As a kid I remember that point-of-view wasn’t really important. I’d pick up books from bestselling authors that head-hopped so much it could make a frog jealous!
But the past 15 years have radically changed expectations on both the part of authors and students. Now, head-hopping—or switching the point of view of a character within a scene—is strongly frowned upon.
But there’s an advantage to that. I see point-of-view as a gateway into my character’s heart. Everything is through his/her perception which opens up the ability to manipulate my readers’ emotions exponentially.
Dialogue, bias, thought-processes are all relegated through this character’s filter. And that can be loads of fun.
So as you draft your next scene, even if you’re writing non-fiction, be sure to keep the POV consistent.
Here’s a quick scene from Bride Tree, written in the point-of-view of Queen Marie Antoinette.
How did keeping the POV consistent help develop the scene? Post your thoughts in the comments.
May 1789. Château de Versailles
Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France and Navarre, stared at her reflection as she contemplated the contrast of the black, diamond-strewn silk of her dress against her fashionably pale skin. Her brow furrowed. Then, a sudden burst of giggles erupted from her painted lips. “It is so exquisite that I will have Louis order me another twenty—each in a different color!”
The queen was surrounded by a small entourage of her ladies-in-waiting and Geneviève Poitrine, who was nurse to her son Louis-Joseph.
“What do you think of it Gabrielle?” Marie turned to Gabrielle de Polignac who stood to her left.
“C’est magnifique.” The woman stepped back as Marie spun in a slow circle. “It is the perfect gown for this evening’s spring ball.”
“The king was quite furious with me, you know.” Marie smiled, and placed her hands on her hips. “Monsieur Necker, our detestable Minister of Finance, told him that it was already my ninety-fifth dress for the year.” She groaned. “I, the Queen of France, am persecuted by that wretched man because I have an acute sense of fashion—a gift he evidently lacks.”
She glanced sidelong at Viviane. “And what does my chief lady-in-waiting say of my latest acquisition?”
Gabrielle reclaimed the monarch’s attention with a flick of her embroidered fan. “What did you tell the king, Your Grace?”
“The king?” Distracted, Marie-Antoinette turned back to her friend. A sly grin slid over her face. “I flitted my lashes and told him that if it upset Monsieur Necker so much to see me well-dressed, then I would be sure to order another hundred before midsummer’s eve!”
She swung toward her son’s nurse. “Have you ever seen Monsieur Necker when he is enraged, Geneviève?”
“Fortunately, Your Grace, I have never been close to the Minister of Finance,” Geneviève said.
“Well,” Marie puffed out her cheeks for a moment. “His rotund face becomes a particular shade of red that makes me think of a plump tomato.” She held her breath until her face turned red, then let it out in a whoosh. “I would love to see the tomato explode someday!” Apart from Viviane, Marie’s laughter was echoed by the women around her.
“So, you have not said, Viviane.” Marie returned to her original thought, glancing at the hitherto silent young woman. In the months following her formal introduction to court, Viviane had quickly risen to the challenges that her role as dame d’honneur presented and had installed herself as an essential part of the queen’s inner circle. She handled Marie’s schedule with a dexterity that allowed the queen more time to pursue her private passions.
“What is your opinion of my latest robe de cour?” The queen turned back to the mirror. “Will my beauty be evident despite the mask I will wear tonight?” She laid her hand against her chest and sighed. “You know that the Marquis de Lafayette will be present, and it is essential that he notice no woman but me.”
“Well?” Marie-Antoinette prodded.
Viviane paused again before answering. “I think that the Queen of France will look beautiful in anything she chooses to wear.”
“Ah!” Marie glowed and smiled at her reflection. “I must agree with you.”
“However,” Vivian continued, “when word of the evening reaches the common people, might not your enemies take the purchase of this gown as an opportunity to criticize you?”
Her gaze dropped to the ivory tiles beneath their feet. “I am only a simple bourgeoise, but I know that many in the city struggle to find bread each day.” She pointed to the gown. “Is such an elaborate display of wealth truly in the queen’s best interest?”
There were six frozen statues in the room. The silence that filled the room was so complete that the queen heard the blood surging in her temples. Marie was the first to recover. She spun on her heel toward Viviane.
“Bread?” Marie’s brow crinkled. The thought of not having enough bread to eat was simply laudable. “No bread?”
She laid a slender finger over her mouth. “Poverty bores me, Viviane. If the dirty little peasants have no bread, then,” she shrugged, “well, let them eat cake!”
A smattering of polite laughter again swept through the gaggle of women but it was swallowed up in a surge of silent anticipation.
Marie regained her composure and turned back to the mirror, mind churning. Her audience was waiting. Like piranhas, they waited in vicious silence for her to lash out at Viviane. Then they would follow her lead, tearing into the dame d’honneur with their words if not their teeth.
Her face tightened. “Leave us!”
The command from the queen was unexpected but everyone hurried to obey—everyone but Viviane.