1. “I like reading a scene from the heroine's point of view. But the author switched randomly from the first person to the third person, one character to the next then to an unseen impartial viewer; confusing and weird.”
2. “The author slips from past tense to present and back again, which is not only ungrammatical but jarring, and she indulges in "head hopping" (sharing the inner thoughts of more than one character within a scene), which I consider unpardonable.”
3. “The author switches tenses like mad, often multiple times in the same sentence! Almost no time was spent developing the characters and yet whole paragraphs were devoted to describing what they had for dinner! Don’t get me started on the horrible viewpoint switches from one character to another.”
Those are just three of a hundred reviews we read. It should make you feel great since you are going to write a GOOD novel. After studying this book, you might become the best writer on Amazon.
Your readers want to escape reality and have an adventure while reading your books. If you handle viewpoint correctly, readers will identify with the protagonist of the story. In their imaginations, they'll become the character and they'll experience the story as they experience their own lives: from a limited field of knowledge, one set of eyes, and one brain.
Before we get deeper into viewpoint, let’s take a quick refresher in voice. Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to participate in the final season of American Idol.
In case you've forgotten the difference between First, Second and Third Person, here's a quick recap:
A. First Person Singular is "I walked home."
B. Second Person Singular is "You walked home."
C. Third Person Singular is "He/She walked home."
Many novels are written in either first person singular or third person singular. (Second person is for recipes.)
However, both first person singular and third person singular have severe limitations. In either viewpoint, the protagonist in your book is the only one who shares their thoughts with readers. They know what the protagonist sees, hears, smells, tastes, thinks and feels, at the same time the protagonist sees, hears, smells, tastes, thinks and feels it.
First person singular is not a good choice for a first novel.
Writing in first person singular is an extremely common blunder for beginning novelists. Because it seems so easy to write directly in their own voice, they slide into author intrusion, which disturbs readers by mak-ing the protagonist sound like the writer instead of the character. Because it appears to be easy to write, the first person also causes the beginning writer to ramble, lose control of the dramatic structure and include irrelevant material.
In both first person singular and third person singular, all that happens in the novel is shown through the one protagonist. All situations and events are focused on their life.
The protagonist cannot be absent from the novel to allow other scenes to happen to other characters in other places. There can be no cliffhanger scenes, no shifts to other situations. Readers do get bored, living vicariously the life of just one character in your novel.