Avoid shifting point of view in your story

Novice writers often are tempted to shift the point of view in their stories. While a few published writers do so in their novels and short stories, this generally is uncommon, and you probably are best not to do so either.

Simply put, jumping between points of view is confusing to readers. A new point of view changes up the rhythm and flow of a story in an unnatural way. Readers often will have to re-read the passage to figure out what’s going on and then must acquaint themselves with a new narrator.

You’ll also probably write a less than satisfying plot. As your story’s suspense is built around the perspective from which the story is told, changing that point of view can undercut the tension by revealing information that the reader should not know. Resist thinking that an event in the story must be made plausible by explaining it in advance and then shifting the point of view to do just that. There are other ways to make an event plausible.

In addition, beginning writers sometimes break the point of view to reveal information about a character so that her motivations are better understood. They feel the point of view they’ve used doesn’t satisfactorily present those motivations. In such cases, ask yourself if you would not be better to tell the whole story from the point of view you switched to for just one scene.

Changing the point of view to resolve plot problems often causes the reader to feel cheated. After all, if you break the third-person point of view by telling one scene in first person, why not tell another scene from another character’s first-person perspective?

If you do switch point of views – and there are a few instances where you might want to (such as a schizophrenic character), you’ll need to separate the relived scene typographically, perhaps by placing it in italics and possibly by setting it off with line breaks from the rest of the text. If a lengthy scene, it might be its own chapter with the place/time indicated in bold beneath the chapter’s heading.