2. The mistake: Point of view breach. A POV breach occurs when a character knows something he or she shouldn’t reasonably know given the limitations of the POV choice. Moving forward in our example from the last post to the confrontation between our POV character and the husband she suspects of having an affair—and switching POV to show the technique works equally as well in third person limited—such a mistake would manifest itself like this:
How long had this been going on? She skewered him with a hate that only years of mistaken adoration could produce. She couldn’t speak. Didn’t have to—he read it all over her face.The reader is left wondering—um, how does she know he read it all over her face?
The fix: Translate internal feelings into external actions. By doing so, you as author will allow a reaction that will make your character’s feelings all too clear to this man. When he reaches out for her and she smacks her 2-carat diamond into the bony back of his hand, he’ll know her feelings—and so will your readers.
3. The mistake: Hanging out too long in the character’s head. Remember that POV colors your story by creating a lens. Let's recall our high school physics for a moment. In order to define the work of a lens, you need a light source (backstory), which shines through the lens (thoughts and opinions and prejudices and feelings) onto the situation being viewed (character actions). This movement—from remembered motivations through internal thoughts expressed as external actions—keeps your story moving by creating plot. Writers can complicate point of view problems by stalling inside the character’s head, where even the author can get confused as to what’s going on.
The fix: Let something happen. If you notice that your character is unusually silent, or else constantly trembling while refraining from taking physical actions, try taking the lid off the pressure cooker of her emotions and letting it rip. A verbal or physical tirade unwound from deep within a character’s point of view can be downright satisfying.
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist for 19 years, she now writes literary women's fiction.