Saturday, June 07, 2008

I'm Totally P.O.(v)'d

Photo courtesy of Stock Exchange

**Warning: Today's Favorite Line contains adult content**

That's right, I said it out loud...I'm PO'd about POV. (That's Point of View for the uninitiated, or the viewpoint from which a story is told.)

When I was new to fiction, there was plenty said about POV do's and dont's. The rules were simple: stick to one or two unless you're Stephen King, which you ain't (nyah nyah). Don't get POV's mixed up, don't change them like underwear, and don't use second person...because it's apparently just too freakin' weird.

Simple, however, is not always easy. Once I abandoned my single-POV short fiction for romance, I automatically sought the his & hers approach...then found myself plagued with guilt whenever I left the other character alone too long, as though they'd feel slighted and misbehave when it finally came around to their turn. Admittedly, I was also quite curious to know what the other one was up to, so I simply HAD to check in and see what I'd "missed." Tennis-match style head-hopping followed, probably enough to get me sued for whiplash. Fortunately, time, patience, and a good lashing from one of my editors allowed me to retire my tennis racket and delay POV changes, fermenting anticipation like fine wine.

Since then I've written over half a dozen romantic tales, and by now one would assume I'm quite secure in handling perspective. So I was...until Kata Sutra, my new WIP this week. In this latest red-hot, I envisioned a triangle or menage scenario and was wondering how to handle the POV. The main M/F had stories to tell that required two POVs, but I hardly wanted to toss in a whole other tamale just for the sex. To fix this awkward third wheel issue I went to the Big Authority, Google, to scare up some other erotic writers and their thoughts on the subject.

Just my luck to discover that apparently, his/her POV ain't where it's at. According to several sources, big pubbers like Harlequin (and supposedly, readers) are most interested in single female POV.

Doth mine eyes deceive me? No heroes unless they are within their intended's eye line? Sacrilege! Of course, I never write hero POV just to "see what he thinks about the romance." They have subplot demons of their own that must be sorted out by the end. But should they? My research this week was enough to give me pause, especially about my more erotic work. Should I go feminist and dump male POV? This would solve my immediate dilemma with Kata Sutra, but then huky martial arts instructor Evan Dakota won't have his issues aired in public. Drat the luck.

So now I turn to YOU, dear Readers-o-the-Blog, for insight on the mysteries of red-hot POV. What do you prefer in your spicy reads? Solid immersion within the feminine POV throughout, leaving all of the inner workings of the hero shrouded in mystery until she peels back the layers? Or a tale where the man has his own dragons to slay after the heroine has retired to her bedchamber to dream of true love? Do tell! I confess that while I enjoy both, I prefer the doubt why I write it. In real life romance I've only got my viewpoint, so for fantasy I appreciate a peek at the other side.

Today's Favorite Line Written (tragically bound for the Delete key should I have to dump male POV): A short, almost feral growl sought escape at the very thought of the seemingly innocent, blond goddess who had blindsided Evan the week before. Hair like an angel, curves like a demoness, she was enough to bring any man to full attested to now by the perceptible twitch against the mat beneath him as the memory of round, full lips and firm breasts sent a fair percent of his circulation shooting south.


Paul McDermott said...

While I appreciate that you write first and foremost for your OWN satisfaction [don't we all!!!?] ---

Tossing in a para every now and then which illustrates the male POV is surely neither more nor less than an attempt to make your writing equally attractive to readers of BOTH sexes?

I admit to being a relative novice in the romance genre but surely an author has the right to (at the very least!) TRY to express BOTH sides of the coin?

Renee Knowles said...

Interesting question, Lisa. I actually love reading male POV. I enjoy writing too--sometimes more than the female POV :)

In fact, a romance with only one POV would distract me. I want to know the hero's motivations and feelings. This also ups the sexual tension IMHO.

Thanks for the post! Good luck with your WIP. Sounds hot!


Cindy Jacks said...

Hi Lisa, I completely understand your dilemma. I've found some of the rules of the trade a little limiting myself. The writer and rebel in me would say rules are made to be broken. Do what you feel works and is necessary.

But as a reader, I would say the female perspective is popular for a reason. The genre you write has a predominantly female readership. Most women read to escape and sometimes that means escape the masculine perspective as well (sorry, guys, we still love you though). Plus it's easier to identify with the heroine and remain steeped in the fantasy if the POV stays with her.

So that probably doesn't help at all, lol. I'd say go with your instincts and what the story requires. Great blog topic!

Crystalwizard said...


1. if you're writing for a specific publisher, do it their way.

