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So You Think You Know Point of View (POV) Part 2

Co-written by Katina Bertrand Ferguson

Edited by DeShawn

Every novel has an angle, or a perspective, from which a story is told. We call this perspective a point of view or POV, for short. Old news to you; I know. In part 1 of this article, we looked at the importance of choosing the POV from which to tell a story, and how the genre of a story could influence this choice. 

Now we’re going to tackle a few of the questions left unanswered in part 1, like, why most writers won’t touch the second-person POV and what techniques writers can use to switch between multiple POVs in a novel. 

Let’s get into it.


The obvious answer is that second-person POV is incredibly difficult to pull off. This difficulty isn’t only in trying to execute the technique itself, but also extends to getting readers to identify as the main character and empathize with their struggles. It is much too easy to boot your reader out of the story by using “you” to describe an action they would never do or feelings they would never have.

You cringe every time you see a video of fluffy kittens playing with a ball of yarn. The sight of their enormous eyes that twinkle like rare jewels, and their soft, puffy fur that could pass for a miniature collection of clouds, makes you hate the entire world. You just want to take one of those frail, vulnerable creations and toss it over a cliff. 

Please tell me you were thinking, I would never do that!

For writers who have their finger on the pulse of their target audience, the results of a well-written POV piece can be phenomenal. Think of the song Thriller by Michael Jackson, written by Rod Temperton. There are very few parts of that song to which people can’t relate, which is why the song was a hit.


While there are rumors floating around that publishers rarely choose books written in second-person POV, the truth is, if a story works, it works. A publisher won’t shy away from a well-written book, no matter what the POV. But if we take into account how easy it is to lose a reader on this POV path, we also have to consider that, sometimes, that reader is an agent, an editor, or an intern working through the slush pile of submissions. Losing them means losing your chance to move forward with the publisher.

The same applies to stories and novels in which the author switches from one POV to another. There are ways to make it work and really bring your story to life.


Storylines can get complicated and writers might have to switch to the perspectives of other characters to cover more ground in the story and give sharper insight into what is going on. Head-hopping is the term used when an author switches—without warning—to a different character’s POV within a chapter, a scene, or even in the middle of a paragraph! Not only is it jarring for the reader—who has to adjust to the new POV—but it’s a sign to editors, agents, and potential publishers that the author may be new to the craft.

Here’s an example:

Mickey knew that forgetting Minnie’s birthday was unforgivable, so he approached her cautiously, ready to make excuses. But Minnie didn’t care. She loved Mickey, no matter how forgetful he was, and her birthday wasn’t a big deal anyway.

As the author, it’s important for you to know what every character is thinking because their thoughts and feelings inform their actions. But having the reader experience the story from everyone’s perspective at once decentralizes their focal point. For instance, in the scene above, who is the main character? Is the reader supposed to experience this scene as Mickey or Minnie?

Once you’ve established your main POV, there are ways to communicate the thoughts and feelings of other characters without having to switch perspectives. For instance, consider having your characters convey their thoughts through dialog:

Mickey knew that forgetting Minnie’s birthday was unforgivable, so he approached her cautiously, ready to make excuses. 


“I’m sorry about forgetting your birthday, Minnie.”

To his surprise, Minnie smiled. “That’s OK, Mickey. I know how forgetful you are, and birthdays aren’t a big deal for me anyway.”


Note that the second example conveys the same information about Minnie’s feelings without leaving Mickey’s perspective. 

You could also increase the tension by showing Mickey’s discomfort in greater detail, perhaps having him imagine Minnie’s reaction before talking to her. Obviously, you could also choose to write this scene from Minnie’s POV instead of Mickey’s.


Whenever possible, try to use chapter breaks to change POV. Sometimes your characters are thrown together and you want to show how they both react to the same situation. Pulling this off is tricky, but it’s doable. Here are a few strategies:


This is the very least you should do. Be sure to identify your new POV as soon as possible, preferably in the first sentence of the new section. However, be aware that many agents/editors believe this to be another sign of a rookie writer.


This should be fairly intuitive. You can use *** or ### (or make up your own visual symbol) to show that the current section of the chapter is over, and a new one is beginning. As with the paragraph break, be sure to identify your new POV as soon as possible.


This is a sophisticated technique. In it, you use an object, place, or something external to the first POV character that you can pick up with the new POV character.

Daisy considered whether she should enter the pool gradually or dive right in. Looking to the far end of the pool, she noticed Donald pulling out his webbed foot.


That water is cold! Donald thought, shaking his foot. He wondered if he should warn Daisy about it but decided not to.

You can see that the pool and Donald’s foot are the “batons” in this transition. Though this technique is fine to use, be careful about over-using it. Though it’s technically not head-hopping, it can become distracting to your readers if they are constantly shifting among characters.


This can be a stand-alone way to transition to another POV, or used with the other technique described above. 

In this method, you move from one character’s POV by showing his/her thoughts or feelings, then describe something that character is seeing or doing. When you move to the new paragraph, reverse that order, showing the new character in a setting, then moving to his/her thoughts.


If your characters are important enough to have their own POV narratives, strive to introduce them to your readers through their own chapters. This isn’t a hard and fast rule—for example, you might have several characters who are traveling on the same airplane at the beginning of your story, and you need to show them all together.  

Regardless of the techniques applied to the narrative, always ask yourself, “Will my readers know when I’ve changed POVs?” 

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste NG is an excellent example of these techniques put into action. 


As writers, we don’t have the same luxuries as movies and TV, where perspectives can shift and viewers know whose version of the story they’re getting. Providing readers with enough context to follow the narrative is critical.

Curt Shannon

Hi! My name is Curt and I write stuff! By "stuff," I mean screenplays, action thriller novels, and short stories. I'm a longtime member of Atlanta Writes, a D&D dungeon master, and the local tough guy who goes by the nickname Punisher. Okay... I made up that last one. Couldn't find a third thing to complete the set. Go big or go home, right? If you enjoyed this article, let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

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