When Jimmy Met Chardonnay

Whether you’re writing an intimate first person narrative, or juggling several different narrators, keeping a consistent point of view is a great way to strengthen your novel. And even if you have muddled up the perspective here and there, it’s usually easy to fix. Here’s an example…

Let’s say you have a YA novel written in the first person from the perspective of Jimmy. And maybe this novel has alternating chapters written in the voice of Chardonnay, Jimmy’s classy new girlfriend. That’s all good. Maybe it’s an excellent novel with two strong, distinct voices. Ooh, maybe it’s a romance or a thriller without werewolves or vampires. In fact, it’s probably a brilliant book.

What isn’t brilliant is suddenly having a paragraph where we get a third person’s perspective, like

‘Jimmy’s mother felt sick to her stomach with nerves. She wanted to cry.’

These lines are hugely distracting because your readers are only used to seeing Jimmy’s mother from Jimmy or Chardonnay’s perspective. Jimmy and Chardonnay are our narrators, and even a line or two revealing any other character’s innermost thoughts or feelings will cause an editor to growl or scrawl ‘point of view’ or ‘POV!’ in the margin.

Luckily, there are loads of other ways for you to tell us how Jimmy’s ma is feeling, because she can’t tell us herself. It could be indirect: either Jimmy or Chardonnay might hear tension in the mum’s voice, or notice she’s doing something she always does when nervous, like fiddling with her wedding ring.

Or Jimmy’s mum could USE DIALOGUE and say to Jimmy or Chardonnay

“You know what? I feel sick to my stomach. I want to cry”.

Or she could say this to her husband/best friend/dogsitter, and Jimmy or Chadonnay might overhear this, and tell us – from their perspective. She could even tell her bikini waxer that she feels sick to her stomach – and the bikini waxer could turn out to be Chardonnay’s auntie! Who could tell Chardonnay! And Chardonnay could then tell us! Oh, there are always many, many solutions.

It’s easy to write an entire story from a certain perspective (or perspectives), and let the odd careless paragraph or line from somebody else’s point of view sneak in. The good news is that once you maintain a consistent point of view, your story will be even better than it was before.

Win 20% off any Lighthouse service!

The first person to send us a 200-word story about Jimmy’s mum gets a 20% discount on any Lighthouse service. Why DID she feel sick to her stomach? Tell us, tell us! No, really – get in touch, we want to know.

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Whether you have a brand new idea, or have been fiddling with a text for years … we’re here to help.

About Sarah Stewart

Sarah Stewart is a Director at Lighthouse Literary. She was previously Fiction Editor at Scholastic Children's Books and a Senior Editor at Floris Books, and she writes the Elspeth Hart series, published by Stripes.