Point of View by Catherine Y.

Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I am a POV purist—one point of view per scene. Some may argue that there are bestsellers on the market today that do not stick to this rule. Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia—these use multiple POVs in the same scene. My answer to that is that these writers have a firm control and strong execution of POV so they can do what they want with it, and do it effectively. Their character POVs don’t flop around willy-nilly. Each switch happens with precision and for good purpose. Each character’s voice is distinctive and able to draw us into that character’s perspective—into their head.

New writers should learn POV technique, learn to control it, and learn to wield it with experience before trying to play around with different ways of using it. In the same way, a basketball player will first become proficient at making baskets before trying fancy moves with the backboard or bouncing the ball off someone’s head to make a basket. A pianist must learn to play the piano proficiently before tackling Mozart. A stunt cyclist learns to ride a bike before he begins flipping off buildings. If you try variations on the basic technique before you have even mastered the technique, it usually won’t work and will have your readers screaming, “head-hopping!”

There is no reason to avoid the one-POV-per-scene rule. It helps you immerse the reader fully into that one character for his or her scene, letting readers experience the world through his/her eyes. Readers want to connect deeply with your character as if they are living the story themselves. When you avoid tossing the reader around among several characters like a hot potato, they can let their guard down and sink into the character. Then when you have a need to switch, add a scene change and your reader will follow. She will also appreciate the warning.
A favorite book of mine that does a wonderful job of POV control is The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. Edwards wrote her book using multiple POV’s, but uses quick scene changes to show us both perspectives. Each character has his/her spot in the emotional spotlight for each event, but each POV section is separated by back and forth scene swaps. Sometimes they are only a paragraph long and there are several per page. Readers always know when the change is happening because of the line breaks and faithfully follow.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a powerful and moving story about a couple falling out of love after a tragedy during childbirth. We the reader know how each truly feels, although the characters can’t bring themselves to confide in each other. And so we must watch them drift apart when we know that either one of them could save their relationship if they only had the courage to open up.

Another reason I preach POV purity is for reader intimacy. Each jolt caused by an unexpected swap pulls the reader away from the story. Each bit of distance wedged between the reader and the story keeps them from connecting with and emphasizing with the character. Enough jolts and your reader loses faith in you and stops trying to connect with your character. Then you have to work that much harder to gain them back.

And don’t even get me started on multiple first-person POVs!
Guest Blogger Bio

Catherine is the owner and an editor at Critiquemynovel.com. She has written one novel and has a writing help book on the drawing board. She is an Army veteran who went back to school after eight years in the Army and rediscovered her passion for the written word. 

Interview with Author DJ Swykert

My guest today is DJ Swykert.  Hello, DJ!  Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you again.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?  

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DPC2CJCSometimes when writing the lines between reality and fiction become a bit blurry. I began Maggie Elizabeth Harrington intending to write a historical story about a lonely woman who loses her mind after being jilted by her lover. I ended up with a novel about a young woman in a remote northern Michigan mining town trying to save a pack of wolves from a bounty hunter. Maggie Elizabeth Harrington ultimately became a book with multilayered themes concerning social and environmental issues. I see the book as crossing genres between romance and adventure and landing somewhere in a gray area between YA and Literary. The narrator is thirteen, but I believe her ideas are adult enough to engage literary readers.

The book was released by Bliss Press in June of 2012. It is available at these websites:


Is there anything specific that inspired you to write Maggie Elizabeth Harrington?

I had agreed to watch a pair of arctic hybrids for a friend and soon found myself attached to the ten week old hybrid wolf pups and fascinated by their behaviors. My reality became my fiction. Maggie would be someone who would want to protect these beautiful animals from bounty hunters. The story of Maggie Harrington and her wolves unfolded almost as if it were writing itself and the farther it progressed the further my interest in wolves increased.

If this book was made into a film, who would you cast in it?

I’m not sure who I’d cast today in the role of Maggie. But, when I wrote the book I would frame Jodie Foster as a young teenager in my mind when I wrote the character.

Now for some general questions.

When reading, do you prefer traditional 

printed books or ebooks?  And why?

Traditional books, and the reason is a simple one. Because I grew up holding a printed book, it’s what I’m used to. I like turning my own pages. But I think the
e-reader is the book of the future. In a couple of generations everyone will use them.

So, what are you reading now?

The sports page. Oh, you mean books, ha ha. I’ve been reading a book called Apology by Jon Pineda. It won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize.

When you get an idea for a book, what comes first usually?  Dialogue, the characters, a specific scene?  Or do you plot it out before you write?

Always the character. I like to frame the characteristics of a character and then devise a plot to suit the kind of person I see them as. I don’t usually outline an entire book. I jot down notes for chapters and I usually have an ending in mind that my chapters are pointing towards.

What do you have planned next?  Or is that a secret?

No secret, I have another wolf story. It’s about an older man whose wife has died and he finds it difficult holding onto his zest for life. He moves to a remote location and begins to feed a pack of young wolves who are also struggling with survival. The idea for the story comes from a quote by Gandhi: "An act of kindness is better than a thousand heads bowed in prayer." I’m using a working title of Counting Wolves. But that may change.

Is there anything you'd like to add?  Any advice for new writers?
Writing and playing the piano are similar. You get better if you practice.

Here is the blurb for Maggie Elizabeth Harrington.

Maggie Elizabeth Harrington is the story of a young woman in a remote 1890's northern Michigan mining town trying to save a pack of young wolves from a bounty hunter. A terse historical love story of a young woman's struggle with environmental and moral issues concerning the slaughter of wolves, and the churches condemnation of her love for a young man, are as real in today's global world as they were for young Maggie over a century ago.
Here is an excerpt.
We are about halfway out to Dunstan’s when we see Tommie walking down the road towards us.  He yells at us.  “Bernard shot her.  A big she wolf.  You should see her.  She’s huge.”

I think my heart is going to come right out
of my chest it starts thumping so hard, and I am having trouble breathing.  Tommie walks up to us and he tells us how the dogs found the wolf not far from the coop. 
“She must have been coming back for another chicken, and the dogs caught her scent.  When she saw the dogs she stood her ground, and was holding them off.  Bernard was not far behind his four hounds, and as soon as he saw the wolf he took aim and fired.  He got her with a clean shot.  It went right through her chest,” Tommie explained.  “The bullet lifted her right up off of her feet.  Then she dropped back down on her paws for a moment.  She looked right at me for a couple of seconds; then rolled over dead.  It was eerie, the way she looked at me for those few seconds,” Tommie said.  “It was as if she could see right inside me.”
I look at Tommie.  His brown eyes that glisten are wide and open, and I can see he is shaken by what he has seen.  He is wondering about the spirit of the dead she-wolf.  It is bothering him.  I think he got a glimpse of her spirit for a second, and saw it leaving.  He learned something about dying that he didn’t know before.  Something I have learned from watching my father drown my kittens; that all beings have a spirit, even wolves, and they understand as much about dying as we do.
Author Bio 

 DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Lunch Ticket, the NewerYork, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, Alpha Wolves, The Death of Anyone and The Pool Boy’s Beatitude. You can find him at: www.magicmasterminds.com/djswykert. He is a wolf expert.

Other Books:



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