Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, while sharing the things I learn along the way. Enjoy.
In writing, there are three main POV choices. 1st Person (You are the Main Character), Third person omniscient (Godlike view of all characters), and Third person limited (Narrative view of one character at a time).
In first person, the reader should only see and hear what the MC see's and hears. The MC can only know what they know, and can only speculate on the intentions of other characters. The problem with this POV is that actions happening away from the POV character are not known. It can be hard to show what else is going on to contribute to the plot. Writers in this POV have to figure out natural ways for the POV character to learn these other outside events.
George burned with desire for me.
The MC can't know for sure that George is burning with desire. She may be herself, but unless she can read his mind, she can't be sure.
George pulled me into his arms. His hot breath blew across my ear as he spoke, "I need you."
Here, the MC tells us, through George's actions and words, that he does, in fact want her.
In limited 3rd, the reader should only know the thoughts and feelings of one character (at a time. POV switching is allowed but beware of head hopping. I'll touch on that in a minute). The narrator can delve into the MC mind to tell us the characters internal thoughts and motivations, but not the secondary characters.
This is the most widely used form of POV for fiction writing as it gives authors the flexibility to move around the characters.
George pulled Madeline into his arms, enjoying the feel of her soft body against against his own. "I need you," he whispered in her ear. Madeline sighed with contentment as she wrapped her arms around his waist.
Here, there is a minor POV change from George to Madeline. If the Narrator is in Georges head, they cannot know for sure that Madeline is content. A sigh could mean anything.
George pulled Madeline into his arms, enjoying the the feel of her soft body against his own. "I need you," he whispered in her ear. Madeline responded with a sigh and wrapped her arms around his waist.
In 3rd Omni, the reader should know all characters thoughts and feelings at all times. The narrator can delve into each person's mind and know their intentions and motivations.It should be known that 3rd Omni is the least popular method of POV. It's very hard to execute correctly and often ends with more of a "head hopping feel."
No example here. I never write in this POV.
POV Shifts or Head Hopping.
Head hopping is NOT the use of multiple characters’ points of view in a book. Head hopping IS the use of multiple characters’ POVs used very quickly in a book. It would, in effect, be hopping between George and Madeline's POV within the same scene like a tennis match.
A general rule of thumb, is to pick only one character's head to be in per scene.
However, if you really feel you need to show more than one characters thoughts and feelings in a particular scene, (if it is long enough to do this) is to pick specific spots to swap. Figure out what characters inner thoughts and feelings are most important, for the part of the scene you're in, and stick with that character for at least 1k or so words. The larger the gap between POV changes, the more willing readers are to accept it.
Also, each POV shift should be clearly marked with either a noticeable gap in paragraphs. Try to avoid using asterisks as your indicator for POV switches as they are more commonly used for scene breaks within a chapter. And you don't want to confuse your readers.