Author: Sandy Vaile
Originally published on the Romance Writers of Australia blog June 2022.
Why limited third person POV is the most common
There are various options when it comes to choosing the right Point of View (POV) for your romance story and they each have benefits and drawbacks.
The most obvious reason is, romances are about two people falling in love (no matter how many demons, villains or past traumas they have to battle along the way), and therefore it makes sense to get into the hero’s and heroine’s heads, so readers can understand both of their desires and doubts. We love to experience the push and pull of a blooming romance. Feel the flutter of realisation, the denial of compatibility and the accidental touches.
The benefits of using Third Person Limited POV include:
#1 The ability to spend time in the heads of the hero and heroine during each scene, enables the author to show two different perspectives of the same situation.
They may be working towards a common goal, but have different approaches, or they may want different things out of life (initially). Seeing these conflicts build and unravel best laid plans, creates glorious expectations in the reader. Not to mention sheer terror that neither party will make the concessions it will take to come together in the end.
#2 Immersing readers in one character at a time, provides them adequate time to really get to know each one and care enough about them to spend eighty-odd thousand words following their journey.
The author has the scope to fully explore what the character thinks about their situation, what they desire and are motivated by, as well as what troubles and frightens them.
It also forces the author to come up with active and interesting ways to show what the non-POV character is thinking and feeling.
#3 It is easier to connect with a character when you are privy to their thoughts and feelings.
This can be especially beneficial when it comes to showing a hero’s vulnerability. Seeing as men tend to be less about verbalising and more about taking action, getting inside their heads reveals layers to their disposition.
Someone who might come across as obstinate or antagonistic from an outside view, can be more sympathetic when readers know why the character is acting that way.
There are a few things that can trip you up when writing in Limited Third Person POV including:
#1 Head hopping can occur when authors don’t fully understand the limitations of writing in this POV, or when they aren’t sure who has the most to lose at a particular moment and therefore, swap from the hero to the heroine’s POV too often.
While there is no hard and fast rule, a good guide is to only change POV once during a chapter (depending on its length).
#2 Showing the same scene, two ways. Having two POV characters isn’t an excuse to show a whole scene from the hero’s perspective and then relive it through the heroine’s perspective.
Reliving time leaves readers feeling like they’re in Groundhog Day, so stick to having each character show a different moment in time.
#3 Narrative distance is one of the arguments against this POV; however, going into Deep POV, solves this perceived problem. Deep POV silences the narrative voice and lets readers experience only what the POV character can see, hear, taste, feel or know.
This kind of immersion in a characters heart and mind is deeply emotive, but can also be tiring. It’s all right to go deep and then pull back, so you get the best of both worlds.
#4 Being able to fully step into the heart and mind of two different characters, and potentially a character of a different sex to yourself, can be challenging.
It requires authors to spend equal time and energy developing both POV characters. Understanding where they came from, what motivates them, how they think and speak. Strive to create more than a cookie-cutter love interest and truly flesh them out.
Explore your story's POV
When writing a romance story, Limited Third Person POV provides the perfect opportunity to reveal the heart’s desire for the hero and heroine equally. It creates the perfect environment for readers to develop a close enough relationship to care about what happens to both of them. To laugh with their joy and cry for their sorrow. To bite their nails in anticipation and hide their eyes from uncertainty. To fall in love with your characters and story as much as you do.
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