Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Query question: revealing numbers of POV in a query

More and more I'm seeing—or perhaps imagining—writers declare in their query letter that their story is told from "multiple points of view" or "alternating points of view," as though it's a selling point.

At the query stage, do agents want to know this? 

Well, it's not really a selling point for me, more of a red flag. I think writing multiple points of view is really hard, and not very many people do it well.

And often, multiple PsOV could be solved with an omniscient POV, but prying people out of first person POV is like getting the dog in to the tub:

Which is to say, I do like to know about it in the query cause I know what to expect.  And if they tell me it's seventeen PsOV, I can just say no to the query and save us all some time.

Which is not to say that multiple strands of a story is something I would reject out of hand. I LOVE those big sprawling books that follow all sorts of characters as their lives intersect and carom off each other. I'm reading one now: CITY ON FIRE by Garth Risk Hallberg that is amazing.

And Bonfire of the Vanities?
And Airport, Hotel, and everything else that Arthur Hailey wrote?

All of those are in the third person omniscient. Not a first POV to be found.

So yes we want to know, but not for the reason you thought.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Day two am I still number one.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oops, so fast I forgot the (?) Gonna have to work on that.
I'm a first person kind of girl so prying me out of my comfort zone is exactly like your pic.
I'm just not that good at not being me. Not that me, is that good, all the time anyway. I'm confused.

AJ Blythe said...

Heehee, I'm sure that's how my dog feels when it's bath time.

2Ns, you're on the ball this week!

I read both 3rd pov and 1st pov. Thinking about it, most of the 1st pov is only from 1 pov, but the 3rd pov I read might have 2 or 3 pov. I thought multiple povs in 3rd pov books was normal?

So is the Opie only asking about 1st pov books or am I missing something here?

Gah, how many more times could I have said pov?

AJ Blythe said...

Totally off topic... the whole I'm not a robot - eat ice-cream recaptcha thing has been driving me nuts. How does it know I'm not a robot? And why don't I get ice-cream, or any food for that matter?

So I finally caved and went hunting. It seems Google can tell we're not robots by the way we move our mouse. Plus by using our IP address to track our internet movements and determine we're us. If you are on a phone or tablet you get food, or cats apparently.

Nothing scary about any of that o_0

DLM said...


Second - I wrote AX in first person, and the ways in which that served the self-serving narrative was kind of fascinating. But now writing omniscient, with what I will call shifting FOCUS but not shifting POV, and I'm loving the freedom. It's brought voices into the story I hadn't even quite formulated, and I have hope this will serve the novel really well.

Third: Gossamer the Editor Cat is, I think, bemused this week. His beloved tap-drip in the tub was repaired, and so I no longer have a little grey boy wandering 'round the house with droplets on his head, and Penelope no longer gets to take a little drink off his head. It is a perplexing state of affairs for all; and Goss has stooped to sipping from Pen's bowl. Hooray for plumbing ...

DLM said...

AJ, that's interesting! I'm not sure now whether to be insulted, proud, or worried though - I was getting the "choose this" game for months and it largely stopped a couple weeks ago. Very irritatingly, though, I STILL have to "I'm not a robot" myself (with or without choices) on my own dadgum blog. This is not what I would call an improvement.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I don't often comment, but I lurk and find the info invaluable. Thanks Janet.

I'm commenting now to the people who talked about the robot captcha - you can ignore it and still post your comment. It's completely unnecessary :-)

InkStainedWench said...

Carolynn, I'm with you on the first-person comfort zone. I forced myself out of that zone and wrote the first draft of my novel in third person, in order to avoid First-Person-First-Novel syndrome: making it seem like memoir, or Dear Diary, or All About Meeee.

But in third-person POV, my protagonist lurched through her scenes like a zombie. I finally had to switch her to first-person, at which point she woke up and came to life.

Beth H. said...

This is interesting. I always write third person POV. As a reader, I honestly don't care what POV the writer is using, as long as it's effective. I have noticed a trend recently toward multiple POV novels. Some work very well. Some don't. Increasingly, if I'm on the fence about wanting to read something, if I learn that it's told from multiple PsOV, I pass.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Annalisa I just noticed that a few days ago. All I do is hit publish and I'm in.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

What Diane says "But now writing omniscient, with what I will call shifting FOCUS but not shifting POV, and I'm loving the freedom" makes me want to try omniscent. I have only two PoV's not 17.

I shy away from 1st, love close 3rd. I wrote 3 memoirs, all in 1st. They're in the city dump, hopefully ground to dust by worms.

@Ink It's amazing how a story can come to life when you change something. I equate it to the brushstroke that makes the painting vibrate.

Ly Kesse said...

Wow. So many who like to WRITE in 1st POV. Not me. I am much more comfortable in 3rd.

And then it might have something to do with the fact that I'm bilingual. As an exercise, I was told to write in the voice of my MC in the novel just finished.

Lo and behold, I found that I couldn't do that in English. And since I'm only half literate and cannot spell a damn in the other language, 1st was truly slow going.

As for reading, I don't care if it's 1st or 3rd POV, so long as it's effective as Beth said. But then I'm talking published books, not mss. A whole 'nother ball game, I imagine.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yup, it worked. No pictures, no stupid house numbers. Whose house numbers are they anyway? Isn't it kind of freaky that someone goes around and takes pictures of house numbers for the computer. How do you explain your job?
Hey, what do you do for a living?
I skulk around and take pictures of people's house numbers.
It's a security thing.
Oh yeah, who needs you?
Not me anymore.

DeadSpiderEye said...

It's impressive when authors pull it off, tedious when it's a self conscious conceit. I'm not keen on the, variants upon a scene technique, unless it's has relevance to the narrative. I have read a few authors who shift focus with empathic third person or even switching first person and it quite suits my taste, not sure if it's everyone's cup of tea though. The epistolic narrative, I suppose is the one that is viewed as most contrived but I'm kinda fond of 'em, I suppose Dracula is the classic of that technique.

