Character Viewpoints Within Your Writing

Most often, a novel is told from the viewpoint of one or two characters, although occasionally there may be more. If you’re switching between characters, you’ll have some hard decisions to make; i.e. when should you switch, how often should you switch, how long should you remain in a character’s viewpoint before switching to another, etc.

A common example of a genre the uses more than one character viewpoint is the romance novel, which often contains scenes from the hero’s viewpoint as well as the heroine’s. And actually, that’s where I’m having a little trouble.

Within in my YA novels, I never have a problem with changing character viewpoints. I almost never do it, and when I do, it’s a short scene or two, scattered sparsely throughout the novel. But romance novels are different. I love to be in the hero’s head as well, seeing how he feels about the heroine, how he thinks about her, imagines her, as they fall in love.

Because of this, I tend to change viewpoint too often, committing the deadly sin of “head-hopping.” This, of course makes tons of work for me when I have to edit, making sure I stay firmly with one character or the other for the entire scene.

But here’s my pet peeve; I feel like it’s okay to change viewpoints at the start of a new scene, but I know most editors require only one viewpoint per chapter. So what do you think? Do you mind if an author changes viewpoint at the start of a new scene? Or would you rather each viewpoint be a contained chapter, even if it’s a very short one? Let me know what you think!

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4 thoughts on “Character Viewpoints Within Your Writing

  1. Good question. The first few stories I headhopped like a manwoman. Changing two or three times per scene – in my defence, I mostly read Norah Roberts!

    I don’t mind headhopping as a reader, in fact I probably prefer it. I like to see both the hero and heroine’s views at the same time. But I did learn from comments on my NV entry that readers prefer to get to know one character before they skip to the next. So, on the one you were lovely enough to read, I kept the POV changes to 2/3 (max) per chapter. I wouldn’t want to write a whole chapter from one POV though. I like to know what each character is thinking and how they are reacting to each other.

  2. Changing points of view drive me crazy. I often won’t read a book if it switches from chapter to chapter or periodically throughout the story. For some reason, its harder for me to keep track of the narrative when the voices change.

  3. You’re asking the wrong person, I’m afraid. I usually write first person so have only the one viewpoint. I have one story where I was writing mostly from the guy’s point of view, then when he met the girl, I suddenly started jumping into her head. My writer’s group practically screeched at me, telling me I couldn’t do that and, in retrospect, I’m sure they’re right. I still haven’t figured out if I should do a character swap per chapter or do a his story/her story/their story type of thing. As for your story, I would think that, depending on how often they interact would determine how often you swapped head-spaces. Since my two characters didn’t really have any interaction except from a distance for the first half of my book, it complicated things. If your characters are interacting fairly frequently, I think it would be ok to switch perspectives accordingly. Does that help at all?

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