Writing Exercise: Power of POV Part 1

Image from the Clue Game

The world is a little crazy right now, so I thought a longer writing exercise might be nice as a distraction.

The Point of View (POV) of a narrative has a couple major considerations.

First, what style do you want?

The intimacy of first person (maybe switching the first person between two characters). This style is popular with superheroes, detective stories, young adult (YA), and romances. I’ve seen the switching between heads of the hero and villain and the two romantic leads. Both one head and two can be effective. This format is important when exploring the feelings of individuals (romances) and when exploring the thought process of a person (detective stories). Young adult stories tend to have at least one of the plots focus on coming-of-age and the emotional growth of the focus character.

Second person, used very rarely and seems to be best used in horror stories when does rear its psycho head.

Close third person, which steps away from exploring emotion and thoughts of an individual focus the camera on one person. It lacks a touch of immediacy that the first person has, but allows the character to hide information from the readers. Even so, the journey is step-in-step with the main character so emotional bonds between the reader and the character emerge during the reading.

Multi-person third person is popular with epic fantasy and space opera, to capture the sprawling political action. It’s nearly required for the disaster genre, so characters may be killed without the story stopping. For disaster and war genres to be most effective, there needs to be a chance of some of the POV characters dying. Without the risk, they lose steam and multiple POVs allow for characters the reader is invested in to die.

Omnipresent third person has not been popular in recent times. Back when travel wasn’t easy, a wide camera was used to bring the world home to people. Now-a-days people no long live on top of each other and are more interested in why people do things than where the things happen. A more personal viewpoint is wanted. Even so, omnipresent still is used often in news reporting and professional writing, where the thing being reported is more important than the person reporting it.

Second, which character should be doing the reporting?

For a romance, the POV character is also the person falling in love. This is because the romance genre is about exploring the feelings. It’s why the reader is reading the genre, for the serotonin hit, a wonderful lift to an emotional state.

In YA, the POV character is the one going through the emotional journey.

But in both romance and YA, I have seen them done as close third-person where the best friend is observing. These variations tend to be mash-ups when a lot of humor or a lot of horror thrown into the romance. Another “break the rules” in POV is when the detective of the mystery is too outside the norm for people to really identify with them. Cozy mysteries with their little old ladies or other every-day-joe-joanne thrive in first person. But procedurals with specialized experts or Sherlock Holmes, authors often use a secondary observer, like Dr. Watson, who are a little more human, a little more emotionally involved, to pull a reader in.

In close third-person, do you want an actor or an observer to be the focus of the camera? For the wide-range third-person, which of many characters should be the main POVs and which might need one chapter? Do you want the general, his aide, or a private reporting the matters in a room? Should a Star Fleet Captain or the person crawling in the tubes talk about the battle? When in court, should a noble or a servant be more effective in describing the action and the story to the reader?

POV is important. The person telling the story changes the story. The private might talk about the loss of his buddy where the general may rage about losing the war. Which is more important to the plot? Which becomes the plot?

WRITING EXERCISE: Today is an exploration of multi-viewpoint, third-person. Write a scene with three POV characters – with at least two different genders, two different age brackets, and two different social stratus involved. (Example two men and one women, one child and two adults, one servant and two upper class.) The scene should be at least two hundred words and no more than three thousand.

This writing exercise is the first part in a four-part series on POV. More next month.


My Attempt

Flash Title: In the Billard Room with the Lead Pipe

Slamming open the heavy wooden carved doors, Colonel Mustard barged into the lounge where Miss Scarlet and Mrs. White played a game of checkers. “Mrs. White, I’m surprised to find you here.” Accusation shot from his voice.

“Whatever for, sir? Dinner is not needing plating for another hour and the young miss needed a distraction after changing from her horseback lessons with Mr. Green.” Wendy said, looking up from the game. The fifteen year old she was playing against had managed to collect another king, so any distraction, even from the stuck up solider, was a welcome one. And maybe he would take over, since, as much as she liked the girl, Wendy had many other duties with a house full of guests and keeping young ones out of mischief was low on the list. Miss Scarlet’s father barely paid attention to her, and the child already escaped her tutor for a number of escapades several times this week, much to the horror and amusement of the rest of the participants of Lord Boddy’s house party and it wasn’t even Thursday. Yesterday’s transgression ended up ruining the teen’s dinner gown, making her tutor, Mrs. Peacock, burst into tears and retire to her room with a headache, and tied up the staff for hours with special requests to help her recover. “What do you be needing me to do, sir?”

The colonel growled, taking a few more steps into the lounge, “I need you to–”

He stopped speaking when Professor Plum put a hand on his shoulder. Now that was a right one, that one, if a bit on the spooky side. If only he paid more attention to Miss Scarlet. He said he taught at University, but none of the staff had heard where and his daughter laughed when asked, saying they were on sabbatical again. It seemed like he was one of Lord Boddy’s friends from Those Days, the ones the veteran staff never talk about but give each other lingering looks before changing the topic.

