Thursday, February 10, 2011


February might be the shortest month, but in my family, it was always a busy one. Not only did we have Washinton's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday (now combined into President's Day), but there's Groundhog Day (if you're a reader of this blog, you'll know why that's something I celebrate), Valentine's Day, my mom's birthday, two cousins' birthdays (one is 6 days older than I am, the other is exactly 5 year younger), and my birthday.

To celebrate all these occasions, I'm having a "non-contest" this month. Everyone can win. All you need to do is click the "Contest" tab above for your prize.

And now, back to writing.

Some POV exercises

Looking over some of yesterday's comments, there were a couple that mentioned authors re-telling the same scene from each character's point of view. I think this can be used as a plot device, especially if there's a very different perception of what happened in the scene, but as mentioned yesterday, it might not work for everyone.

I wrote a short vignette of the same scene from two points of view. It ended up being my first published piece. (If you haven't read "Words", it's free from Smashwords, which includes it's distribution affiliates, as well as All Romance eBooks. It started because I couldn't decide which POV to use, so I tried both. Often, when a scene isn't working, it could be because you're in the wrong POV. So, for an exercise, take a scene you're working on and write it from a different POV.

Another exercise prompted by one comment was to write the scene in first person. If you want to make sure your POV is tight, and that you're not sneaking into someone else's head, write in first, because your limited to only the senses of that single character.

And there was another comment about how to handle transitions. Even if you're using some kind of marker to alert the reader that you've swapped heads, it's still a very good idea to make sure you transition smoothly. (Especially since your editor might not want to use them.) The best way to do this, I've found, is to open the new scene with the new POV character's name in the first sentence, and then have him perform an action. And, better yet, include a thought or internal reaction that belongs to that character.

Here are some examples of POV switches from Nowhere to Hide. Each of these introduces a new scene or chapter. In the book, the publisher uses markers for scene breaks, but because these switches are clear, it shouldn't matter.

Deputy Graham Harrigan sat at his computer in the Sheriff's Office substation, the normal sounds of office activity fading to white noise as he hunted and pecked his way through the report he needed to file.


Colleen fished through the contents of her carryon. A long-sleeved polo had seemed reasonable when she'd checked the Orlando forecast before leaving Oregon, but apparently nobody told the weather gods it was supposed to be in the sixties here, not the eighties.


Graham finished filing his reports, surprised to see it was four-thirty.


Colleen settled onto the couch armed with three more movies and a pepperoni and sausage pizza, bought more out of reflex than hunger.


The chili at the Celebrity Deli was good—not as good as his, of course—but it filled Graham's empty belly.


Colleen felt much better after stuffing down a sandwich from the grocery store deli counter.

Hope these help! And thanks for your comments.


Ann Yost said...

Terry - I appreciated your thoughts on our comments. Vis a vis first person - do you think that can work in a mystery/romance? A little hard to get the intimate details that way or the hero's take on the whole thing. At least its a good exercise for the head-hoppers among us!

Terry Odell said...

Ann - I have to say that it depends on the actual genre. If it's on the romance shelf, it'll probably need both h/h POV (but you can still write it as a mystery romance -- that's what I do!)

If it's going to be in the mystery section, yes, you can definitely do it 1st person. There are countless mysteries out there written from a single POV. You have to decide whose story it is.

Megan Johns said...

I have just finished adding a pov to sections of my wip and I have found that it introduces so many additional dimensions that previously weren't there.

romancegoddess said...

Some good ideas here Terry--My first visit to your blog--Inspirational exercises RE: POV, coincidentally perfectly timed for some POV decision-making I am involved in with my WIP!
Thanks! (Which of your books would you recommend I read first?)

Terry Odell said...

Megan - I think that's critical--it has to work for the story. I've read books where there's a POV character who only appears in a few chapters, and only for a few pages, and I always wonder if the author could have given us that information through the primary POV characters. Sometimes it can, sometimes it can't.

romancegoddess--so glad you found me. As for which book to read first -- that's kind of like asking me which of my kids I like best. The only caveat is that I'd read Finding Sarah before Hidden Fire, because those two are connected. I'd humbly suggest you check out my website and decide for yourself. I have first chapter reads, excerpts, and behind the scenes peeks for all of my novels. And it'll also depend on if you're a print or a digital kind of person. If you read digital books, check the contest tab for a great place to start!

Ann Best said...

Terry: I clicked the contest tab, and bought your book! I've read the first five pages and am impressed. I'm going to post this on my blog today for you. $1.50 is a fantastic deal for what looks like a very good read!!
Ann Best, Author

Terry Odell said...

Ann - thanks SO much. I appreciate your kind words--and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book.

Katie Reus said...

I occasionally like reading the same scene from both the h/h POVs in romances. I think if done right, it adds extra depth. :)

Terry Odell said...

Katie - as with everything, "done right" is the key!

Mary Ricksen said...

Great ideas Terry as always POV makes the story a natural romance to me, with both the book gives h/h views of the same thing. Interesting!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Mary