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How to Edit the POV

fiction 103_ editing the pov

As we continue this editing series how we can develop a great story, I hope you’re able to see that the elements of storytelling hinges on more than concept and characters. By having all the layers in place before actually writing, you can have a clearer idea of where your story is going. Or if you’ve already written your book, how to make sure all the layers are in place so that you give your readers a delightful reading experience.

The third layer in developing a great story is developing your story’s point of view.

Point of view doesn’t stop with characters, but also comes through in inanimate and animate objects like setting and weather. Let’s discuss some possibilities!

How to Edit the Point of View

  • Who has the most at stake in this story?
  • Whose perspective offers the best story in this scene?
  • How will your chosen POV impact your characters, the plot, your readers?

Who has the most at stake in this story?

In storytelling, it’s really all about what’s at stake for the main character. And it’s not what they’re grilling, either. Unless, of course, it’s a camping novel, and then it works.

Which character has the higher stake? The butcher who is forced to sell his butcher shop because his wife is sick, or the daughter who must leave her school to travel with her family so they can get medical help for mother? It depends.

We must ask ourselves the following potential questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • Which character is speaking to you the most?
  • Which character has the most to learn by the end of the story?
  • What is the takeaway for your readers?

If it seems as if storytelling is comprised of asking lots of questions, you’re right. It is. As writers, we must don our analytical hats and comb every journalist-style question as we map out the story basics.

Whose perspective offers the best story in this scene?

Perspective is everything. It’s the difference between telling the story from Boo Radley’s eyes or from Scout’s eyes; the old man’s eyes in UP or his wife’s eyes; or Turnley Walker’s eyes.

Even if you are not familiar with the characters I just named, you might have noticed that the perspectives are all very different from each other. There’s first person, third person, and second person.

First Person

To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee tells the story from Scout’s perspective in first person. Everything that I experience in this story is as if I were viewing the world from Scout’s vantage point. I get inside Scout’s head and notice everything, feel everything, do everything, and think everything that Scout does. I’m affected by the arguments of the era, the racial disputes, and the events around me.

Writing in first person is a great way to share cultural and social issues with readers because of the depth of voice you can write from. You can also write your story from a first-person heroine and a third-person hero (in separate chapters, of course), if you’d like to switch it up a bit. Additionally, teen readers often relate to stories written in first person, as my friend Kara Swanson has done in her amazing, Pixie sparkling Peter Pan retelling, Dust (July 2020, Enclave Escape, a division of Enclave Publishing).

Second Person

Writing in second person is often discouraged. I’m not quite sure why, other than it can feel a bit clunky on the page. My friend Angela Hunt, author of biblical historicals, says that writing in second person “is the bubble gum flavor of ice cream. It’s delicious, but a bit annoying because you have to work on holding the bubble gum in your mouth while trying to swallow the ice cream and cone” (Unmasking the Mystery of Point of View, Angela Hunt, 14).

But sometimes I think that second person (you) tends to sound narrative in tone, which can be a fun way to tell a story. So if your story feels narrative in nature and your characters aren’t good at telling their own story, you might consider writing in second person. Or if your story has an ultimately unique perspective or subject matter, then maybe telling the story in second person works. Keep in mind, second person also requires the present tense verb. Let’s read an example from a book published in 1950.

Rise Up and Walk by Turnley Walker. It’s the personal story of a man who contracted polio, a crippling flulike virus, and he chose second person voice to tell his story. I think it’s effective because it puts readers in an empathetic mood. Turnley opens the story like this,

“The regulation hospital bed is thirty-four by seventy-four inches. In the beginning that much space is allotted to each polio—the new name you get after Infantile Paralysis slugs you. That thirty-four-by-seventy-four inch area is a place that poliomyelitis allows  you, and even though you have been a much-traveled man in the outside world, you learn to live in it” (Rise Up and Walk, Turnley Walker, 7).

There are a few things I notice about this opening and the second-person viewpoint:

  • The subject matter is interesting
  • The tone is reflective and conversational
  • The tone displays empathy

Now, lest you think second person is a great idea, please think again. It’s not often used, and when it is, it can be difficult to manage because it also requires writing in present tense. Still curious? Go ahead. Give it a try. See how it works for you—and then ask a beta reader or skilled editor to ensure the story’s worthy of second person.

Third Person

Writing in third person is the most-used option for POV for several reasons. It’s easy. It’s fun. And you get to explore the world through multiple characters’ eyes. Besides, most authors write in third person.

Telling the story from the viewpoint of she or he or they or it adds life to a story because it allows readers to experience the story from a bird’s-eye view while also getting inside the head of the main character in the story at the moment.

Nan, in Elizabeth Berg’s The Pull of the Moon, sets off to adventure the world at fifty. As she gets into her car and drives across the country, she explores places, meets people, and discovers herself along the way. And I imagine the author wrote this book from Nan’s perspective, making this book an exceptional insight into the life of one character.

Writing in third person requires using the five senses and the journalist’s five W’s and H, and for the best reading experience, showing readers the world from that character’s POV. This means—what they see, hear, feel, say, think, do—whatever they experience is only told from their eyes. Only. Head hopping is not an option here. It’s more confusing for readers to experience the same scene from two characters or more. (Watch for a future blog post on that topic!)

How will your chosen POV impact your characters, the plot, your readers?