Colin Smith said...

AJ: Actually, 3rd omniscient used to be popular, but I don't know that it is so much now. Most 3rd I've read has been "limited" (i.e., following one person the whole time). I think this is more popular than omniscient--the Harry Potter series is 97% of the time 3rd "limited."

As for the robot thing--I just log into Google and hit publish. Clearly it knows I'm not a ro-ro-ro-robot. :D

DLM said...

Ly Kesse, I'm not sure whether I'd say I liked writing first person with The Ax and the Vase, but after struggling a little bit and questioning it a lot, it made itself clear - first person it was to be. This is consistent with a character both wildly ambitious and, over time, increasingly powerful. The POV allowed me to "not see" certain aspects of the story and came with all the reliability and vanity the novel needed.

Angie, I haven't got seventeen characters going, but there are two POCs who are gaining prominence, and I can observe at different levels of perception as different scenes suit, which is a revelation. There are moments of minute attention, and then there are much wider-frame shots, as it were. I feel like a director who's been given a camera that can adjust from the deepest, detailed close-up to a sweeping panorama, photographing each beautifully. So, as closely related as the WIP is to AX, it's a different world.

I will say this about first novel/first person - as self-absorbed as I happen to be (and that's a lot), I shudder at the idea that Clovis I was in ANY way my avatar, writing AX. Famed in legend for supposedly murdering most of his kin, a political animal, and unquestionably capable of truly astonishing brutality, he's nothing I ever dreamed of being.

I write to get OUT of my own skin and OUT of my painfully ordinary world - and to learn, particularly about history, but more than that. To write "what I know" would be stultifying, if that is interpreted to mean writing about myself. Anyway, I don't want everyone in the world to know all that much about my self. It's not a bad self, really, but I'm not so attached to it I think everyone else needs to be as well.

mhleader said...

Colin, is it just possible that those exiled to Carkoon are the ones exempt? Because if you're in Carkoon, clearly Human Laws Do Not Apply. (HLDNA). Just like in the Others' Courtyards.

Is Carkoon owned and operated by the Others?

I've obviously been re-reading Anne Bishop's fabulous THE OTHERS series. Wish I'd written that. It's brilliant. (#1: WRITTEN IN RED; #2 MURDER OF CROWS; #3 VISIONS IN SILVER...)

Ellen said...

This is fascinating! I actually think an omniscient POV is MUCH harder to do well than multiple PsOV. In fact, I think there's almost no one who can pull it off.

Though perhaps we're defining "omniscient" in different ways? I don't consider multiple close third person PsOV omniscient as long as they're not within the same scene.

Would love another post from you on this as I'm very interested in your perspective! Thanks, Janet.

Anonymous said...

I must be crazy.

I had this debate in my undergrad english lit class. Basically I see multiple first POV as the new stream-of-consciousness type of writing. It hides the authors perspective on a subject from the readers point of view, while allowing an author to explore all sides of an argument.

The tough part is with multiple first - you NEED to have multiple STYLE. And style does not = voice. You need language in first person narration outside of dialogue that feels completely independent of other chapters. A really good example of this in the sci-fi genre is Across The Universe by Beth Revis. She manages to tell her story from two perspectives, one a 16 year old girl and the other a 18 year old boy. And I could tell you after reading 3 sentences of any random selection in that book exactly who is talking.

Taking this as a challenge, I wrote my YA mystery/thriller in 4 alternating first person voices, but I wrote them separately, then rewrote them together, then rewrote them separately again.

Same is true for my fist book (although it was not accomplished as well). I had 5 first person shifting perspectives (each chapter being one voice) and very much enjoyed the interplay between the group of them.

Like Janet said, too often people can do it poorly. There would be no point in doing multiple first if you don't have a different style for each voice. I literally pasted hard and fast rules about what my characters would and wouldn't think on my wall. And lots and lots of newer authors can really bungle it up. To me, I take it as a challenge, but I think my next book will be in third just to get out of the 6 extra edits for voice that I need to do for first person novels.

Again - i'm probably the outlier in this.

Craig F said...

I too have noticed several posts on forums of people trying to express multiple POVs in a query. I can see why agents make obscure warding signs at them. I have a hard time reading books that bounce between multiple points of view. I know that somewhere down the line it should all come together but it is a rough ride for me.

I have a short story I am going to market soon that is in first person. It is just a straight line plot so it works. The way I write anything larger has plot twists and new information coming from different places so third works better for that.

Please excuse me if I get short over the next few days. It is a rough time of year for me. I have a tendency to kill conversations in this season so I will apologize in advance. I will actually try to refrain from posting but that is hard for me to do.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

As a side note -

If you want to see a college lit class explode, compare H.P. Lovecraft to Dan Brown to illustrate how Dan Brown is probably literary and we're all too short-sighted to see it as anything but low-brow thriller writing.

I thought it was hilarious.

Julie said...

Oh, dear.
Seems I'm destined never to be Agented. Might as well have those Indies just go for it - which at least gets me out of the Querulous Queries, so that's something.

As Inigo Montoya would put it - "Let me 'splain. No. Take too long. Let me sum up."

I CAN'T write in one POV (she whined in perfect Thing 1 Tween)! In the case of Angylaidd, I have a 14th c Welsh Demi-Angel Father working for a blankety-blank Archangel; and his 11 year old misunderstood 19th c American telepathic foster child son, now brought to Wales to be raised by some freakish guy he doesn't even know with VERY odd ideas on war and religion. Now HOW am I supposed to do those in one voice, no matter WHICH one it is, huh, mom, huh?!?

And in the case of Kennedy, I have a PICU Fellow (no comments, please, totally anonymous) trying to save a near drowned kid of a wealthy Senator; that same wealthy Senator, who was raised in an uber-patrician corrupt family and may or may not have tried to kill his son; his always-present aide who knows quite a bit more than any aide really OUGHT to know about just about anything (and who was a blast to write, I Might Add); and the PICU Fellow's Attending "Male Companion" who - oops - saw the whole thing and actually had ties to the Senator's family that weren't so pleasant from awhile back.

