Changing POV

Peter Fox is a very popular German musician, and he seems like a pretty cool dude to me.  Not so sure about the video for Alles Neu, but it’s still my favorite song from his most recent album, Stadtaffe (which means City Ape in German).  Enjoy and continue reading for info on point of view.


Today I was reading Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin.  She’s the best and as such, her book on writing is one of the best.  And no, of course I’m not just biased.

In the eighth chapter she addresses something that I think is critical for beginners to learn:

Do not change point of view in your story.

Use first person, third person omniscient, third person limited, whatever, but only one, not all of three.

Why?  Because you stop the flow.

Let’s say we’re reading a novel that’s first person.  We’re in Jack’s head for a karate sparring match.  We feel his tension, fright, and excitement.  We can imagine the taste as he slides in his mouthpiece.

We flip the page and suddenly we’re in third person.  The narration is detached.  We feel like we just got pulled out of the scene in which only a moment before we were so involved.

I pulled my mouthpiece from its case.  Gross…it smelled like old spit.  Had I remembered to wash it the last time I used it?

I slid it in my mouth before clamping my teeth down and feeling the rubber against my gums.  My lips stretched over the bulge, and I practiced swallowing.  It didn’t matter, though; my mouth was dry and my throat tight.


Jack grabbed at the belt around his waist.  As a black belt, he could adjust his uniform freely–so long as no higher ranking black belts were in the area.  He tilted his head side to side, hoping to dispel his anxiety.  He had little success.

Do you see what I mean?  Perhaps my example is too short…  Imagine reading a whole chapter (or more) in first person and then being thrown unexpectedly into third.

As Ms. Le Guin points out, not even Dickens in his Bleak House pulls it off very well.  I have to agree–you’re reading from Esther’s point of view one minute and then suddenly you’re in an unidentified third-person narrator.  It’s jerky.

Now, don’t misunderstand.  You can change your point of view, but you’d better be a damned good writer before you give that a try…

Otherwise, don’t be disappointed or offended when your best friend/sister/trusted reader politely inquires, “WTF?”

Happy writing, everyone.


What I’m Listening To: Stadtaffe by Peter Fox