Point of View Inconsistency

by D.C.
(Utah)

Question: I'm not sure exactly what point of view I'm writing in. I give parts of my story to others and they say, "You need to keep your point of view consistent. If the girl is the main character you wouldn't say something like: Jester said, 'Very well.' If Jester was the girls dad. She doesn't call him Jester does she."

No she doesn't; but how else do I tell his name to the reader?
But I don't want to do a first-person point of view. (I know that would be easier to draw the line with.) I feel like - for my story - it would handicap me and the story. It would hold this story back if you only saw through the girls eyes. It will mostly be that way though, but I don't want it to be her telling the story. Nor will it be me exactly. It's like Harry Potter. (I think any ways) So do I just swallow my pride and decide on a point of view and stick to its rules like glue? Or can I combine things to make something that works for me. (And maybe become original)

Answer: You certainly don't need to write in the first person. Harry Potter is a great example of what we call "3rd person limited point of view," and it's a great technique to use for exactly the reason you say. It allows you to get very close to your main character while still writing in the third person. It also leaves you the option of switching to a different character's point of view from time to time.

But as much as you have that flexibility, it is important to stick to a consistent point of view unless you make it clear to the reader that you are changing points of view deliberately.

In this case, the advice you've received is probably correct. When you write from one character's point of view, you are describing that character's thoughts, feelings, and perceptions so that the reader feels as though he is inside the character's head. The reader sees what the world looks like to that character. However, the illusion is broken if you abruptly start describing the world from a different character's point of view or from an omniscient/objective point of view.

Now, when your character hears her father say something, from her perspective she is hearing "Dad" say it (or whatever she calls her father). Unless she calls her father "Jester," he isn't Jester to her. He's Dad. That's how she thinks of him. "Jester" is what one of his friends would call him, or what an omniscient narrator might call him.

If you want to introduce Jester's name, it may be best to have another character call him by name, or have him introduce himself to somebody when your main character is there to hear it. You can report what she hears.

I know it seems like a small detail, but it's the sort of detail that would jar a reader. If you write "Jester said...," the reader might wonder why this girl thinks of her father by his first name. Or he might wonder if you have suddenly switched to another character's point of view. It's confusing.

Similarly, it would break the point of view to say something like "Silently, the murderer crept up behind her," because that isn't something she perceives. But you can say something like "Without warning, she felt a gloved hand clamp onto her mouth."

It's a subtle difference, but it makes all the difference.

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