But it didn't click.
For some reason, I just didn't understand.
What did they mean? Never to change POV's? Many published authors have done that - but I supposed it could be because, as the saying goes, you must know the rules before you can break them.
So for a while I was contented, at least to some extent, to leave it there. But it still didn't really fit.
And then I realized, after such a long time, what they actually were.
Young writers - in fact, even matured writers - should not take on too many points of view. Not only can you lose the readers, you will lose the character's voice, which is one of the absolute worst things that can happen to your story. Wayne Thomas Batson's newest novel, a John Spector novel called Ghost, is an example in which I personally was lost.
I was reading it lightly, as entertainment (as much as Ghost should be, at least) - not analyzing its literary worth. But it lost me. Especially when I was shipped from first to third person. Now I had no idea who either character was, and I was point of view hopping all over the place.
I wasn't going to stick around for a book that had questionable themes, and that didn't even hold my interest. Now I'm not trying to give Ghost a bad wrap, but I have to be honest as a reader - I couldn't finish the book.
This was predominately because I was never thrust into Spector's head. I didn't have the slightest clue of who he really was. I was given some of the externals about him (and I'm not talking about the physical externals), but not much else.
Point of View shifts was not what killed the manuscript, however. This is merely to bring around my point - you cannot lose the character's voice. If you do, you will undoubtedly lose the reader as well.
For now, I'm going to talk about just one small part of this - the aspect of POV shifts. There are a hundred million ways you can make this error, but a common one comes from what the main character cannot possibly know. He hasn't experienced, seen, or been told it - he shouldn't know it. And therefore, the reader shouldn't be told it blantantly either.
"Gabriel raced to the window, hoping to catch a sight of the fleeting bird. Something about it sparked an idea of suspicion - or maybe it was hope. What was it? The bird was clearly a creature of prey, with a wide wingspan, but a sleek and arrow-dynamic body. Dark purple, red, or even black painted the bird, all dark except for a golden flare on the crown of its head running down to the back of the neck. No bird of its likeness had ever before been seen within or around the borders of Fardell. It must have been yet another terror Lord Drakk had sent out to haunt the city.
"What was that beast?!" Shadler asked, clearly not even wanting an answer. Anger raged inside him, he felt the need to charge out into the open wild, bow in hand, and battle the murderous creature. At that moment, he swore in his heart to kill the beast."
In the first paragraph, Gabriel races to the window and begins to think. It's clearly all going on inside his head - it does, after all, feel like he is the main character.
But in the second paragraph, we're suddenly brought out of that feeling. It's now in Shadler's head - and even though he's not thinking as Gabriel had been, how could Gabriel possibly know that Shadler had vowed to kill the beast - let alone even know that he's angry. We do not even see him showing anger physically, which should be the only way Gabriel knows unless Shadler explicitly tells him that he's angry.
But he doesn't.
And that right there is a perfect example of Point of View shifting. We're stuffed into one character's head, and then wrenched out a moment later. Likely, you won't even notice it if you're reading the book for enjoyment - but you're not going to feel either of them if it continues.
Shifts are when the focus point goes from the center character to another character mid-scene. It's alright to do it once in a while between chapters or scenes - not alright any other time.
So let's see if we can fix this scene up a little.
"Gabriel raced to the window, hoping to catch a sight of the fleeting bird. Something about it sparked an idea of suspicion - or maybe it was hope. But what was it? The bird was clearly a creature of prey, with a wide wingspan, but a sleek and arrow-dynamic body. Dark purple, red, or even black painted the bird, all dark except for a golden flare on the crown of its head running down to the back of the neck. No bird of its likeness had ever before been seen within or around the borders of Fardell. It must have been yet another terror Lord Drakk had sent out to haunt the city.
He turned to face the thundering boots echoing down the hallway. It was Shadler again, a snarl on his lip and sweat glinting across his face. He quickly marched up to Gabriel who towered over him nearly a head higher. Shadler shook heavily with each raspy breath.
"What was that beast?!" Shadler slammed a fist into his palm, his eyes were rife with wildness and darted from place to place, demanding an immediate answer."
In this scene, things are almost all fixed. The very last sentence in the final paragraph is still a minor POV shift. Pick it out and fix it for yourself, post the answer in the comments below.
A POV shift can even be as simple as one or two words - anything that the central character cannot know. It is also when the 'camera', or point of view, peaks into another character's head. DON'T DO IT. Point of View shifts are sly and sneaky, but they are the downfall of countless stories.
So get out there are tackle some shifts!
R. A. H. Thacker