POV stands for Point of View. When writers refer to POV, they refer to the point of view through which the story is told. The Harry Potter books are told almost exclusively though Harry’s point of view. We are inside his head; seeing what he sees; hearing what he hears; and getting his thoughts as he thinks them. We do not switch mid-paragraph to what Ron thinks about something, or hears, or feels – we, the readers, only know the story as it happens through Harry Potter’s eyes. He is the POV character.

POV is a critical building block for a story. Some might say it’s the foundation. It is certainly important. The POV character flavors the story with their personality, ideas, and beliefs. What if the Harry Potter books were told through Hermione’s point of view? The series would’ve had a different tone. Whereas Harry, orphaned by Voldemort and forced to live among muggles, ventures through the magical world with that hanging over his head, Hermione lived a comfortable life and one day discovered she was witch. She, unlike Harry, is a bookworm, highly well read, and had different worries than either Ron or Harry. Instead of it being a coming-of-age story for a young man, it would have been a young woman.

Your POV character is the medium through which the readers will experience the story. It will be that character most people latch onto and care about; it is usually the main character to which the problem of the story is occurring. (Sherlock Holmes was told through Dr. Watson, not Holmes.)

Sometimes, a scene that I am writing doesn’t feel it. I lacks an edge. One exercise I like is to switch the POV character. What insight can this character add that the other couldn’t?

How many POV character are appropriate? If you’re a beginning writer: one. Too many beginning writers want to write a story through multiple POVs and the story lacks cohesion and consistency. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. It has, and will continue to be done, such as in The Cuckoo’s Calling. We are given two characters through switch the story is told, the main character, Strike, and his assistant, Robin. But, the author is more experienced in writing and knew what he was doing.

In the first draft of Devil’s Blood that I considered finished, I had five POV characters. Each character had their own introduction chapter, their own problem, and their own way of solving it. I bit off more than I could chew. The result was 40 thousand words of first chapters. I picked one character, Malone, and the story became hers, not everyone’s.

I advise all beginning writers to do the same. Find your main character and stick with them. Tell their story, not “the” story.

When you’re in doubt about whose POV to use, ask yourself, “Whose story is it?”

The Harry Potter books tell the story of Harry Potter. It’s not the story of Hogwarts or of all the students; it is Harry’s story. It revolves around him and his decisions and his actions. The Hunger Games is Katniss’s story; it revolves are her and what’s happening to her and how she reacts. Devil’s Blood is Malone’s story. It revolves around her.

Who does your story revolve around? Whose story is it? Who’s actions/inactions are driving the story forward?

If it’s not your POV character, maybe you should reconsider the POV.

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