POV’S or, “Head-hopping” is not a Sin

This is an excerpt from Snowed In. It’s a sex scene, but I imagine if you’re on my site you kind of expect that:

While Hunter positioned himself, Cam brought his hand out from under the pillow. He stretched his fingers, cramped from clutching the sheet so tightly.

Tucked between his glutes, Hunt’s good, thick shaft slid against him. This was new for Cam, this solid length of heat pressing against his hidden flesh. He’d done it to many men—to Hunter. He  knew the feeling of power that came with it.

It was this that would undo his sub.

Hunt laid himself down, curving over the top of Cam’s backside, his lean supple body pressed. He felt so good to Cam: not holding Cam down, but trusting his support. Cam rocked his pelvis slightly, to rub Hunt’s cock against himself. He felt the hitch in Hunter’s breathing before he heard it.

“Reach down and grab me, hard. But don’t move. Keep your eyes open.”

“Cam.” It sounded like a prayer.

The towels and pillow made a space above the cast where Cam’s hip and leg joined. Hunter tucked his hand inside the space and reached, wrapping Cam in his own heat and need. He felt the throbbing pulse of Cam’s cock against his palm. Hunter trembled, but he did not move. Pressed against Cam, buried between mounds of solid fiery flesh, it was like Hunt held himself in his hand.

It took all his will to remain motionless. His desperate need to come became a state of fusion with his Dom, instead of a need he contended with.

Hunter Dane was the most responsive man Cam had ever known. He felt what no one else felt, and more deeply. Hunter’s forehead pressed into his neck, warm breath on his spine. “Cam … Cam …” A mantra. “Anything …anything …. Cam …”

It was time.

That’s 3rd person. Some would subcategorize it as omniscient. But like sexuality, POV is a spectrum. Also like sexuality, it is subject to strong opinions presented as facts. Rules. Inviolable truths. Edicts and mandates, no less.

Really, it’s just a few million years of biology demanding we categorize everything.  Carolus Linnaeus wanted to categorize the world. And he did, pretty much, so biologists and paleontologists et al had a hell of a time figuring out where viruses went.

Finally some smart person—probably a professor’s wife—asked: “Why can’t you just make a new Kingdom?” WHAT?!!  It has to be a plant or an animal!!

Why? ‘Cause Linnaeus never saw a cell?  Life is a spectrum, and so is POV.

Your book doesn’t have to use the same POV all the way through.

A writer named Harold Robbins made millions of dollars not staying in the same POV.  Your 3rd Person doesn’t have to be some hazily-defined subspecies like “distant” or “close” or “guided” or “invisible.” Nor does it have to be a rigidly defined “limited.”

You can hop into all the heads in your MMFFMFM scene as long as you don’t confuse your reader. Though some readers will insist on becoming confused if you write anything more subtle than See Spot run. See Spot hump Dixie. “ARF!”

1st person

is probably the most restrictive. It can seem personal and still be distant and impersonal, depending on how much the character reveals. It’s the voice of hard-boiled detective novels. Or gently simmered ones. It’s quite popular with the Archive of Our Own writers. It works in romance because it’s so easy to seed the misunderstandings.

It’s the voice of blog posts and confident writers with great voices and irritating newb screenwriters who think they are Shane Black who wrote an entire award-winning screenplay in 1st Person. His own.

2nd person

is tedious to read. Rarely chosen. It’s the least used and simplest to define. Everything is “you.” Second person books are like the carnival tent with the bearded lady. 2NDPERSONThey are the freaks of publishing.

Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City is a well-known second person book.  The image at left is a screen grab of the opening from the Amazon Look Inside.

You can read about the book here. Essentially, Second Person is someone talking to themselves or to someone else. Books that comprise a series of diary or journal entries, and sometimes use 2nd. It’s also used  as a device to keep the identity of the narrator a secret. Who is speaking to whom?  Is it a shrink speaking to a patient?  A victim to his killer from the Other Side? An interesting and challenging voice.

3rd person

Now we’re getting to it! Except we pretty much already did:

 Your Third person doesn’t have to be some hazily-defined subspecies like “distant” or “close” or “guided” or “invisible.” You can hop into all the heads in your MMFFMFM scene as long as you don’t confuse your reader.

3rdP is about the writer’s relationship with the characters. You approach and draw back and circle and close. You focus on one or on the environment or on what happened long ago or far away or on both or either or all of the characters.

You’re God.

The excerpt at the top was the writer in bed with the MCs, moving from one to the other and back and not breaking the scene apart. In On His Knees, the same thing happens, except the parts are removed from one another. But now our guys are not almost strangers to one another. Now they seek intimacy. The style reflects the state of their relationship. But it’s still 3rd.

Here’s a not-sex scene:

Hunt set the big pan on a towel in the center of the wood table. The cheese was still bubbling.

“Looks like a picture in a cookbook,” he said, waving away the bottle of wine Cam held up from the behind the kitchen island.

“You read cookbooks?” Cam slid the pie into the oven and turned it down. Then he wheeled to the table with four bottles of water Hunter took from him.

“At one time, I did,” Hunter answered. “I mostly drooled over the pictures.” He drank one of the bottles down in one. “I worked off-duty at the Slightly Foxed on Larimer,” he explained, loading his plate.

“I don’t get that name; it’s not a used bookstore.” Cam spooned bright red beets next to the macaroni.

“It was when it opened.” Hunter passed on the beets, the color too close to blood. “Used books and some new stuff from local writers. And maps, lots of maps. First ones around here to put coffee and armchairs in a bookstore.”

Cam shook his head in admiration. “How do you know all this stuff?” He shoved a huge forkful of macaroni into his mouth.

Hunt shrugged. “My mom used to take me there all the time. All over Larimer, that neighborhood. There were junk shops and second hand clothes stores and shit. Before the urban renewal thing happened.”

“Cool,” Cam said. Hunter had never before mentioned anyone in his life who wasn’t a member of the club or cop-related in some way. “So you do have family around here?”

It was the second time that day Cam had asked Hunter about his family. He knew that was what people did in relationships: They exchanged information about the other people in their lives. He wasn’t sure why, exactly. But Cam had talked about his  sisters and his family and then asked Hunt about his. He acted like it was no big deal, to ask or answer. It was what people did.

After a bit of conversation and action in the same scene:

Hunt went back to the table and took his seat.

Cam had gotten control of his face and his emotions. But he couldn’t ignore the vision of Hunter, the morning after that first night, pulling away after Cam had kissed him sweetly.

One of my reviewers, who gave Snowed a lovely review, referred to my “head-hopping” style. But it’s not, really. It’s just 3rd Person. In fact, it’s a very traditional style of 3rd Person.

If a very limited 3rd, (one blogger called it “3rd Person First”) is most comfortable for you and your stories, go for it, of course. Aways feel free to make your own choices about your own writing. But you don’t have to change chapters to write everything going on if you don’t want to. Just keep your reader oriented.

The writer doing it correctly is the writer whose readers enjoy the read and come back for more.

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