Publishers, Editors, Agents, and Authors

I have a question. When has it become acceptable to insert 2nd person POV into a 3rd person limited POV? I’ve bought about 4 or 5 books in the last couple of months. All of them are romance novels. I’d sit down, get comfy and open to page one. Halfway down the page, the author (with the editor’s and probably the agent’s approval) inserted 2nd person into a 3rd person limited POV.

When I reached this point, I literally stopped reading. I sat there thinking, what is going on? I have been taught to never, ever, under any conditions to mix 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person POVs . There are times in literary works where some authors have mixed 1st and 3rd but 2nd? If there are, please point them out to me.

This one book, along with all the other books I have purchased over the last year had the same type mixture of 2nd with 3rd. So when did the rules change?

I have been reading since a young age, and I’ve been writing for many years. Throughout the years, I can honestly say, I don’t remember reading a romance book that mixed the POVs like they do now. And I don’t mean books are from small publishers either. I’m talking about large publishing houses like St. Martin’s, Pocket etc. So is this a new trend? A bending or rewriting of the rules? I wish someone would let me in on the secret cause all these years I’ve been following what I learned in high school, college, and via writing courses, books, etc.

So what do I tell my critique partners? Some of them use this mixed POV in their work. Is it right or is it like George Mason University says about mixing the POVs.

‘Writing from a specific point of view alters the reader's perception of what you write. It can be confusing to the reader if you shift the point of view in your writing (meaning starting in the 3rd person, moving to the 2nd person, then switching back to 3rd). ‘

This particular comment is pretty much what I was taught in school and have since cemented in my writing career.

The only time I came close to breaking or bending the rules was when I wrote a novel with two POVs. One character was in 3rd person limited.

‘Definition: Third person limited point of view is a method of storytelling in which the narrator knows only the thoughts and feelings of a single character, while other characters are presented only externally. Third person limited grants a writer more freedom than first person, but less than third person omniscient.’

The other character was in 1st person.

‘Definition: First person point of view is a point of view in which an "I" or "we" serves as the narrator of a piece of fiction. The narrator may be a minor character, observing the action, as the character Nick does in The Great Gatsby, or the main protagonist of the story, such as Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. In addition, a first-person narrator may be reliable or unreliable.’

I did this on purpose. One chapter was in 3rd, the next was in 1st and it repeated throughout the entire book. I kept each POV in a separate chapter to prevent any confusion. By writing the book, I  knew there was a strong possibility that when I submitted this book for possible publication the publisher might reject it because of the mixture of the POVs. The book was contracted, and not to my surprise, the editor insisted I change all of the 1st person to 3rd person POV. No problem, I made the changes. I figured I would have to any way so no big deal.

But I didn’t mix 2nd with 3rd.

 If there is a new rule, would someone please tell me what this rule is because I really want to know. When I critique my writing buddies’ work, I want to know whether or not to mark a change of POV or to leave it alone. If major publishers, and yes, agents too, are accepting and publishing books with mixed POVs, I want to be able to pass this up and move on to something else while I’m critiquing.

Any comments are welcomed. Even readers. If you have problems with or don’t mind the mixed POVs, please let me know.


Selena said…
I'm very surprised to read 2nd person POV is found in anything. I've seen just the opposite: books literally carved up with one chapter in one character's POV and then the same event in the next chapter from another character's POV, which I hate. They call it eliminating head hopping. I call it reading for a small child.

You begin to wonder what editors and agents are for.

Intriguing post.
Judith Leger said…
Thanks Selina. I'm not sure how I'm managing to buy the books with this in them but I find it frustrating. Coming to a 2nd person pov in a 3rd feels like author intrusion to me. I also can not relate to some of the 'just like when you..." Well, some of those just likes are nothing that I've ever seen or done so it's hard for me to understand. I'm sure other readers are the same.

As far as keeping the character POV in separate sections and chapters, I personally perfer it that way. I like to read books like that and I write like that.
2nd person POV is a total distraction for me, and I don't like to read it - at all.
It appears quantity takes precedence over quality at times and books find their way to the consumer before they should.
As critiquing partners I believe we owe it to each other to be as honest as we can in an attempt to help our friends produce the highest quality of work possible.
What happens after that is out of our control.
Ren said…
Honestly, I get confused as soon as the POV shifts. I mean, I can figure it after a while but it shouldn't be like that. As a writer, I am still learning that part but I did, however, read a book that was entirely in present tense and it was quite horrific.
Cornelle said…
Judy, can you see me jumping up and down on my couch, pointing at my laptop,saying I Told You SO!

If you can't I'll send you the video.
Judith Leger said…
Are you dressed?

Yes, that question was aimed at Cornelle?

:D LOL!!
T said…
Watching for that video!
Marci Baun said…
I've seen this too. As a publisher, I can't stand it. I hate head hopping. We do our best not to have any repeating information either. That drives me nuts as well.

Honestly, I don't know why it's happening, but it needs to stop. It's most likely just a fad. And a poorly thought out one as that.
I get extremely Frustrated when I'm reading any Good story, then the POV shifts. I can Only say, Thank goodness for my Reading Pleasure, I haven't had to get Frustrated too often. But, when it happens, it's irritating!

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