Thursday, May 7, 2015

5 Tips For Avoiding POV Speedbumps

Sometimes in a story you need to convey information to the main character or to the reader that your main character would not be privy to.

This is often done by switching the point of view character. There are times when this method works well, such as cycling between POV characters for suspense. There are times when it needlessly interrupts the story.

Another technique is to use news articles, diaries, etc. often offset or in italics. Some readers love this type of interruption. Many loathe the interruption and scan read or flip past it.

Let’s look at a few ways to keep the main character informed without switching point of view.

1. Spying.

Dick learns information by intentionally listening or watching while attempting to not be seen. This type of scene is fraught with tension and fear of him getting caught. He can be in the room next door, in a surveillance van, watching people through a camera lens, sniper rifle, or on a remote camera feed.

2. Eavesdropping.

Dick can eavesdrop without intending to spy. He can arrive at a doorway at an opportune moment, be in the room but out of view, or pretend to talk to Sally while actively watching and listening to Jane.

3. Secondhand News

You can relate the information through dialogue between Dick and a character that was present, eavesdropping, or spying. The conversation should divulge the information but also contain tension.

4. The Broadcast

There are cameras everywhere and the internet is available 24-7. He could find out what he needs to know by simply turning on his phone, tablet, or laptop. You create a “scene within a scene” with Dick as voyeur. It adds tension if he attempts to do so covertly or is with someone he can discuss the unfolding scene with.

5. The Evidence Recap

This is particularly useful in mysteries, but could be used in any situation where a group of people are involved in the overall story problem. They can meet to discuss their progress and each person can contribute new information. You add tension when Dick reacts to the information presented or the new information has a major impact on the story.

If you only utilize a point of view once or twice in your story, ask yourself why it is necessary and see if there is another way to deliver the information without creating a POV swap speedbump and breaking the flow.

You can use a satisfying mix of techniques that eliminate the need to move your verbal camera away from the main cast to secondary or tertiary characters and cutting the connection to the characters that matter.

For more tips on point of view check out:

Deep POV or How to Avoid Head Hopping Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

POV 1 or 2?

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Lots of good ideas here, Diana. I typically use multiple POVs, but some of the techniques you mention would work well in my well as reduce my need for POV changes.

  2. Thank you for these ideas! I will keep them in mind as I create my new story.

  3. POV can be tricky, Diana ... especially if you have as many voices vying for attention in your head as I do .... SHEEESH ... BE QUIET ... all of you ... I'm trying to write this comment ...

  4. I SO agree with your "if there's only one time you hop into that other POV, find a better way." I find it totally annoying and spend more time thinking about why the author couldn't have been more creative than about the book. I like to approach things in the "mystery" fashion.The reader can't know something until the detective does.

  5. Great pointers, Diana. In my novel, I used eavesdropping to deal with a POV dilemma. My novel switches back and forth from the POV of the female protagonist to the male antagonist. I did have the option to just deliver the information from her POV, but I'd already been in her head for a chapter and it was time to get back to him. Eavesdropping not only allowed me to maintain the book's he-said/she-said structure, but also created another emotional layer in the relationship: because now he knew something about her that she didn't know he knew. Very cool.

  6. I like these ideas. The characters actions would be less predictable and more suspenseful for sure. Thanks for the post.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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