Editors these days will typically steer a writer to use “deep point-of-view,” or deep POV. It’s a writing device where the reader learns only what the current POV character sees, feels, or thinks — until the next scene, when the POV character may be someone else. If there are one or two POV characters, the result can be a riveting experience for the reader, who feels like he or she is inside the skin of the character. As a result, the reader can’t put the book down.
But it doesn’t work for every book.
What if you, the writer, need to convey some information that your two or three main characters don’t know? Conveniently you create a scene from a bystander’s point of view, convey the person’s emotions, and give the information in deep POV for the bystander. Then you move on. The bystander never appears again in the story, but the reader may still be wondering at the end how that bystander is doing. If there are multiple bystanders, it can get pretty, um, emotionally confusing for the reader.
This sort of thing gets particularly hairy for a sprawling epic story with multiple situations where information that the primary characters don’t know still really needs to be revealed.
What’s a modern writer to do?
Here’s one possibility: go back to the older system of using limited or omniscient points of view. A narrator, at the moment not inside the head of any one character, drops information. An example? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens intoned when starting A Tale of Two Cities. That was the narrator talking. (Note: avoid head-hopping, where you report the thoughts and feelings of one character in one paragraph and another character in the next paragraph. That’s just too jarring for the reader.)
While the omniscient POV isn’t as riveting an experience for the reader, it does get the information across. If you need that, consider it. After all, there are plenty of best-selling authors out there now who are doing that. My best advice: read some of these books, see how the authors do it.