This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Monday, February 02, 2009

Point of View Checklist for Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

When establishing point of view (POV), the viewpoint from which the story is told, the author must determine if the story will be told through first person, third person or omniscient POV.

Omniscient POV is less intimate to the reader. It is basically from the author's POV and can give an overall viewpoint of the story for all the characters without a personal narrative of a particular character's POV or intimate thoughts. Example: Lori drove home from work too late for dinner with the family.

First Person POV is the character telling what has or is happening. Example: I drove home from work, worried that I would be late for dinner.

Third Person POV is through a chosen character's POV. Example. Lori drove home from work, worried that she would be late for dinner.

  • Do you have any scenes that alternate between omniscient, first person or third person POV? Make sure you consistently use the same type of POV throughout your novel. Some authors have started out a story in the omniscient POV to set the scene and then dropped into first person or third person. This is possible when experienced and established, but if you are just starting out, I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Make sure you don’t have any head-hopping or POV slips where you switch from one character’s POV to a different character’s POV within the same scene. Do you have appropriate scene breaks between different character’s POV?
  • Scene breaks should not be every other paragraph just to insert each character’s POV. A good scene length should be at least two to three pages and no longer than eight to ten pages unless you write a scene per chapter. Most novels have two to three scenes per chapter. Do your scenes and chapters fall in this range?
  • Does a character see something he/she can’t technically see in his/her POV? For example, if you are in the heroine’s POV, and it says, she blushed crimson. She can’t see the color of her face unless she’s looking in a mirror. She can feel it or know it, such as, she felt heat climb to her face.
  • Does a character see or know something in his/her thoughts that he/she couldn’t have possibly heard or witnessed without being present in another scene or without it being communicated to them in some way?
  • Does your POV character know another character’s thoughts? Your POV character can speculate and form an opinion of what another character is thinking or feeling based on his/her perception of the other person’s behavior and dialogue, but they aren’t going to know that character’s thoughts.
  • Does each scene and chapter immediately identify whose POV that section is written in? Don’t wait several paragraphs to make this distinction. You want to keep your readers enthralled, not confuse them and make them wonder about whose thoughts they’re reading.
  • Do you establish POV in each paragraph by first using the antecedent noun and then substituting with the pronoun? Always go from specific to general.
      Incorrect example: His words stung and she gripped the door handle. Lori clenched her jaw to stifle the sob in her throat as she turned and walked through the threshold.

      Correct example: His words stung and Lori gripped the door handle. She clenched her jaw to stifle the sob in her throat as she turned and walked through the threshold.
  • Does the first scene of the book begin in the main character’s POV? Readers often identify with the first POV character as the main character. This is not an absolute, but something to consider as a standard.

  • Do you begin each scene or chapter in the POV of the character that has the most at stake or who needs to find out something or achieve a goal?

  • Do you end each scene or chapter in the POV of the character with the biggest problem, anticipated reaction, or who will be affected the most by what has just happened or what was just said?
  • Does your POV character think of a description of a room, scene, clothing or person in specific details that he/she wouldn’t know due to lack of education, gender, or station? For example, if you’re writing in the hero’s POV, he isn’t likely to know the heroine’s fashion designer or the type of stitches in how it’s sewn. A man will simply notice the color, basic material, whether it’s conservative, low-cut, and how it hangs on a woman’s figure. Be specific where it’s appropriate.

    This POV Checklist is a guideline not a list of absolute rules. If you decided to deviate from this list, make sure you have an appropriate reason, that it won’t confuse the reader, and that you don’t do it often.


    Hello! What an excellent blog! You visited mine earlier, so I decided to pop in and take a look at yours. It's wonderful (actually all of your blogs are)!
    You mentioned that you love history and are presently involved in research and writing about your own family dating back to the 16oos..I was just wondering if your research is related to French settlers to North America. I have 2 posts on this which I think you might find interesting. Let me know, if there's any relation.

    have a great day! Lucy

    Hi Ms. Lucy, Thanks for stopping by. To my knowledge I do not have any French ancestors. My ancestors were English, Welsh, Scot-Irish, German, and Native American (Cherokee). I'll stop over.

    Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. I like your blog too. I especially like this post about POV. It's so easy to forget yourself while writing and begin to head-hop, change POV from third to omni, etc. You listed a few examples of POV problems I hadn't even considered checking for. Thanks!