Some authors are getting sloppy with their point of View, and the sad thing is, they don’t even know it

Third-Person Limited: This POV is characterized by the use of “he” or “she” and the character’s name, as in, “John hated math. He hated it immensely.” Unlike third-person omniscient, the third limited spends the entirety of the story in only one character’s perspective, sometimes as if looking over that character’s shoulder and sometimes going inside the character’s mind, and the events are filtered through that character’s perception (though less directly than first-person singular). – Jane Friedman

I write in third person restricted (limited) most of the time and tend to like novels that also use this POV. (Jane Friedman–in the link above–lists points of view, how the function, and the pros and cons of each.) I feel like I should e-mail this link to some of my favorite authors because they cheat, knowingly or unknowingly, when they write in third person restricted. I’m not sure how their editors miss it,

Fortunately–for those of us who are purists–these authors don’t include the thoughts of other characters (unless they alternate the POV chapter by chapter–which is okay). Usually it’s something small, done to keep the reader reading.

Let’s say the main character is named “Bob.” This means that if Bob doesn’t see it or hear it or learn about it from another person, readers can’t know about it.

What I see most often is something like this:

Bob closed and locked the front door to his house, fired up the fishing car he used when following bad guys, and drove down third street toward the waterfront. He didn’t see the dark figure standing in the woods across the street.

This is when I want to shout OBJECTION and hear the judge say SUSTAINED, followed by, “The reader will disregard the dark figure across the street.”

If Bob didn’t see the dark figure, s/he can’t be in the book. This is a cheap trick authors use to tip off the reader that the main character is being watched/followed.

I also see this:

Bob watched the Benton house on a dark night with a cold moon. They did normal Benton things, cooked hamburgers on their Weber grill, watched the TV news, and went to bed early. They didn’t know this was the last night of their lives.

Oh, so Bob is a psychic is he? Well, that should have been established earlier in the story. If he’s not a psychic, then this sentence can’t be in the book.

I want to shout OBJECTION, NO FOUNDATION and hear the judge say SUSTAINED, followed by, “The reader will disregard the motion that one or more of the Bentons is about to kick the bucket.”

Sure, we all know why the author did this. Even though we know, we also know that it’s unnecessary. It’s a cheap trick that’s supposed to ramp up the suspense by killing the suspense.

We need better editors.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series, featuring a cat, a conjure woman, and things that go bump in the night



Telling a story from the point of view of a sickening character

I’m not going to tell you how to do it because I can’t force myself to do it. In my work in progress, somebody is shooting KKK members. At the outset, I don’t want the reader to know who’s doing it. Yet, if I tell the story from the point of view of the person who is doing it, I won’t be able to hide what they know.

Unless they were hypnotized or have random bouts of amnesia or I resort to some combination of trickery and/or bad writing, their thoughts are otherwise transparent to the reader.

I catch writers doing this all the time. They’re “inside the head of one of the characters” who has just done something important. But, since the author doesn’t want the readers to know what that character did, s/he simply doesn’t allow the character to think about it.

Not possible (other than the amnesia or brainwashing thing) and yet it happens do often, I wonder why editors don’t catch it.

One alternative (in my work in progress) would be to tell the story from one or more of a KKK members’ POV. I saw too much of the KKK when I was growing up, and looked up more about them while working on Conjure Woman’s Cat and its two sequels. It’s one thing to know the organization’s history, rituals, and symbols, but quite another to know the workings of a member’s heart and soul.

I don’t want to know that because I’m not strong enough to know.

I once wrote a story from the POV of a woman (Sarabande) who was assaulted. It seemed to work. But I never could have written those scenes from the POV of the bad guy. I cannot go inside the head of a rapist any more than I can go inside the head of a KKK member.

It’s one thing to tell a realistic story. It’s another to jeopardize one’s sanity. I’ve read some nasty things in novels and whenever they are told from the POV of the perpetrator, I wonder how the author survived the experience.

Some clinical psychologists have told me they take a shower when they get home from work and, while doing it, visualize the disturbing things heard during the day being washed down the drain. Would that work for a write? I’m not willing to find out.

What about you? Do you ever wonder how authors handle some of the hideous things in their novels, especially when told from the perp’s POV?


Note: I announced on my website today that I need a break and will discontinue the site by February 20. This blog will remain as will my author’s page on Facebook.