Story Writing: Failure to Control Point of View


Well-Known Member
Nov 5, 2019
I read a critical review of a short story, and one of the negative points was 'failure to control point of view'.

I have not heard that expression before. Could someone please explain what it means? What has the
author done or not done?

I reread the story and I am not sure that I understand what the reviewer is getting at.

(the story is Twilight's Captives from the Jan-Feb 2017 issue of Analog).

Thank you!
I'm guessing it just means head-hopping, which has become a huge no-no in recent genre writing. Or maybe a confusion between limited and omniscient, which is not quite the same as head-hopping, but close.

(Actually, criticism of what came to be known as head-hopping has been around for over a century. E.M. Forster wrote an excellent rebuke in his Aspects of the Novel (1927), in the second chapter on characters.)
Yes, that's what I think it probably means -- where the narrative starts from the POV of one character, especially if it's very close, and then we're told about things which he can't see/doesn't know.
Ok, thank you both. I'll re-read the story, and see if I can spot that happening. Get my red pencil out...
From my perspective, failure to control POV could be treated as shorthand for 'I didn't know who was talking when'. I'm not adverse to reading a near-omniscient POV but the writer needs to manage the transition from one characters view to another.

If you have to go back to figure out who said what, or who was referring to whom, that's what I'd regard as a failure to control POV.
But not knowing who is speaking might simply be a consequence of not enough speech tags!!

For sure, that's one possibility. I feel that even with correct speech tags the POV might shift around in a poorly considered structure.

I'm tempted to read the story that raised this quote, but that just feels like I'm procrastinating from writing. Which joining this forum has already achieved nicely!
It's more a question of not being able to tell who is thinking what than it is of who is saying what. Although if head-hopping makes a reader lose track of the former it can make it harder to keep track of the latter.
Without reading the story it would be hard to judge what that reviewer meant.
They may have gotten it wrong if you can't figure out what they meant.
I'm not going to seek out a copy of the issue just to figure it out.