So. No. I didn't write THAT one in Omni EITHER, because I can't stand to - I guess I could, but I don't feel it does justice to the story that way because the reader doesn't see the story the way I see it, which is how my characters would see it as it happens to them.

Showing them Kennedy's perspective from my perspective just seems weird. Or explaining how Arwein feels about Daniel's distance - I'm inserting me into that equation, then, and pulling the reader one step back.

When I'm describing a scene setup, that might be different - but why Nick, Kennedy's Attending companion - gets viscerally irate - at the very thought of Senator Emerson... I can EXPLAIN it to you guys, for example, but you'd understand it a lot better from inside Nick's head.

So, yeah. I've got a few POV's going, and now I feel like I'm doomed for CreateSpace and straight to Kindle.

Ah, well.

So be it, at least I'll meet y'all at WD in Aug!

Cheers, off to Edit!

(Note that I am still evading those letters that I said were ready to go six weeks ago.)


Donnaeve said...

Like many have said, I can read just about any book in any POV if it's done well. As I was reading the OP's question, and Ms. Janet's answer, I began to list books in my head I'd enjoyed thoroughly that came from multiple POV's in first or third, etc. (When ya'll start to dip into the varying layers of various POV's, my head starts to hurt. :) )

One book that sticks out for me as a well done multiple PsOV in first person is MUDBOUND by Hilary Jordan. The book had seven. Yikes. For me, she pulled it off, and I think if an author is clear when they switch and by clear I mean the begin each chapter with a person's name, it's a no brainer, and then you get into the rhythm of the character's voice and off you go.

My first book was in first person, but like what Diane said, I don't see it as my story although the likelihood of it being assumed as my story is definitely more plausible than AX AND VASE as hers. Second book, first person, and one could say multiple PsOV but 98% of it is in one character's voice. (begininng/ending chapter in other PsOV) Third book, third person, two PsOV, that of the protagonist and the antagonist.

Fourth, back to first person. My comfort zone I guess.

Dena Pawling said...

My current WIP is women's fiction. I wrote it in 1st, which works much better for this story, in my opinion. My other WIP that's currently sitting, is written in alternating close 3rd. I don't think either story would be as good in a different POV.

Romance readers expect alternating close 3rd, because they want to know both sides of the relationship, but no other characters. So almost everyone in my local RWA group writes alternating close 3rd. Many romance publishers actually specify that in their submission guidelines, and one even says they're open to “considering” ms in other POV, if there's a good reason and “if done well.” But the inference is that clearly they really want close 3rd and two POV.

I've read that certain genres prefer first person, including YA [which tends toward first person present tense] and women's fiction.

DLM said...

I should perhaps not speak out of school, but I can say Brian has good command of multiple close POVs.

I used the term omniscient in that my multiple POV foci are still somewhat detached. Even the most intimate interplay is described fairly analytically; so I call that omnipotent rather than close. It's part and parcel of exploring a world of characters who are themselves less individualistic and modern-style-emotional than we tend to be accustomed to. The opening setpiece is a Grand Guignol bloody labor and delivery in which fear and hope are twisted to bitter tightness, but which is at the same time really not intimate. The most concrete and personal part of the scene is the fingers of the midwife bringing forth an infant.

This novel will span generations, and most of the characters we see will die through the course of the plot (this is not a spoiler; it just covers that much time). One character seems to me right now to still be an MC in the familiar sense, but the more I work the more I realize how very important others will be.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Craig, tough for me to but I'm pushing through. For me it's probably over compensation. But I'm trying.

InkStainedWench said...

The Jack Reacher books are usually, but not always, third person. I wonder how Lee Child decides whether to go with first or third?

Unknown said...

I wrote A Bother of Bodies in first but for book two in the series I'm using third close, at the suggestion of an agent I queried. I was finding it difficult, the whole voice thing sounded stilted so I took out my collection of Myron Bolitar and studied them.

I'm improving, but this whole writing thing is not getting any easier. Kind of like learning to play golf. First couple of times if you have any natural talent you do okay. Then you start taking lessons and really suck. Eventually you get better.

I'm at the sucking part and the sucking part sucks.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I've come up with a pitfall relating to switching third person, one thing you sometimes see is authors using it to press the irony button, things like:


Jake's anxiety over his choice of flowers niggled persistently, he could only afford half a dozen of the yellow roses...

Chantelle was ecstatic at the gift of flowers, how did he know her favourite colour?


Now that's okay, once but when you bump into that kind of thing thirty times through the course of the novel, it grinds a bit.

Jenz said...

First person can be very effective, but it's also very limiting. I generally prefer reading third--I want to see what the antagonist is thinking, too.

I recently reread The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the omniscient in that still works great for me.

Stacy said...

As a reader, I honestly don't care what POV the writer is using, as long as it's effective.

Right on. Charles Stross used 2nd person in HALTING STATE and it actually worked. I think readers will accept any POV as long as it's done well.

Megan V said...

Not long ago I queried agents on a YA issue book I wrote in first person, 3 POV. I stated in the query that it was multiple POV using a format addressed in QueryShark.

*TITLE is an account of sexual assault from three points of view: the supposed victim, the alleged rapist, and the girl holding the outcome of a he-said-she-said crime in the palm of her hands.*

I received several full requests. While all of the requests ended in rejection (with a good amount of helpful feedback), there were four comments that directly addressed POV. Two agents suggested I drop voices 2&3. The other two recommended I add voice 4 to the mix. Now ain't that subjectivity at its finest?

I truly do think QOTKU hit the nail on the head on this one. If it works, it works, and that will show in the writing. But be up front about the multiple POV in the query. Otherwise the extra voices might seem like an unpleasant surprise.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

As my WIP is written from 2 PsOV, I've been reading novels with multiple PsOV: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo, and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd are just a few. These authors were clear about whose head we were in, using either the character's name as the chapter title and/or a different font.