2. If you're not writing for a specific publisher, write it however you want, just make sure you don't confuse your reader by head-hopping without making sure the reader knows who's talking.

Most readers won't care. Loyal core readers of a specific publisher probably expect a specific thing and the publisher may hear about it if their books deviate from the reader's expectation.

Kiernan Kelly said...

Hi Lisa,

POV switches don't normally bother me, unless it's in the same scene. Some editors refer to it as "head-hopping," and to me, personally as a reader, it can be confusing. However, I enjoy reading what's going on in both lead characters' heads. :)

As a writer of m/m romance, POV's can be particularly befuddling (all that him vs him, he said, he said stuff), but I almost always (unless the piece is in first person), try to give the POV of both main characters. For me, as a writer and reader, it just makes the piece more interesting.

Suzanne said...

Okay Lisa I was talking to Michelle Bonfiglio's about what readers want and I have to say if the story is intersting it dosn't matter. I also use both point of views I do watch and make sure that the reader nows who is talking. But what is important is that the read likes the story and it grabs us.

Grace Tyler said...

Lisa I'd say that it's fine to have both your H/h viewpoints. I like both, but I am writing a female only POV right now, and it's tricky. Somehow you have to show your hero's perspective through what he says and does--and what he doesn't say and doesn't do.

Don't put in the minor player's POV if he's only around for the sex. Stick to the HEA characters.

Trends change--good writing is good writing.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Lisa,
I like male and female POV. Getting inside the head/thoughts of the male is just as important as the female.
Just my opinion for what it is worth.
Margaret Tanner

Lisa Logan said...

Some great food for thought, guys...and while I like to show the non-POV character's seeming feelings and motives through dialogue, body language, etc., if I'm going to truly give them a "quest" of their own in a book then I just can't see how to do so without giving them their own voice. Of course, I could just make stories one-sided and not worry as much about multiple story lines...but conflict and complication are my middle names. LOL!

Communications said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara Thacker said...

I don't like books that focus only on the female. Then again, I usually read single title.

Tabitha Shay said...

Hi Lisa,I'm one of those author/readers who like something different. I don't want to read a book that's written in the heroine's viewpoint only. I like the hero, so I want to know how he feels, his thoughts. I don't like to try and second guess if he really loves the heroine...Color me different, but I also like to know what's going on a minor players POV too.Some of the bestselling authors headhop, I'm perfectly capable of keeping up with who is thinking what or saying what. I don't think publisher's give readers enough credit. It's been one way for so many years,but things are changing in the publishing world...JMHO....Tabs

Cindy K. Green said...

Personally, Lisa, I am a stickler for POV changes. I want to see the inner struggles of the hero as much as the heroine. I'd write it in both perspectives changing at scene breaks or chapter breaks.

Lisabet Sarai said...

I couldn't resist your invite to come read and comment on this topic. My two cents?

Screw the sage advice about what readers or publishers want in POV. Different books/stories seem to demand (at least in my experience) different approaches. I've written one novel with first person POV's that switch several times in a chapter (which I just sold to EP), another in first person told only from the heroine's perspective (out from Phaze in late 2007/early 2008), one told only from the heroine's POV, 3rd person, and one with two parallel heroines (in different times), each of whom narrates from her own POV.

Your choice of POV (both person and number) has a significant effect on both the tone of the book and the plot. For me, it's usually a question of instinct. If you futz with it too much, or let other people's advice (including mine - grin!) change what you feel like doing, the result may not be as effective as if you follow your gut.

Lee Rowan said...

If you're writing first-person, the POV pretty much had better stay in the head of the person speaking, unless s/he is telepathic.

Ping-pong POV PO's me--a scene written the way TV shows it, bouncing back and forth even within a paragraph. I usually try to stay in one POV per scene.

The pronoun issue is something else altogether--I write m/m and you just can't say "He touched his shoulder" if you're talking about one person making contact with another.

Male POV, female POV - As a reader, if the characters are both interesting people I'd rather know what's going on inside their heads. (If they aren't I probably won't finish the book so it doesn't matter anyway.)

Cassandra Gold said...

Like earlier commenter Kiernan Kelly, I write m/m, which means a whole other set of POV issues. That said, I generally use both characters' POV unless I am writing in first person, which I rarely do.

As a reader, I want to hear both sides of the story. While I like the heroine, I need to feel some connection to the hero as well!

If your books are selling well and you are happy with your POV choice, do what you want.

Molly Daniels said...