Choosing the correct POV is as important as choosing the correct plot trajectory or characters to act out the story. The correct POV is the mood of the story, the flavor you want readers to taste, the mountain you want them to view.

If you’re writing in a voice that seems “off,” try switching gears and write in another voice. There isn’t a wrong way to write a story, but there is the right viewpoint that tells the best story.

Secret Sauce to the Best Point of View

Elizabeth Berg, author of The Pull of the Moon, says, “I have wanted you to see out of my eyes so many times.”

And let that be true of your manuscript, however you choose to tell your story and whomever to use to tell your story—whether first person, second person, third person, deep point of view … or if you choose to let an animate or inanimate object tell the story, so be it.

Each writer and author benefits from exploring their characters inside and out, while asking “what if?” at every turn when crafting their novel’s plot because it’s really the secret sauce to writing a great story that captivates people, agents, editors, readers, marketers, and the person who wouldn’t necessarily pick up a book and read it.

Your Turn!

Who is your audience, and what do you hope they gain from reading your book?

Which viewpoint do you think is best to tell the story you’re writing, and why?

Drop a comment in the comments, I look forward to hearing what you have to say…

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How to Edit Your Character

We’re into a New Year. Perhaps you finished a novel during Nanowrimo. Maybe you plotted a new story to begin writing in January. New Year, new goals, new story, right? I’d like to touch a little on how to edit your character. This might be something you tuck away and pull out after you’ve finished your discovery draft, or something you’re ready to use if you’ve completed your draft during the November writing frenzy.

I’d like to share a blurb from a well-loved classic to delve into the art of editing your character so that their inner/outer journey, actions, and dialogue is specific to the special person you’ve created. These elements will apply to both fiction and non-fiction.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a leading example of the depth of story through the power of its characters and how each character is important to the plot. We see all of the main elements in Jane’s character that really endear her to us: background, personality, appearance, and journey.


Jane in Jane Eyre came from a horrible background. She thinks she will be nothing more than a servant because that’s what she’s been told as a young girl. However, she desires to be more, and applies at Thornfield Hall as the new governess. And throughout this new experience, we see Jane struggle with feelings of being good enough for her new position, but how she chooses to react to those past situations in light of her interactions with Mr. Rochester eventually allows her to influence Mr. Rochester’s life.

What about your characters? Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you have many different characters who all play a part in your story. Your main character drives the story, and the other characters enhance what your main character does. What brought your characters to the beginning of your story?


When Jane first meets Mr. Rochester, she thinks he’s an angry person, but he does not scare her. What does that tell you of her personality? Her background of being treated unkindly and unfairly is characterized in her personality. She is not afraid of Mr. Rochester because she has learned how to respond to less-than-desirable actions from others. Jane’s gentle, firm, and idealistic personality is consistent throughout the novel, which creates a compelling character in Jane, and one that readers admire and love.

What about your story? What motivates your character to do the things they do, say what they say, or react and respond to different events within the story? In a non-fiction manuscript, your character’s personality will enhance the illustrations for each point you’re trying to

make and the content will really come alive for your readers. Developing these elements will ensure your character has a depth of personality that will affect your readers.


Jane thinks she is plain, but in the end Mr. Rochester thinks she is the most beautiful person he’s ever seen, even though he has lost his sight due to the fire. Why is this? Jane’s inner character shines through to her outward appearance in her tone, mannerisms, and attitude.

What about your characters? Your readers will gauge your characters’ general appearance (hair color, eye color, skin tone, height), but it’s the inner appearance we create that will give readers a deeper understanding and appreciation for your characters. For example, a reader may find a character’s smile to be endearing, while the character themselves may think that their smile makes them look awkward because they have a crooked smile. When we describe the characters in our manuscript, we may be compelled to give a list of all of our character’s features. However, this type of character description bogs down the story. The trick is to describe characters in a way that is natural, and that is through your character’s actions in each scene.

Character’s journey

There are two kinds of journeys for your character. The inner journey and the outer journey. Each journey motivates the character throughout the story and engages the reader in your character’s life. What is the inner journey and the outer journey supposed to look like? The outer journey is what the character wants, and the inner journey is the inner struggle of that desire.

Jane wants to be treated not as a servant but as an equal. She wants independence, but she also wants someone to love her. The story shows how she displays that independence by standing up to Mr. Rochester’s indifferent attitude toward her. But with her inner journey, her struggle, she fears that she is not his equal because of their class differences, and she also fears that she might lose her independence, even though she desires to marry Mr. Rochester.

What about your characters? What does your character want? What is your character struggling with? What are they afraid of? What do they have to lose? Your characters will go through a series of emotional arcs. Michael Hague describes a character arc as a journey from living in fear to living courageously. Whether fiction or nonfiction, you decide what your character or reader wants. Then you structure the different events that your character goes through with the inner journey of how they are internalizing the events around them based on their outer journey, what they want.


The key here is to create a trail of breadcrumbs that leads your readers from Point A to Point B, keeps them guessing at how the character is going to get what they want, and what might get in their way and prevent them from getting what they want. And these four elements of your character’s background, personality, appearance, and journey set the stage for an engaging reading experience that whisks your readers away to a world of characters—and story—your readers will never forget.

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

What’s your favorite character from a novel you’ve read, and what makes that character special to you? How can you enhance your own characters by the characters you read about in other books?