As I revise my novel and work with crit partners, one of my concerns continues to be--how long to make scenes or chapters from one POV to another. I do not want my reader to stop reading and go back to a previous chapter to figure out where we had left a particular character. That's a loss of immersion in the story.

The other difficulty with a double narrative that does not connect the two PsOV right away is character soup. There are two different stories happening. Awhile back I read through Linda Aronson's blog on parallel narrative (though she writes about movies not novels) and found it interesting to read through the six types that she delineated at that time.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I frequently don't enjoy reading multiple POV novels because I'm not as interested in some of the characters as I am other, and feel like my time "away" from my interesting people is being wasted.

I also tend not to write multiple POV, and when I have, it certainly wasn't in 1st person. The novel I'm querying right now is 3rd limited, and my werewolf books are in 1st. Actually, perhaps interestingly, my only novel which does have multiple 3rd limited POV is also the only novel in which I've also written a prologue. Breaking my own curve, right?

And I agree with some others, that 3rd Omniscient seemed to have been more ubiquitous in the past, but is less so now; writing in 3rd, you sometimes get accused of "head hopping" if you reflect multiple folks' thoughts. But, there's the "good/right" way to do everything I suppose...

Unknown said...

I think it's fine to use as many points of view as you need to tell the best story you can AS LONG AS EACH POV HAS A DISTINCT VOICE! I am reading a YA novel now that has 3 POV and each voice is so similar that I keep having to flip back to the start of the chapter to see who's doing the talking. Definitely takes away from the story.

In my own query I didn't mention that there is a second POV. I just stuck to the main character.

Colin Smith said...

What Jenny said--make sure each POV voice is distinct. If each chapter is a different character POV, but they all sound the same, not only is the reader confused, but the reader is also taken out of the story. At least I am. No longer am I hearing Joe and Fred, I'm hearing Author using Joe and Fred as mouthpieces for Author's words, when Author should be convincing me that Joe and Fred are real people, and the words are their own, with their own distinct style and cadence. Done well, it's a joy to read. Done badly (as I think it was with a relatively recent bestselling YA novel), it can be very disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Like Craig, this is a bad time of year for me and I am not fit to be around humans, so I should go into hibernation. This hits pretty close to home.

I have five POV characters in FAR RIDER. The MC is in first and the others are close third. I have the story coming in from five different angles and that's the only way it could happen. I tried omniscient to begin with and it was a disaster.

Then I went all third, but for whatever reason I was distant on my MC. One of my crit parters suggested I try writing her in first and then switch it back to third after I got her internals right. I switched the manuscript to her in first. The ever patient partners read again.

Umm, I don't think you should switch it back. I think you ought to leave it just like it is.

I posted some bits on Books and Writers. Commenters were astounded at the difference the change of pov made and agreed I should leave it alone. It took me writing the MC in first to really get in her skin.

I've never particularly cared for first, but in the Civil War WIP I have two MCs. The female plantation owner/boarding school operator, and confederate spy is in first. The CSA colonel and her unofficial fiance is in third. I didn't plan it that way, but I started writing and realized I'd switched to writing her in first and just left it because she was so vivid.

In a twitter pitch contest a while back a young man was asking how to send an agent a partial.

I said what did the agent request?

Three chapters.

Then send three chapters.

I don't have chapters.

You don't have chapters?


I don't have chapters and paragraphs.

What possessed you to write a YA book with no paragraphs and chapters?

I wanted to be different. And we studied ABC in lit class who wrote a book like that and they won an award.

Don't know what to tell you. Being different doesn't always mean being good. Send 30 pages I guess.

Somewhere in my mind I see a writer dancing around in a studio singing "I'm a little snowflake, short and proud."

I don't think I'm a special little snowflake who can break all the rules, but this is what seems to work for my stories.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer -

I hear your argument, but can't the same be said for George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series? When reading his fourth book (which he separated narratives from whom I felt were his most uninteresting characters for the duration of the book) I basically just wanted it to be over... until I was captured by the story...

Interestingly enough, he's got a third person perspective in his book that feels at times very omnicient and shifts from place to place and from head to head, but I wouldn't really call it a multiple POV novel. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel despite his chapters always being titled after a character name, he seems to use the name thematically and still talks through all the characters at any given moment.

I'd consider this book (which in my mind is not multi POV)as suffering from the same consequences as you describe in multi POV books.

Anyone agree? Disagree?

Anonymous said...

Julie -

I think agents are going to have a gut reaction to whatever we do and call attention to doing that is out of the norm. I think the trick is ensuring they don't notice by doing it so well.

Such is usually the case with badly written present tense novels. The moment I notice it's in present tense is usually the moment I realize I don't like the writing.

I don't think being dishonest about it is helpful, but personally in my queries I didn't mention my shifting POV and still recieved a fair amount of consideration (partials and fulls).

And so far not one of them have stated the reason for the pass was point of view.

To me - point of view is only relevant when it's done poorly. That's when it becomes a topic of conversation.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: I'm trying to imagine what kind of story I'd write that would dispense of chapters AND paragraphs... and I got nothing. Unless perhaps some kind of long-form poetic work (e.g. Beowulf?). As has been said so many times here, being different is not a reason to do something different. You do something different because it works best for the story, and done any other way, the story doesn't work as well. No other reason.

Terry Pratchett didn't use chapters, saying "Life doesn't happen in chapters." But he used paragraphs and section breaks, I suppose because life does allow you to stop, breathe, and reflect once in a while. :)

Anonymous said...


Ha, I was just coming back to delete the comment before anyone saw it. You're like a meerkat scout and don't miss anything.

The key to anything is doing it well.

As with you, I've gotten a decent amount of interest. None of the passes have mentioned POV, though that may have been part of it, who knows? I try not to read anything into non-specific rejections. It's like asking a horse trader what his favorite color of horse is. His favorite color is the one that makes him money. They tend not to like grays in case anyone is interested.

Anonymous said...