I'm with the majority here. I like both! My 3rd book currently on the submission route has small scenes in my hero's POV, simply because I felt the readers needed to see his dilemmas/conflicts/personal demons he isn't sharing with his heroine. A story told entirely one-sided leaves the reader scratching the head and going 'huh??', IMHO.

Velda Brotherton said...

Oh, dear, the dreaded POV. Enjoyed your post, by the way. I've given so many workshops on POV, I still don't know what's "right or wrong." So much depends on the editor. Everytime I have an editorial change, the ideas for pov in romance change. So, why not do it your way and see what your current editor has to say? Doing it your way will make your writing the best, won't it?
I wouldn't say this if you were a beginner, but since you're not, you know the score.
Best to you, no matter the way you go.
PS I love writing male POV, they are so much more interesting than females. Oops, now I'm in real trouble.

Anonymous said...

I think the key to successful POV is your comment about "fermenting anticipation like fine wine". However, there is no reason why we can't intuit (or even get a good dose of red herring emotion by MISinterpreting) the non-POV character's actions. When you are not in his head, you can describe his body language, have the heroine mull his actions, parse them, try divining his intentions from his body language. That's a rich vein of ore for mining, IMHO.

I strongly dislike singular point of view stories, so much so that if I haven't gotten wind of the other POV in some fashion by the end of the second chapter, the book is a bust, and I put it away. Completely, utterly, never to return to that author again.

Single POV to me smacks of self-centered protagonists, prognosticators on the travails and travesties of life, and characters whom I find wholeheartedly UNINTERESTING.

The quote is "the unexamined life is not worth living". My caveat, SHE who does not (at least attempt to) examine HIS life is not worthy of him.

Lisa Logan said...

Right on, and I'm happy to hear so many others feel the same way. Lee hits it on the head about hopping POVs in a chapter. I recently finished a highlander series that had so many no-break, in-chapter, and sometimes line-by-line hops that it made me carsick...and this is a huge bestselling series. So I was shocked to see so many sources claim that "big" pubs only want the heroine's POV.

Anonymous said...

Don't stress over it unless you are writing specifically for a house or editor who has advised against it.

I love multiple POVs, but will also read from single. I know a few people who are really bothered by switches, but they seem to be dwindling.

BTW: I'm not sure what guidelines you are looking at. I am a big READER and even Harlequin shows at least two POVs in most of their lines. If you are writing a menage scene for Harl., I can only guess it is one of the newer, edgier lines - multiple POV should be fine there from what I've seen. Sorry, I don't really read, their sweet stuff, so can't comment - but I'm guessing your threesome isn't headed for an inspie. . . .?

Savanna Kougar said...

I'm throwing my large hat in the ring on this topic because, personally, I'm sick to death about all the rules around POV!!!
I actually think it depends on the story itself. For example, one of my WIPs is from the heroines POV simply because that is the story. However, a novella I have coming out with Aspen Mountain Press, I intentionally wrote as a ping pong POV with the heroine and hero (you can imagine my poor editor's great dismay and distress -- however, we're working it out nicely), in part because she's unique in her power abilities and he's a stallion shifter, and their cultures clash. I also read to enjoy unique fantasy sci fi cultures, so as a reader, why wouldn't I want to enjoy both POVs?
Also, let me state here, I enjoy the male POV. Very much!!!! Not only that, I think it's only fair. He has feelings too. Whatever happened to the idea of yin and yang, balance or both POV's.
Now, in my current novella with Siren I transition, and it comes naturally, from the heroine's POV to the hero's POV. The love/sex scenes could be in either POV, or transition from one to the other.
May, I also say, as a reader, I am bored to tears with just one POV, unless the story is written in first person, or one POV actually fits the story.
'Cause, gosh, am I really so simplistic I can't understand another POV, or want to know it? Gee, is my brain so tiny, I can only deal with one POV? If the author's story is best told in several POVs.
As far, as Paul's statement about attractive to both sexes. Not my writing. I do it because it's attractive to me personally, not to bring in both sexes.
Great comments, everyone!

Charlene said...


Most of the responses has covered the topic pretty well. So, just to put in my 2¢, I prefer multiple POV, but not within the same scene. Jumping from head to head drives me insane. Thus, I can never read another Danielle Steele book.


Schuyler Thorpe said...

I'm a guy whom likes to keep the idea of the female lead character ALIVE--instead of raunchy, pigheaded, slutty (Captain Kirk-type) characters--taking over.

Yes...I am a GUY!--writing from a woman's PERSPECTIVE! And she's got more PMS problems than you can shake a leg at! lol

Got a problem with that, Harlliquint?