By Bonita Y. McCoy
Romance, romance, romance. It’s February, so it’s everywhere.
Cute little cupids sit on store shelves proclaiming love and admiration. Heart-shaped balloons float above the checkout lines in the grocery stores. And romance novels fly off the shelves.
So, in honor of Valentine’s Day and all things romance, we are taking a closer look at the points of view used when writing a romance novel.
Point of view is defined as the perspective from which a story is told.
Single Point of View
Now, some stories are told from a single point of view. We enter the action in the head of a character, and we remain in that same character’s head throughout the entirety of the story. We see and experience everything from that character’s point of view.
Many romances are told from a single point of view. While this is an effective way to keep your reader in pace with the story, it limits your reader’s experience. The reader only sees the thoughts and emotions of that one character–whether it’s the hero or the heroine–and misses out on experiencing the struggles and setbacks of the other main character.
If you chose to tell your story from a single point of view, be sure to put in a lot of dialogue so the reader can get a feel for the other character’s thoughts and emotions.
Multiple Points of View
Most authors use multiple points of view to tell their stories. It’s standard practice. However, the author needs to know the best way to make the switch from one point of view to another.
For example, have you ever picked up a novel and by the end of the first chapter felt completely lost? You had no idea which character’s head you were in or what you were supposed to be feeling.
That experience is called head hopping. The author switched between multiple points of view too often and too fast, leaving the reader, frustrated and confused.
According to Jami Gold, an Indie Author, and Developmental Editor, the best places to switch from one point of view to another is at the end of a scene or a chapter. When you switch in the middle of a scene, you risk losing your reader and causing the above-mentioned frustration.
If you chose to tell your romance from multiple points of view, limit the number. Most books on writing suggest no more than four or five points of view. Any more than that and the story tends to get bogged down, making it hard to follow.
So then, if one is too limiting and five is too confusing, what is the ideal number of points of view for a romance?
The ideal number is two. It’s what the readers expect. After all, most romances do involve two people, and the reader wants to see both sides of the romance as it develops. They want to be privy to the inside scoop. Using two points of view meets this need.
Advantages to Two Points of View
There are also some advantages for the author when using two points of view.
One, it gives the author the ability to cut away at pivotal points in the story by ending the scene and switching to the other character’s point of view, causing the reader to keep turning pages to find out what happened.
It also allows the author to use deep point of view with both main characters, giving the reader a greater understanding of the fears, hang-ups, and past baggage that each of the characters is bringing into the relationship.
The use of two points of view adds levels of complexity to the story. It allows the author to show the world through two different value systems, ideologies, and social strata.
Plus, two points of view gives the author the chance to show the protagonist through the eyes of another character. The hero can admire the heroine for her kindness or can comment when she’s not around about her fears. It gives the author another outlet to paint the picture of the protagonist for the reader.
So, not only does the use of two points of view work for the reader’s benefit, it also works for the author’s benefit as well.
Now we know, two is the magic number both for Valentines and for Romance writing.
Writing Prompt: Carol laid the romance novel down with a thud. The author had used five points of view in the first chapter. Frustrated, she felt cheated.