The young man in question didn't use breaks of any sort, not even paragraphs. It was an artistic statement.

I tried to explain to him how tiring that would be to read and for YA especially.

"I know what I want to write!"

All righty then. Go put your name up in lights, snowflake.

Anonymous said...

Julie - Haha, I love it.

-Captain Meerkat (sc)out.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: And I can't believe I said "dispense of..." I meant "dispense with" of course. I can speak English. Really! :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

brianrschwarz: somebody, be it Martin or his publisher, made a mistake (I feel) when it came to the character split/spread in A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons. The timeline got all kooky as a result, and made both novels the weaker for it. Mr. Martin also, I feel (using my "I statements" here), would have done well with editing or something, because one of the POV characters spends quite a lot of A Dance With Dragons doing NOTHIIIIIIIING and being super bored....which makes the reader also feel frustrated and bored. Okay as a plot device for perhaps one chapter? But not the whole novel. Very disappointing.

Also, on the topic of dogs and baths....well, I'm lucky that Miss Elka doesn't require much bathing (go go short haired single coat breeds!) because Miss Elka severely does not care for being bathed. She doesn't like the rain either, and gives me Abused Doberman Face when I instruct her to potty in it (but will she listen to reason when she says "out" and I say "It's raining, you won't go." ? Of course not). IF there's a puddle, though, or the creek, or sometimes the ocean, well Elka loves approaching water on her own terms: Elka and her puddle round 2, now with more splashing!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am Carolynn and I like to write in first person. My novel sits on a shelf as a book of forgotten dreams and unrealistic hopes.

Carolynn, if you write your novel in first person, it will sit on a shelf as a book of forgotten dreams and unrealistic hopes.

Carolynn wrote her book in first person and it now sits on a shelf as a book of forgotten dreams and unrealistic hopes.

Who the hell is Carolynn?

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: How does Carolynn feel about her book of forgotten dreams and unrealistic hopes sitting on a shelf? In each person. :)

Ashley said...

I am reading City on Fire, too! I've just made it to page 600 or so, taking it slowly.

Anonymous said...

We were getting ready to go to a dog show once and Don, my ex, decided to help me get the dogs bathed. We put laundry bluing in the rinse water to make their white trim whiter, just as you put it in laundry to make your whites whiter. Unfortunately, Don put too much bluing in the rinse water and my red merle dogs looked blue merle. So, when we got to the show there was a battle with the judges to get them in the classes as they didn't match their descriptions on their papers.

Fortunately, some other people were familiar with the dogs and vouched for them. Some other people produced pictures they had taken at other shows. We got to show our blue red merle dogs.

Gage the Wonder Dog enjoys his baths and being groomed. He adores the attention, in fact. I'll take him in again to get prettified as soon as Will the Wonder Son heals up enough from knee surgery to help take pictures for the children's book.

Christina Seine said...

Good morning, everyone! Woohoo, I slept for 10 straight hours last night. I am nearly human again. =D

Thank you everyone SO much for your kind thoughts and prayers! The fire has grown by about 2,000 acres overnight, so now it's at 8.5k and still 0% contained, but the evacuation line hasn't grown in our direction. I'm told that could change if winds pick up again, though, so we're just staying packed and ready to go at a moment's notice (or if the smoke gets too bad again). I’m worried about my poor bees – there isn’t room in our truck for 80,000 unhappy buzzers, so hopefully they can figure out where to go on their own if need be. The good news is that hotshot crews just arrived from the Lower 48 (and girls, there's a reason they call them "hotshot" crews, lol) but the bad news is that there's another fire out of control on the Kenai Peninsula a few hundred miles to the south, and it is also endangering residential areas, so now the firefighting resources are split.

Alaskans are funny people. Most of the time we are violently anti-social and fiercely independent. However, when the need arises, total strangers will risk everything to help each other. They'll give everything they have. They’ll bring four people and ten dogs into a cabin that’s built for two and somehow make it work. They’ll go into a smoke-filled house to find a cat hiding under a bed. People barely scraping by on less money than food stamps would pay are bringing food and cold drinks to firefighters. It's pretty amazing to watch. =)

On the actual topic, I'm relieved to hear that multiple (omniscient) characters are a good thing, because that's what my book has . I've heard that 1st person POV is most heavily used in YA, but of course that's not any kind of rule. I've written a few short stories in 1st person, but mostly I'm a 3rd person fan myself.

Anonymous said...


Thoughts and prayers are with you. My dad was a fire spotter up into his 80's in western Montana. One of the hotshot crews dug in and covered up because they were trapped. The fire roared over them so fast they survived, but that doesn't happen very often. It's usually a tragic disaster if a crew gets trapped.

I was in Montana during one of the big fires. It was gut wrenching watching the flames eating the mountains.

Many prayers for you.


Stacy said...

Thoughts are with you, Christina. Keeping my fingers crossed the hotshot firefighters can do their hotshot thing and contain the carnage.

LynnRodz said...

Craig, don't worry about it. I do it all the time regardless of the season, or for any particular reason, but that's just me.

My WIP is third-person closed and has multiple PsOV. I have two protagonist (one male, one female) and an antagonist (a male). I'm curious, Janet, how many PsOV is too many for you? I mean a number where you would say this is too many.

Christina, praying that you and your family (and everyone else) will be safe.

Casey Karp said...

OK, so I've got three MCs that I follow for various lengths of time, but the whole book is in 3rd/omniscient.

If I don't say anything, is the default assumption that it's 3rd? Or are agents going to assume it's multiple POV, hurl the e-mail violently across the room, and file restraining orders to keep me from ever submitting again?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I've moved on.
Move on Carolynn.
Carolynn moved on.

Christina, all the best, stay alert.

Craig, F it all and hang on baby. If anybody can understand this band of yahoos will.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: The first sounds resolute, the second a command, and the third a description. A good example of how one idea expressed in three words can be taken differently depending on the POV. :)

Christina: Continuing to pray for you, yours, and the firefighters.

Anonymous said...

