Q: Can you tell me if editors (and even reviewers) specifically check or look out for consistency of viewpoint in a novel? I have been reading about being consistent with time and with how close you focus with one or many characters, and it seems a little confusing. Is this something I should take a class in? I was just wondering if many published authors keep these things in mind when writing a story.
A: Editors come in many forms. Some simply handle acquisitions for a publisher and do not edit at all, much less comment on viewpoint. Some editors edit for grammar, punctuation, and syntax and do not pay attention to viewpoint. Only an editor or book doctor who also analyzes the content will pay attention to, point out, or correct viewpoint flaws, which certainly should be addressed, because publishers want clear, consistent, and logical viewpoints in novels.
Viewpoint (also called point of view or POV) is a tricky matter. It refers to which character perceives that particular scene—in whose point of view the action takes place.
Consistency is important in that the point of view should be only one per scene (that is, never get into the head of more than one character per scene). You can get into another character’s point of view by starting a new scene.
Your best bet is to use only main characters as point-of-view characters, and the best novels have no more than three main characters. How the time per character is divvied up, though, does not matter. The choice is up to the author.
I think it’s easier to find a book on point of view than find a class that specifically addresses that issue, but no matter how you choose to educate yourself, if you want to write novels, you do need to know about point of view and how and when to use it to its best advantage.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com
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