I have a scene in which two characters, Boy and Girl, meet for the first time. Girl is the POV character in this section.

They are about to have lunch, when Girl is called away on an emergency. She mutters that she's sorry, asks if they could meet later, and dashes off leaving Boy standing there.

As currently written, the scene ends

Boy said to nobody in particular, half astounded and half amused, "Uh, yeah. I would love to."

I feel showing Boy's response completes the scene well. However, the POV character does not actually witness this response (which is intentional... I want to show him standing there alone).

Short of making Boy the POV character (which I don't want to do), is there a good way to handle this?

Is this a case where it's OK to violate the POV rules?

Should I leave that last part out?

4 Answers 4


The trick here is to bend the rules without breaking them. Including something that the PoV character doesn't know about is technically 'breaking the rules.' But when writing, you have to remember that reader experience trumps all. As long as it doesn't jar the flow, you can get away with something small.

For this example, I would simply say what Boy says, and then just say Girl didn't hear it. You could argue that you switched PoV for one line, but if you switch straight back to the girl, and if you remain outside of the boy (that is, don't go into his thoughts or anything), you'll be fine.

Girl dashed off. Boy said to nobody in particular, half astounded and half amused, "Uh, yeah. I would love to." But Girl, running towards her car, was too far away to hear.

To me at least, that doesn't jar the flow of writing in the least.

EDIT: I should add that this is written assuming your tale is in the third person. If you are writing in the first person, things like this are a lot more jarring to the reader, simply because you are so immersed in the first person character, and therefore notice it faster when PoV switches.

  • Thanks, that makes sense. I'm still at the stage "learn and understand the rules first," working toward "then you can strategically break them."
    – Eric J.
    Dec 14, 2015 at 23:36
  • 2
    That's a good strategy. A rule of thumb might be: if keeping the rules makes your writing suffer, it's time to bend them. Of course, you do need to know the rules before you can know the exceptions. Good luck in your endeavors! Dec 14, 2015 at 23:58
  • this is written assuming your tale is in the third person Yes, it is third person.
    – Eric J.
    Dec 15, 2015 at 3:45
  • 2
    Ad bending vs breaking: maybe the words reach her, physically, but she does not perceive them because her focus is already somewhere else.
    – Raphael
    Dec 15, 2015 at 8:52

To me, it would make no difference to the emotional picture painted to have Girl hear Boy's words from behind her (thus keeping to her POV) but be too distracted to respond to them or think about them.

Girl suppressed panic as she searched her handbag for her car keys. "Sure, great. Shall we get together here …" The keys, the keys. Oh, thank God, there they were. "… same time Monday?" Grabbing the keys she turned and pushed past other diners to the exit.

From behind her she vaguely heard Boy's voice, half astounded and half amused, saying, "Uh, yeah. I would love to." The car was in sight. She started to run.

  • 1
    That's a nice option to maintain POV. Thank you for that thought.
    – Eric J.
    Dec 15, 2015 at 17:20
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    I concur; if Girl can hear Boy's words but forget about them until the proper time, this is an excellent alternative. Dec 15, 2015 at 18:28

How about:

Girl left him standing there, knowing their relationship was tenuous. She had no choice; she had to get back to the hospital. What she didn't hear, but would've left her with a small sense of comfort, was "Uh yeah, I would love to."

  • Isn't "What she didn't hear" still technically a POV error?
    – Eric J.
    Dec 14, 2015 at 23:26
  • 1
    @EricJ. Yes, but you can't let rules govern your writing. That comment can be taken the wrong way, so see my answer for what I mean. Dec 14, 2015 at 23:35
  • I like your solution, T, but don't you think that as soon as girl is out of earshot, any statement from Boy is from an external point of view?
    – Stu W
    Dec 15, 2015 at 0:12
  • Certainly. Like I said, it is technically switching point of view. But a one-liner half way into another point of view (I say this because we aren't inside of Boy; we are observing only), followed immediately by switching back doesn't seem jarring to me. That is of course only my opinion. Now if this is a novel written in the first person, there may be problems... Dec 15, 2015 at 0:24

Cut it. No question. It doesn't belong and it's neatness won't satisfy the reader anywhere near as much as it appears to satisfy you. Ask yourself what's so great about that line that makes it worth damaging the integrity of the story?

Merciless editing is a required skill for an author. No matter if you're absolutely in love with that line, no matter if it's the funniest thing anybody ever wrote, you know perfectly well it doesn't make any sense. Cut it, and write a better conclusion from the proper PoV. You can do it. Select that paragraph now, delete it, and save your document. You'll see it a bit more clearly after that and a better line will be along soon.

The various suggestions to help you keep it are smart, and correct, or at the very least, nice, but really they're just telling you things you want to hear. That's not how good editing works. Be strong, select it, and press delete.

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