Shifting PoV in Fast-Paced Trade Books That Make me Growl:
- Done within the scene. He thinks, "Oh, my foot's on fire," while she notices his delightfully curly hair, desiring to run her fingers through it like she would rub down little Totsy, the French poodle.
- Done scene-by-scene within the same chapter. One chapter includes five separate point-of-view shifts that are completely unrelated: He thinks about selling his car; she wonders if she should have an affair; the dog decides tinkling on Ms. Harper's gardenias would add the cherry of the day. Umm. Ok. I'll try it for a little while.
- Done by multiple characters ad nauseum, only one (or two) of whom is at all important in the Huge Scheme of Things. When there are twenty or so point of view shifts, it makes it difficult to identify with any one person -- and since I as a reader want to identify with and delight in and be willing to die for that one protagonist, I find this hugely annoying.
The Publishing Central website has a great line that resonates with the PoV shift hater that I am: "The beginner in writing makes no study of view-point, and his story is usually a wandering, aimless, shifting affair, quite lost in the hazy changes of view-point and utterly inconsistent." Of course, this doesn't make me right. It just means that I have company on the topic.
That being said, many great authors have used the shifting Point of View masterfully. Evidently Katherine Mansfield did so in "The Daughters of the Late Colonel," though I must admit I couldn't get past the first six pages. And what would Pulp Fiction be without those shifts? Don't forget Faulkner's Light in August, though certainly no one makes the mistake of labeling that a "fast-paced trade book," least of all, me.
All of that aside, I don't like it. But enough about me. How about you? How do you handle it in your own writing? Do you enjoy books that dabble in the Shift or do you throw them across the room?