Read the following passage and see if you can spot the problem. Many new writers, me included, make this mistake.
“If you’re really coming with me, Daniel, we’d best be moving. We’ll eat later.”
William was in a hurry. If they sat here much longer, they’d surely be found. He was not going back. He wanted to get as many miles between him and them as he could. His new life was at the coast.
He led the way along the path, with Daniel trailing only a few steps behind. William paused to break off a twig from a hazel tree.
“Are you still doing that?”
“What? Oh this.” William tugged the twig from his mouth showing teeth as white as the clouds swirling overhead. “Yeah, I like clean teeth.”
Daniel grunted and shook his head. He supposed he should follow suit. He cleaned his teeth regularly too, but he thought William was obsessive about it.
Do you see the problem with this passage?
The problem is that the point of view (POV) switches from William’s to Daniel’s. This is William’s story told from his POV. William ahead of Daniel as they walk the path, so while he might hear the grunt, he wouldn’t see Daniel shake his head. Neither can he know that Daniel is thinking he should be cleaning his teeth too. Therefore, I should revise the last paragraph. Perhaps I could write it as follows.
Daniel grunted. William knew that Daniel regularly cleaned his teeth too. It seemed that William always had a twig between his lips and Daniel could never resist teasing him about being obsessed with the habit.
Do you see how easy it is to flip-flop points of view? If you’re telling your story from the POV of Person A, you must only write what Person A thinks, sees, feels, does, and so on. I could switch to Daniel’s point of view, but it needs to be a separate scene and then I must write only from Daniel’s point of view what he thinks, sees, feels, does, and so on.
As a new writer, I discovered I was falling into this trap fairly frequently. Now that I understand POV better, I have revised numerous passages in my novel. Whew! I’m glad I discovered this before I sent out queries! Now it’s your turn.
Check your story and Write away! the right way.