Christina: Still sending out the good thoughts and prayers. Take care of your own. There was some good advice for you in yesterday's comments, near the end, if you haven't seen it yet.

Anonymous said...

I've never really cared for first person points of view. I find a good, close third person is even closer than many first person POVs. First person POV does not guarantee closeness.

I can't say I never write in first person, though. I have one group of stories in first person, and I still don't know why I did that. But the stories work.

I don't know about multiple first person POVs, but having multiple third person POVs is not a new thing. I think the single third person point of view came into vogue possibly in the 80s? 90s? I'm afraid I wasn't paying attention. But earlier novels often had multiple third person points of view. The trick is finding the right answer for your novel.

The only reason I could see for mentioning multiple points of view in a query would be if that is a defining technique for the work. That is, the work is written to compare two different points of view. But the danger there is that definition might restrict the novel in such a way that it might feel unnatural. You have to be very careful when doing this, to make sure this device is the best fit for the story. And that's what it is - a device.

The trick with any literary device is to make it invisible. You don't want the reader thinking: 'Oh, this is cool. The author is going from one side of the story to the other.' Or, 'I see what the author is doing. They want me to see this character more closely by putting him in first person point of view, while the others are in third.' Or, 'Interesting. No paragraphs or chapters.'

You want the reader to read the story as though it is a story. You want the reader immersed in the story; you don't want them noticing your techniques or devices.

As an author, you want to be the magician's helper (the narrator would be the magician). That is, you do all the fun stuff behind the scenes, that the audience will think the magician is doing. You make it all work while the magician makes the audience see magic. You never see the pullies and trap doors. You only see what appears and disappears. Once you show the devices, you remove the magic.

And this is why I would never mention a device in a query letter. Because a device is not magical. Showing the device removes the magic.

(There are exceptions, of course. There are always exceptions. But the exceptions have to add to the magic, not take away from it.)

One person in a group I'm in has been writing a lengthy story. He's a great writer, and the story is gripping, but he keeps adding new points of view as he goes along. There are a couple rules to multiple POVs: 1. choose the important ones, then introduce them early in the story, and 2. always make sure the reader knows whose head they're in and where they are after every switch.

I suppose those rules can be broken at times, but like with any rule, you have to know what you're doing in order to break the rules in a way that won't detract from the reading experience.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for all the posts. Every time I was ready to post something, you guys had already added a bunch more to respond to!


"To me - point of view is only relevant when it's done poorly. That's when it becomes a topic of conversation."



Terry Pratchett also wrote a lot in omniscient point of view. But his narrator was perfect. Always right on the button. And he had perfected the 'move in to third point of view when necessary, move out to omniscient when needed' process.

LynnRodz: I think 'too many' points of view can only be seen when the reader realizes that there's too many. Otherwise, no one will notice.

Casey: Don't mention anything about points of view. Don't give the agent any assumptions to work past. Just let the story tell itself. And in the query letter, just say what the book is about - don't say whose POV any part or parts of it is. And my advice would be to focus on one or two characters in your query. You can mention the others in response to the one or two you start with.

And then put your query past the Query Shark. Because any situation is different, and Ms. Shark can help you past anything tricky.

Sam Hawke said...

Julie, I was glad to read that. I had a WIP in which the MC really wanted to be first person, even though I never wrote in first person. About 20K in, I panicked because I realised there was no way I could tell the story without using the POV of a different character for at least part of it, but I didn't want to write her in first. Which meant I would be left with a 1st/3rd split and that seemed odd (I could think of barely any books that used it). So I changed MC to 3rd... and totally killed the story. It just didn't work. I don't even really understand why, but it absolutely sucked the life out. I shelved the book for 6 years before picking it up again, realising that it was fine until I tried to force a POV that didn't suit, and going back to 1st.

Then came querying, when I got to go back to my panic attacks about no agents wanting to read it, no fantasy novels really using that sort of split, etc etc. Just like with word count (just shy of 160K - no-one will even read a debut that long, you'll get rejected immediately, etc etc), there's so much on the net about things that agents/publishers don't like, I wasted a good amount of time second, third and tenth guessing myself and putting off getting it out there. As I've said before though - eventually you've got to back yourself and your choices and the book you've written.

There's probably plenty of agents or publishers who do immediately put a query down for a long word count, or a partial down once they hit the second POV. But I had a good request rate with mine despite those hurdles, so it's definitely not a huge portion of them. And now I'm in the previously unimagined position of having to choose between agents (does small happy-but-also-incredibly-anxious dance).

I guess what I'm saying is that you're obviously a great writer and you've made decisions for Far Rider which work for that story. Trust yourself, back yourself. The things that make it different from the norm really probably aren't things that are going to stop it succeeding. I would bet good money I'll be picking FR off a shelf in the not too distant future.

Adele said...

Ever since digital printing made it easy we've seen word-based advertising where the font size or typeface changes all over the place. Maybe each word is a different style from the last. Maybe the lines go in odd directions and sometimes vital information is printed around the edge of an advertisement, like a picture frame.

It annoys me to have to work so hard to find out when and where they're having their darned show/concert/jumble sale, and it turns me off to the point where I won't go.

Multiple POVs are a little like changing the font size or making the line turn a corner. Every once in a while, fine. Clearly delineated, fine. But if it winds up being a mish-mash it could easily start getting in the way of itself.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Sam! How exciting!!

Looking forward to reading your bookwhen it hits the shelves!!

Anonymous said...


I've had several people make remarks about the mixed POVs and the number of POVs as well as word count. I'm trimming words now that really do make it a lot tighter, but in reading I've noticed a lot of places where I cut description that added a lot to the story and it seems very bare to me now. People reading it with fresh eyes might not notice it, but I do. It's like walking into a room after the movers have been there.

Someone else might be able to write their story just as close in third or omniscient, but sometimes you just know what is right.

Congratulations on having the ultimate choice.

I don't know what the future holds for FR. I'm finishing up this round of revisions and querying more, but I'm not changing the story. It finds a home or it doesn't. I'm moving on to the historical.

