Manuscript Analysis

Point(s) of View (POV)

Point of view in a novel involves whose eyes your story is seen through. In your novel’s case, you try seeing events through many different characters’ eyes, and your instincts about which character’s eyes you want us to see through as you advance your story are usually pretty good. But trying as you do now and then to advance your story through too many sets of eyes (often without warning jumping into one “head” after another in a single scene’s context) can confuse readers majorly and distract them from proper focus on events transpiring.

Your plot movement can get herky-jerky and sometimes stop readers in their tracks, as on pp. 405-406, when after spending extended time in one character’s head you suddenly and abruptly switch to another’s. I’ve seen this third-person, limited omniscient technique of jumping inside one head after another worked superbly in some novels. For instance, Ken Follett uses these means masterfully in The Key to Rebecca.

But what he does there is devote virtually entire individual scenes and chapters to advancing his story through successive single points of view. In other words, he stays inside one head at a time for extended lengths of time. He narrates his whole novel through this technique, without using the intrusive, commenting voice of any omniscient “narrator” (i.e., the reader is never aware of the presence of the storyteller himself). This requires extraordinarily “rich” visualizing and writing of each character, including their precise thoughts, feelings, perceptions of reality, etc., and your selections of characters to move action through and your transitions to these different consciousnesses sometimes get you into trouble.

I generally recommend that users of this technique limit the number of characters per scene through whom a particular sequence of action “flows” to two three at the very most. Most often, what other characters in the scene may be doing or feeling can be guessed at or assumed from observed body language, surmises based on what these other characters say, etc., without having to actually “enter” their heads and risk confusing readers.

If you want readers to know what other characters than the one whose head you’re in are thinking, have them tell that character, or let him hear them tell someone else. Or have him conclude what he thinks they’re thinking, or come up with his own reasons for imagining why they’re acting as they are, etc. (He can also hear from others about things that are going on outside his immediate knowledge.) One good thing: In your writing you don’t have characters being able to actually read other characters’ minds an especially annoying habit I’ve seen other writers indulge.

I see numerous scenes you’ve written where your work would profit from the kind of one or two-character limiting I’m talking about. One thing to keep in mind always: Anything that stops a reader in his tracks because he’s wondering where he is, whose mind he’s in, who’s talking, or who’s doing what has got to be fixed so there’s no chance the reader’s confused for even a second. Do anything that stops the reader from reading on and/or makes him have to read a paragraph again to figure out what’s going on or who’s saying what, and you’ve lost him maybe he’ll even abandon your book from his first point of confusion.

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Part 1: Introduction/Overall Assessment

Part 2: Characters

Part 3: Points of View

Part 4: Dialogue

Part 5: Action, Settings and Descriptions, Pacing

Part 6: Plot Movement / Resolution, Audience Appeal, Moving Forward

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