Just as Regency is currently hot, hot, hot, Colonial America is considered cold, cold, cold. But styles and tastes are always changing, and you never know when 18th century America might come back in vogue….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply

Leave a Comment