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Decapitate Head-Hopping

Howdy … okay, glad I got that out of my system.

Today’s blog post is the fourth in a seven-part blog series titled Structure for Gardeners. If you've been with me from the beginning, the original idea was for a five-part series of blog posts on Structure. Well, I've got just too much material to finish in five posts. So, we'll shoot for a seven-part series - and hope it doesn't grow any longer.

First, a moment of recap:

All of the material in the Facebook Live seminar I called Structure for Gardeners came from varied sources over the years – most from courses offered by writers who were there to share the information with other writers, including Nancy Rue and Angela Hunt, DJ Williams, Kathy Mackle and Wanda Dyson.

I've been writing a bunch of blogs based on the writing seminars I hosted this past summer on Facebook Live, including the Hero’s Journey and Plot Skeleton. One of the main themes woven through all of these blogs is a distinction I came up with several years ago. I believe there are only two basic types of authors – architects and gardeners.

Architects are the kinds of authors who build everything before they start – they create extensive outlines, develop detailed chapter summaries and often build meticulous biographies for each of their main characters, sometimes going as far as finding photos of individuals who look like their characters and keeping those photos in front of them.

Gardeners, on the other hand, plant a seed, water it, let the sun shine on it for a while and then see what happens. How does it grow? Maybe it starts growing in one direction then, unexpectedly, it sends off another shoot in the opposite direction. Who knows what stages it will go through before it reaches harvest?

Often, one of the Gardener’s greatest vulnerabilities in writing, or getting their writing completed, is a lack of structure. How can I get from seed to harvest without wasting a lot of time and effort traveling down branches that bear no fruit?

Which is why we’ve been looking at several elements of Structure for Gardeners, including methods for organizing, what is three-act structure, are determining whether you are plot-driven or character-driven. Today we look at another key component of Structure … what Point-of-View you will choose for building your book.


There are essentially four Points-of-View (POV) from which a writer can build a manuscript. Some are easier and more commonly used than others. But the entire concept of POV is deceptively difficult and easy to butcher.

Take a piece of plastic or metal pipe. Or, if you have one, grab a camera and look through the view finder. What you see through that pipe is POV. And all you can write, as an author, is what you … or your character … sees through that pipe or view finder. Easy, right?

Some of the most popular writers of fiction engage in the habit of “head-hopping” – writing from one character’s perspective and then switching, in the same scene, to another character’s perspective.

Jack looked around him at the mess on the floor and worried what his grandmother would think. Jim wasn’t thinking about Jim's problems, he was angry that his aircraft carrier model was on the floor in pieces.

Jack and Jim are thinking, in their heads, in the same paragraph. That doesn’t work, unless …

Omniscient – This is commonly called ‘God’s point of view’. It is old-fashioned and out-of-favor. The writer takes the position of speaking in an authoritative voice … someone who not only is telling the story, but also someone who knows all the answers.

First-personI walk down the street. I smell the bread. Everything is seen and related from one person, one narrator. If you use first-person, be aware that the entire book … ALL … must be in the first person. There are times when an author tries to mix first-person with another POV (I did this … Nancy did that) but it’s very hard to do and be consistently successful. First-person can be very intimate because the narrator knows everything.

Second-person – Using this POV is an odd and unusual formation and, again, very difficult to pull off effectively. In essence, the author is pulling the reader into the story, leaning heavily on the pronoun “you”. “You are in a barbershop talking to a man with a shaved head.”

Second-person is a point of view where the reader is addressed directly. In fiction, a second person narration is often used to transform the reader into a character, as a means of drawing them closer to the story. When writing from this POV, authors will most commonly use the pronoun, 'you' — as opposed to 'I' in the first person and 'he,' 'she,' 'they,' and 'it' in the third person.

Third-person – This is the most familiar and most common POV from which to write a novel. She did this … she did that. Your characters are informing the reader – either by action or dialogue – what’s going on in the story. But you can only “report” what is happening from one character or narrator’s point of view at a time. Again, beware of head-hopping.

But, if you have lots of characters – for instance, in the ‘big world’ thrillers I write with a huge cast that play on a world-wide stage – and you want to ensure you are keeping the reader in the midst of the action and not just telling them what happened, then the third-person narrator can change from chapter to chapter, or even from scene to scene … if the scene and shift is clearly communicated to the reader.

When using third-person POV, a character or narrator can use some interior monologue and still remain in the proper POV.

Wednesday we will look at the importance of selecting the best Method for telling your story with examples of methods used by other authors.



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