Nothing has been lost if it never finds a home. It's taught me more about writing than any course I might have taken and I'm profoundly grateful to my quirky fantasy for that.

"The education of a man is never complete until the day he dies."--Robert E. Lee

If Hemingway believed, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” then I certainly should be striving to learn each day. And yet, he also advised F. Scott Fitzgerald not to whore his writing to make it more salable. "I said that I did not believe anyone could write any way except the very best he could write without destroying his talent."

We need to be able to discern where the desire to improve stops and the whoring starts. There's a bit too much of the blind dog chasing the meat wagon going on at times.

LynnRodz said...

BJ, I wasn't referring to reading a novel, I was referring to Janet's comment, "And if they tell me it's seventeen PsOV, I can just say no to the query and save us all some time." I know, I know, she took that number out of the air, but I'm curious to know if someone told her, "My ms has 5 (or 6 or 7...) PsOv." what number would be too many for her, that she would just say no to the query.

Sam, congrats! A happy dance indeed!

Donnaeve said...

Christina, just wanted to say it sounds like a wonderful community, and that my husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed that show, The Last Alaskans. Unbelievable skill sets for survival. My hat is off to all of you, and I hope the FIRE STAYS AWAY.

Be safe.

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Sam!

LynnRodz: I know that's what you meant. I'm just saying the number of POVs is really an arbitrary number. You might have 17, and that might be just the right amount for that novel. Or you might have 5, and that might be just the right amount. The agent might make a judgment based on the number, but the true test is in the reading. If you have the right number, no one will notice how many there are.

(And that's probably why Janet chose a number so high, because it would be very rare to have that many, so she chose a very high number so as not to make a decision on 5 or 6.)

I had to choose salads. And there was no example! How am I supposed to know what a salad looks like without an example?

AJ Blythe said...

Colin, thanks for explaining. I haven't read many 3rd omni pov books. Most I read are 1st (and only 1 pov) or 3rd (and anything from 1 to 3 povs).

Sam, what a fabulous position to be in. Good luck on making a decision and congratulations!

AJ Blythe said...

You're right, I didn't have to prove I'm not a robot!

Anonymous said...

Regarding ReCaptcha:

I only access Janet's blog on my desktop computer. But I also don't allow websites to track me. (Firefox has an option you can choose. There are also websites that tell you what sites are tracking you, so you can tell them to stop.)

I do find that, the more often you comment, the more likely you are to get challenges. Especially commenting several times in one day. Not that I'm extremely chatty or anything...

I've, at times, forgotten to click on the I'm not a robot, and I *always* get a message saying (to the effect of): Dude. You forgot to prove you're not a robot. I ain't putting your comment on here 'til you run through all the hoops I throw at ya.

But maybe that's because I'm not logging in as my Blogger account? I use my WordPress account, instead. I notice that the folks saying they don't have to prove they're not a robot all have big orange Bs beside their names.

Anonymous said...

As a reader, I don't usually mind what POV books are written in. The only one I didn't like reading (until a few years ago) was first person present. Now I don't mind it, but I used to hate it. I do read a lot less of multiple POV stuff now- mostly because I don't read a lot of high fantasy, and I find that high fantasy is the genre that most often uses multiple POV (like 15 POVs). Two or three POVs and my mind doesn't even register it as multiple POV.
As a writer, I tend to write in first person and third person tight. I do have a few that are third omniscient, or straight out omniscient, but I rarely do a multiple POV. I think I have one book that uses multiple POVs, and that consists of two POVs.

Julie W- There are a lot of quality writers out there who write without chapter breaks, a few new ones as well as the aforementioned Sir Terry. They seem to do it as a stylistic choice, and I personally think it works out beautifully. I've never been stopped from reading a book because it's not written in chapters- even a YA book. In fact, some of the better ones I've read are chapterless stream-of-consciousness type things, so doing something different is a good thing, I think.


I'm snortlaughing over my tea.
W.R. did you really just snort tea up your nose?
W.R. read Carolynn's comment and snorted tea out her nose.

Christina- I live in Australia, where bushfires happen often and devastatingly. I know how nerve-wracking it can be just waiting to see whether you need to evacuate or not. I'll be praying for you and yours, and I hope they get that fire-line contained some time soon

Anonymous said...

Oooh, oooh, I tell a lie! I have a time-travel novel that is made up of smaller, interconnected short stories that are told from four different points of view (two main ones, the others only occasionally).

How did I forget that??

So I have TWO books where I use multiple POV :D

DLM said...

I actually think Captain Meerkat Scout missed something I said about him earlier on today ... ;) Do love this, though: "To me - point of view is only relevant when it's done poorly."

2Ns - should we call you 3POVs now?? Also, we should start a band called Band of Yahoos. Love it. (I may have to ditch calling this communitiy "Reiders" on my blog and go with that!)

Christina, thank heavens for sleep - amazing what it can do. Still hoping for the best for you and yours.

There was someone I read earlier today that I wanted to quote and agree with, and now I cannot find it. The perils of the wee and paltry brain. Le sigh.

Anonymous said...


Pratchett does have paragraph and section breaks, though. I think not having any kind of break and a solid wall of text is going to be a bit daunting to read. It would be for me.


Anonymous said...

Sam, that's awesome news! Congratulations and good luck!

You know, you do what the story requires. Sometimes you don't know what it requires until you try a bunch of different things. Other times, it just feels right from the start and there's no point in changing it.

But I've heard (can't remember who said it) (I know, I should pay closer attention) that it's a common "rookie" mistake to duplicate things, where you repeat things like dialog and scenes and even characters. It's often possible to combine and cut down on characters if it seems like they're running amok. Seventeen POVs sounds like a good bit of amok, to me. [I've never seen that written as "PsOV." Interesting.]

