How to Write Point of View, Part 7, Switching Point of View

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Hi SErs! Harmony here 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about how to write Point of View (POV) and how to switch from one to another within the same story.

As you have seen, each POV choice comes with its pros and cons. One of the biggest Cons can happen when you switch POV during your narrative. This can be switching to another character’s head in the same lens, or it can be changing to a new lens entirely. When done well, such switches can become one of your story’s biggest Pros.

Ways of Changing from one head to another:

  1. Leave an extra line space between paragraphs
  2. Insert a symbol or image to clearly mark the shift
  3. Start a new chapter

Ways of Changing Lens:

  1. Always start a new chapter

Best Practices:

For any shift to a new lens–for example, from third person to first, always start a new chapter regardless of length. This gives your readers chance to readjust. It is far too jarring to simply add an extra line space or even use a symbol. The more your story progresses, the more your reader identifies with a particular lens, and any shift can feel intrusive, so we need to make such changes as smooth and unobtrusive as possible.

For a simple hop into another head but keeping the same lens, add a symbol or image between paragraphs. This works better than a blank extra line space, as such a blank line can get lost if it happens between one page and the next, especially in eBook format. A symbol gives your reader a clear indication, even if it happens at a page break.

Never head hop without some kind of break. Unless you know how to do this well and without confusing your reader. As we have seen in previous posts, head hopping at random is one of the biggest complaints of readers. Only a very few authors have done this to good effect. So if you must head hop, make sure you get it perfect. … No kidding. Perfect or nothing.

In Summary: Any shift in POV needs to give the reader a clear indication. For a simple shift into another character’s head, a line space with a symbol is best. For a new lens entirely, always begin a new chapter. Never head hop unless you can do it perfectly. Once again, I offer the refrain: You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well.

That’s it from me today. I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ll see you again on Monday 6th December, when we’ll take a look at Choosing POV 🙂

Bio Box for Harmony Kent that links to her website www.harmonykent.co.uk

Part 1, Overview, can be found HERE.

Part 2, First Person, can be found HERE.

Part 3, Second Person, can be found HERE.

Part 4, Third Person Limited, can be found HERE.

Part 5, Third Person Distant, can be found HERE.

Part 6, Common Pitfalls of POV, can be found HERE.

©2021 Harmony Kent

62 thoughts on “How to Write Point of View, Part 7, Switching Point of View

  1. Something to bear in mind: an extra line space will be ignored by a screen reader, and so will many symbols. In other words, for those of us who rely on text to speach software to read eBooks a new chapter is the best way to avoid confusion when switching point of view in any shape or form.

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  3. Terrific series, Harmony. Terry Tyler makes excellent use of changing POV but she always starts a new chapter and tags who it is, too. Switching the POV gives you better access to the full picture and make you aware of how others are viewing the situation but you’re right to stress that it needs to be done perfectly. Sadly, it isn’t always… xx

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  4. I enjoyed this whole series, Harmony. You have articulated each clearly and given great examples. A couple of people in my writing group are trying unusual points of view, which makes it easier for me to see it in action.

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  5. Great post, Harmony. I like your suggestions on how to handle POV change. It is hard to to stay in a story if you aren’t sure whose POV you are in. When I see the extra line used I always think it’s a formatting problem at first and prefer the symbols or chapter which you suggested.

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  6. Great advice, Harmony. I always try not to head hop, but if it becomes necessary, your suggestion is terrific. I remember changing POV once in a book, and it was hard. (Lucky me, I had help from an excellent editor). I haven’t done it since. Thanks again.

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  7. This series has been very helpful, Harmony. I have a situation where the narrator sometimes enters the story with some direct knowledge. I try to begin a new chapter with these, but I also use a very different format to the paragraph. I will be asking early readers if thi works. It’s one of those, “I think it works, but I know who’s talking” situations

    Thanks again for sharing this advice.

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  8. I always change scenes if not chapters if I change POVs, and I use a symbol to indicate a scene break. You’re right; an extra space can too easily be overlooked or lost at the end of a page. I love what you said: You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well.

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  9. Another great post, Harmony! I use symbols to switch heads. I’ve never used two different points of view in a story. I read one book who switched between first and third person. It was a little jarring for me, even with the chapter breaks. Still, I agree with you that the chapter breaks are an absolute must in those scenarios. 🙂

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