1. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Avoiding Head Hopping

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Chinspinner, Jan 5, 2015.

    Thus far in my WIP I have written from the POV of three characters in separate scenes. My plot now requires them to meet up in a communal setting.

    I want to avoid head-hopping, but I also want to avoid writing exclusively from the POV of one of these character's as it would seem strange to suddenly distance the reader from the other two.

    Part of me is considering re-plotting so that they are not all in the same place at the same time; but this is a short-term fix as it is inevitable that two of them will meet sooner or later. Another part of me is seriously considering just rolling the camera back and using omniscient POV when they are together.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Using omniscient POV wouldn't be a bad idea. It's what I'd do.
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel like shifting to omniscient would be more jarring than picking one character and sticking with them, at least to me. ETA: Picking one character for the scene, not for the whole book!

    I don't usually write books with three POVs, but most of my books have two. And when the two POV characters are together, sticking with one of them can actually be a really valuable way to give information on the other characters. Like, we all know we aren't supposed to have our POV characters look in mirrors and describe themselves, but it's just fine to have your current POV character look at someone else and describe him. You can use your POV character's perceptions to tell you more about attitudes, as well.

    Like, if you establish character X, during his POV time, as shy and insecure? You can then have character Y perceive him as arrogant and standoffish. It's fun!
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Why not do what Stephen King did in The Stand. He wrote from every character's pov shifting between scenes so that you'd get Frannie with Harold or Trashcan man or Nadine or Nick & Tom Cullen etc. It was all deep third if I recall.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why don't you alternate POV between chapters even when the characters are together? Or between scenes?
     
  6. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks all, I've given this some more thought and I am now still torn between using a child's POV of adult conversations on the first occasion when they are together (and switching to another character in future scenes if the occasion warrants it); or just switching to omniscient.

    Here is why omniscient appeals; you have seen inside several characters heads, but a scene where they interact and you are just an objective witness to that interaction, to my mind, could be very interesting if handled well. Particularly where there are telling inconsistencies between the character's POV and this more objective omniscient POV. But as BayView said it could also be rather jarring.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm kind of on the other side of the fence from @Chinspinner on this one. I think a POV is always a more interesting choice than an omniscient one. Especially if we've already been in the heads of two other people. You show so much by sticking to a POV for any scene, because you not only get the view of the scene from that person's perspective, but you can witness what the other characters are doing and come to your own conclusions as to why. Once the author steps in, in omniscient mode, then all the reader's choices are taken away.

    It's much more interesting to figure out why James has suddenly gone silent, than to be told by the author that he just doesn't want to start another argument with Fred. Fred, the POV character in this scene, thinks James has gone silent because he now agrees with Fred about how he should vote. However, we've been in James's head, and we KNOW he's not likely to change his mind about how he's going to vote. So we—the readers— can do what Fred isn't doing. We can look beyond James's silence, and figure out for ourselves what it might mean.
     
  8. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    "I am glad we are in agreement" said Fred cheerfully. James was silent. He wandered away before snatching a glass of champagne from a passing waitress and gulping it down.

    This is an example of how I might handle it in objective omniscient.

    EDIT: For some reason I have them at a cocktail party.
     
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  9. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    Have the scene three times in a row each from one of the character's perspectives. It could be cool if there were inconsistencies between the points of view.
     
  10. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    I think that would be a bad idea. It might work if it is an extremely short scene, but if it is even moderately long then I doubt it would work. As much as the idea of seeing the same thing played out from different perspectives seems like it would be interesting, I feel that unless these are some very drastic differences then it would be more likely to just vex the reader through repetition. I know I would be getting pretty annoyed if had to read the same scene three times in a row just for some minor variations.

    As for the topic, I would say it depends on the length of the scene and how many times a similar circumstance arises. If it is only one scene then you could just pick which ever character you think has the most interesting role/perspective in that particular scene. If the scene is long then you could just switch again part way through if you feel it is necessary to maintain balance. If there is another scene like it down the line then maybe pick a different character again.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that would work, too.

    But so would: "I am glad we are in agreement" said Fred cheerfully. James was silent. He wandered away before snatching a glass of champagne from a passing waitress and gulping it down. Fred smiled as he watched James disappearing into the next room, empty glass in hand. James hasn't got a single argument against me that holds water any more, Fred thought. And he knows it. Pity he's such a sore loser.
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I totally agree with you. I made this mistake in my first few drafts of my novel, thinking it would be enlightening to watch the same event unfold from a couple of different perspectives. My beta readers soon set me right on that. Don't do it. Watching the same thing happen twice certainly does annoy the reader, at least it certainly did mine!

    I now try to choose whose POV I use for any given scene by asking which 'head' it's most important to be in for that scene. I've swapped a few POVs for certain scenes in my revisions, and I think the story is stronger for it.

    It is okay to reference a previous scene from another POV, using only a sentence or two, but even that should be kept to a minimum, in my opinion. I now resist the impulse to re-deliver the scene itself, unless it's absolutely crucial to see it from two perspectives.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But your example could just as easily be part of a passage from either Fred or James' POV. We're not actually inside anyone's head for that excerpt, but that doesn't mean that the sentence right before or after that passage wouldn't be in someone's POV.
     

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