Writing Books/POV


Can you explain POV in a simple manner? The more I read about the subject the more confused I become.
What is third person omniescent?
Thanks in advance for your help.


Dear Anne:

Although entire books have been written on point of view, I will answer as quickly as I can by copying the information from my reference book for editors and for those who want to edit their books themselves. The book is called Purge Your Prose of Problems and is available through my Web site at www.zebraeditor.com.

Point of view (or viewpoint) is the vantage point from which a story or a piece of information is presented. POV simply refers to the person or thing that observes the action or thinks about it.

Although a story or book can have several points of view, many editors and publishers strongly recommend that each scene be from only one viewpoint, usually of the main character in the scene. As you write each scene, decide whose point of view is most important to that scene, and if any information comes through thoughts or perceptions of one of the characters, it should be only from the POV character for that scene.

Point of view is usually set with the first line of each new scene. The first character mentioned is considered the point of view character for the ensuing scene. If the scene is to be in the point of view of someone other than the first character mentioned, rearrange the opening sentence to put the POV character first. Here are some examples of opening sentences to scenes that set the point of view:
Sandy flicked on the lights and glanced around the room. (Sets POV with Sandy)
"Where are we going?" Evelyn asked Harry. (Sets POV with Evelyn)
The class formed a long line. "I could eat a horse," Butch murmured. (Sets POV with Butch)
Terry, Sally, Rosalyn, and Jill plopped on the sofa. (Sets POV with Terry)

Point of view may confuse writers, so here are some subtle examples of how POV sneaks into manuscripts.
John looked around and saw only two women, Mary and Tina, in a room full of men. (John’s POV)
Tina, conscious of John’s dilemma, walked over. (Tina’s POV) “Hello,” she drawled.
Mary, afraid of what Tina might tell John, joined the couple. (Mary’s POV)

To avoid confusion of POV, rewrite the scene in only one point of view, such as John’s:
John looked around and saw only two women, Mary and Tina, in the entire room of men.
He caught Tina’s attention, and to his delight, she walked over.  “Hello,” she drawled.
Soon after, Mary joined the couple.

What if the scene were in Tina’s POV? It might come out like this:
Tina noticed John walk into the room and glance around at all the men. She strolled over to him. “Hello,” she drawled.
To Tina’s disgust, Mary soon wheedled her way into the conversation, too.

In omniscient point of view, the story is told through an all-seeing, all-knowing narrator who may even read character’s thoughts. The style, almost standard in the classics, is no longer in vogue. Contemporary novels tend to use only the point of view of one or a few main characters. It’s a more difficult style to maintain, but it keeps readers in more suspense, because it shows, rather than tells the story, another preference in contemporary literature.  

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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