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Gigi Will Know: How should I designate a POV change within a chapter?

How can I signify that the point of view has changed midchapter without confusing the reader?

An illustrated crab with sassy blue glasses wields a pencil in one raised claw.
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Dear Gigi, 

If I have a change of POV within a chapter, how should I designate it on the page so the reader understands?

—Many Lives, One Writer


Dear Many, 

So, so many ways to do this! What a joy to consider the possibilities! *Rubs hands together; cackles*


Option 1 is the painfully obvious one, which is to label the crap out of the individual voices. Stick your character’s name at the top of each of the individual sections. 

Option 2 is a little sleeker: Section breaks allow you to visually cue up the reader to a different voice or point of view, without being really ostentatious about it. 

Option 3 is the most visually seamless of all: assuming an omniscient third-person narration, you can use the action in the scene to designate whose point of view we’re seeing. You see this in the work of mystery novelists like Elly Griffiths or Louise Penny. Sometimes, the action itself is the clear clue – if one character is at an archeological dig, for instance, and the other is in their car, then it’s pretty obvious the POV has changed (this example drawn directly from Elly Griffiths’ work).

With all of these options, however, one thing will remain constant: Each of your characters has an individual voice, individual concerns, and their own memories. They’ll have different physical tics, even. So your POV will be just as much designated by what they think, feel, and care about, as well as what and how they say it. 


Ensemble casts rule,


Originally Published