The whole lot at the party seemed to be from Those Days. Reverend Green made her skin crawl, even though his son was a delight. Colonel Mustard, rumored had, wasn’t allowed out of the country for the secrets still locked in his head. Sir Black ran a little young for the crowd, but his wife, Dr. Orchid exchanged barbs with the Colonel at every meal. Everyone exchanged barbs with the prickly Colonel, though Dr. Orchid and Prince Azure particularly delighted in it while the Colonel’s wife had drunk herself under the table each night and needed to be poured into bed.

“Now, Martin. Caution is warranted.”

The blustery military man deflated. “But Plum, we must–”

“Wait on the arrival of the police.” Professor Plum’s voice held a cold edge, like a knife freshly pulled out of the snow. “Detective Silver is in route as we speak.”

“Police?” Wendy’s voice squeaked. “Now why would be needing them, and a detective at that.”

“There has been an accident.” Professor Plum eyes slid over the two females, carefully avoiding contact, giving Wendy the impression of heavy mist on the countryside hiding everything.

The Colonel snorted. “If running face first into a lead pipe several times in the billard room could be an accident.”


Peter gritted his teeth as the two women screeched. Marty had the subtly of a drunken sailor on shore leave. Having the police investigating this particular group of people will be bad enough, adding hysterics to the proceedings will only make matters worse. He never should have come, even it if had been one last chance of the group getting together. Once Adam’s father passed later this year from the cancer he had been fighting for four years, Prince Azure will become King Azure. Even though he had custody of his daughter for the summer and usually stayed in the states, for Adam, he came to this small house party, a gathering of people whom managed to delay a world war long enough for it to fade into a forgotten nightmare.

The nightmare seemed to be back, with the body of Lord Boddy, the host of the party, dead in his own Billard’s Room. Twenty blows with a lead pipe left behind at the scene of the crime.

Pity the killer hadn’t used poison. Then Peter could have claimed the death and gotten the not-inconsiderable outstanding bounty on his old friend. No one would believe that Professor Plum would use anything as gauche as lead pipe. He already texted his ex to see if anyone was directing the bounty to a Swiss account. Knowing how professional the killer was would narrow the field.

Leaving the Colonel in the doorway, the old spy crossed the deep green carpet to the table with the marble inset checkerboard. Pulling up the appearance of compassion and assurance took little effort after years of practice as he bent down in a crouch, putting a hand on both the women’s knees. “I’m sure Marty,” he chose to use the nickname deliberately knowing how much the Colonel hated having his name shortened, but Peter was miffed, “didn’t mean to startle you. Mrs. White, please go and help Monsieur Brunette finish the meal preparations. Detective Silver will be here with Officer Peach in about an hour. We should eat before they get here, otherwise we will be very hungry by the time they finish with all our statements.”

“But, sir, a murder, a body, how can we possibly eat, how can I–”

Peter squeezed her knee through the thick fabric of her uniform, hoping not to have to strike the woman across the face to get her hysterics under control. All they needed is more questions. “Madam, Mrs. White, please. The children.” He nodded towards his daughter whose eyes were as wide as dinner plates seeing an adult fall apart, and ready to fall down the cliff after her as adolescents are want to do.

Being British took over the housemaid, bless her stiff-upper lip control. “Of course, sir. The children will need feeding.” She stood, wobbling a little and knocking the checkerboard table, scattering several pieces, before hurrying out of the room past Colonel Mustard.

“Father, is it …” His daughter gulped, “is it really murder? Right here, in this house?”

Peter knew how broken he was from his actions during the not-war. He could offer is daughter little that a human needs, but he made a promise to offer himself and her one thing without hesitation. The truth in all things. “Yes. It has to be murder.”

And not of passion. Those blows were too precise, though maybe the police might not notice under the sheer number of them. A murder of passion could be framed on one of the servants. An investigation into the motives of a premeditated murder would open too many boxes that needed to stay close among the clique attending the party.

“Come, let’s clean up the game, then wash up for the meal.”


Martin stormed out of the room after Plum cut him off and embarrassed him. The Professor was far too full of himself because of all his learning and travels. While he had to stay close to home because of secrets and codes he had memorized, Plum merrily transferred from university to university teaching exotic math classes of the very codes Martin had memorized so diligently. He punch the delicate yellow silk wall covering, gently, so he wouldn’t break his hand again. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying as punching through plasterboard, but most rooms in Boddy’s Cluedo manor were solid through and through, able to stand through the centuries.

He growled at his wife as he passed her, telling her he was going to change for dinner. As normal, putting on his uniform calmed him and when the butler, Wadsworth, came by to announce dinner he was fit for company again so long as Orchid kept her trap shut. She wouldn’t and he couldn’t use his old method for keeping her under control, not since she married Black in a weird transformation of giggles and pinks. When they were together, it had been whips and handcuffs.

He missed that. And carefully gather the thought up and locked it into its closet in the backmost part of his mind. His wife had not responded well the two times he attempted something beyond vanilla with her. Divorcing her at this late date wasn’t an option; everything they owned was still in her name even after fifty years of marriage.

Marching down to the main floor across the great hall into the dining room, he arrived to find insanity unleashed and his wife passed out on the floor with an empty bottle beside her.

(words 1,464; first published 3/24/2020)