When trying to determine whether a character needs a POV, ask yourself whether it's needed for the entire story or just to impart some crucial information in a scene or two. If that's the case, there are other ways to do it through action or dialog with another POV character. You don't want to end up with a bunch of "sittin-n-thinkin" scenes just so we know what's in someone's thoughts. Make them talk. Not sure how to let the reader know a character is devious or a liar? Have them say one thing to one person and something else to another. You don't "have to" be in their head for that.

There's also a danger in giving a character a POV: once the reader is in their head, they're privy to everything the character knows. I debated giving a POV to a character in the thriller I'm (sort of) writing and finally decided this man knew too much. I didn't want the reader in his head. I wanted him to make wry comments and hold things back and mislead other characters and make the reader wonder about his role in... all sorts of things.

Christina, continued good thoughts being sent your way. My ancestors who settled in northern MN/ND were very much of the same mindset. There's an acute and often hard-won understanding when you live in a harsh place, that banding together at times is the only hope you have of surviving. You learn to give and receive in equal measure. It's not an option, it's a responsibility.

To all of you going through a tough time right now, may this time be easier.

Katie Loves Coffee said...

This is a great thread - love to see how everyone takes a slightly different approach.

As for my $0.02... My first book (WIP, taking a break from it right now) is 3rd person POV and now I'm working on a new one in 1st person POV. I'm finding forcing myself to write in 1st person is making me think much harder about my writing, particularly because it is easier for me to write in 3rd person POV.

Bad news - I started by writing dual 1st person POV and realized it wasn't adding to the story. It's not to say it can't, but for what I was doing, it wasn't working. I'm now re-writing half the book because it is a much better fit for the story.

Good news - I'm so much more inside the head of both of my main characters that it is making the writing from a single POV dramatically better. I don't consider the time I spent writing the first version a waste of time and plan on using this exercise for difficult 3rd person POV scenes going forward.

Anonymous said...


I miss nothing. I am Captain Meerkat Scout. ;)

Thank you for the compliment. I take it as very high praise as I value your writing a great deal! :)

When I was ten, my mother told me I had to stop crying when the neighbor kid punched me. I grew up with three older sisters and that's what they did, so why shouldn't I? Anyways, my mother did the reasonable thing - she gave me the choice of playing hockey or football. I played hockey for ten years and loved it, and I learned when a boy punches you, you punch them back - preferably in the face (as long as they're wearing a helmet). My softer side still came around in college and during the touring years, but needless to say I still struggle to figure out exactly how to respond in public to compliments. ;)

I suppose a thank you would have sufficed (despite it's wholly lacking and underwhelming representation of my true emotions on the subject).

Thank you much.

Captain Meerkat (sc)Out!

Unknown said...

Inkstainedwench, I'm not totally sure but I think only Child's first Reacher book, The Killing Floor, was written in first, all the rest in third.

Christina Seine said...

Hi guys,

Thank you all SO much for the continued prayers and good wishes! I wanted to report that we were all crashed in the living room, dog tired and listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing "Summertime," when suddenly the wind picked up like crazy and the whole place turned dark. Before we could all sit up and say, "Whoa!" a storm rolled in and started thundering and lightning-ing, and now - in spite of a forecast that had called for ZERO precipitation this week - it is pouring down rain! THANK GOD! And now I'm off to find some kleenex, because ... my eyes are leaking. I've never been so happy to see rain in my life! =)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Christina, I was thinking when I went to bed, what if it rained. I'm happy for you and all of Alaska.

Sam, congrats!

Sam Hawke said...

Christina, that's wonderful news, I'm so glad. We got hit by bushfires in our city 10 years ago(ish) and I can still vividly remember how scary it was.

And thanks everyone for the kind wishes! Take it as a sign of encouragement that you can go very swiftly from what feels like the query wastelands to suddenly having to decide between amazing people.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Thank GOD it rained because I was exhausted from doing my rain dances.
How wonderful for you and beautiful Alaska.
Prayers do come true.
You can unpack now.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh, my previous comment was for Christina.
And Sam, congrats. You are on your way :)

Anonymous said...

So glad to hear that, Christina! I hope you and yours continue safe :)

Julie- Yes indeed. I'd find a complete block of text very daunting, too. I love the sections breaks and paragraph breaks that Sir Terry uses. I don't think I've ever read a chapterless book without those two kinds of breaks. I don't think I would. Even the stream of consciousness books I've read don't do that!
But I'd definitely still say don't be afraid of being chapterless, so long as you still have some kind of break involved, in some kind of way.

Anonymous said...


I cried when I read this and said a prayer. I'm not sure if the rain was enough to put out any fires or not, but I hope so.


Stacy said...

Glad to hear about the rain. Stay safe, Christina!

Patricia Harvey said...

Beth said...
"This is interesting. I always write third person POV. As a reader, I honestly don't care what POV the writer is using, as long as it's effective. I have noticed a trend recently toward multiple POV novels. Some work very well. Some don't. Increasingly, if I'm on the fence about wanting to read something, if I learn that it's told from multiple PsOV, I pass."

Agreed! I hate to be well into a novel and suddenly face a new POV - especially if I have not been forewarned. To me, it's a betrayal - a bait-and-switch of the worst kind - when I've already bonded with the MC (and his/her story goal), and the author whips out a fresh POV starting in chapter 3 or 5 or later. I feel like heaving the book through a window. If the writing is excellent, I will finish. But I vow to beware of that particular author's duplicitous pen in the future. To my way of thinking, the writer who suddenly thrusts a new POV on the reader mid-story must have run out of creative juices and felt compelled resort to another character's POV to tell the story. (But isn't that what the writer's craft is supposed to be about?)

I'm not talking about a well-devised book with multiple PsOV. R.J Palacio's MG novel, Wonder, is one that I almost trashed. I don't know what the author had in mind when she started writing, but as a MG writer myself,the book infuriated me. It can be bloody hard to stay in POV. That's the challenge.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@Jenny C - Great point re numerous character POV's.

@Ashely - 600 pages! Crikey!

@Sam - Congrats! Envious

@Christine - Stay safe