1. -Junebug-
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    -Junebug- New Member

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    Changing POV to effectively describe other characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by -Junebug-, Nov 18, 2011.

    _____In my novel-to-be, I have a small group of main characters, with one MAIN character. Since my 1st main character is part of most of the scenes (there are some important things that happen between her friends/family without her), I want to alternate the narration every 1-3 chapters between my 1st MC to a secondary MC, back to the 1st, etc. This way, we get both an objective view and a subjective one on every character (especially the 1st MC).

    _____For example, in chapter one - narrated by the 1st main character - she might stub her toe and hurt herself, causing her to curse her clumsiness. In the next chapter - narrated by her friend, a secondary main character - she shows up late for a double date and her friend notices how she's clumsy, messy, and often late; however she then sees how her date is gaga over her, since for some odd reason guys tend to find these flaws of hers quirky and endearing.

    _____What do you think? As long as each chapter was clearly headed, would this form of narration still be confusing? Or do the objective/subjective views help paint a fuller, less biased picture of a character's personality traits?
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sort of doing this at the moment.

    My current main character is a writer. What happens in his story happens to two real-life people. So when I have something happening with those two, I cut between "real life" and between my main character's prose. It's enjoyable.

    And you don't need to head the chapters, particularly. Just make sure it's known whose point-of-view it is. Nick Hornby's About a Boy did this well, swapping between the narration by Will and the narration by Marcus.
     
  3. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    I think you can swap between characters POV as long as you clearly indicate which character it is. Unless you're intentionally trying to confuse your audience.
     
  4. ArtWander
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    ArtWander Contributing Member

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    Personally, I have always struggled with this type of writing. I feel like I can't ever switch to a different PoV without there being an almost audible clunk in the storyline's narrative.

    That, and I don't like it when writers do it, unless the main storyteller dies/falls into a coma. I hate getting super involved with one aspect of a story, and suddenly have to care about something completely different...just breaks up the enjoyment for me as a reader.
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I get like that with TV shows that change between characters who have different storylines. All I want to watch is one particularly character, but they keep showing me others.
    I've never had that in a book though. Mostly, books I've read where the POV switches work well because the character's storylines mesh together quite well.
     
  6. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    I imagine this could work but it might feel a bit confusing if it's a lot of first-person fused together - there have to be things that strike the narrative view as immediately different from the other. It's not merely the objective contextual realm they are part of you'd need to modify as much as how the narration is well, narrated regardless of whether or not it's first or third. For a clumsy character, the world might seem a bit "dangerous" - not in a lethal warzone way but more like you'd get the feeling that she's a rather cautious fellow, bit on the jumpy side due to fear of looking bad in front of others, and the non-personified narrator is careful to note this and/or she has a bit of a nervous, uncertain air to how she describes the world around here.

    The objective/subjective views in general (and in theory) would help flesh out the characters more due to how they compliment one another. There's what the character sees and how they react to it, mentally and physically, and the objective realms of how the real hard facts are and the consequences of their actions and those of NPC's and non-personified forces. A lot of scenes therefore can have multiple "viewpoints", of which only a few are selected", but what happens as a result of this selection is that you see not just a different side of the story but also a different shade of the character and their relation to other forces that drive the story.

    In other words, just go for it.
     
  7. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think switching PoV is confusing at all, as long as you use third person and switch between chapters. George R.R. Martin switches between lots of characters in his Fire & Ice series.
    I don't even think it's necessary to label the chapters with the person's name, since it'll quickly become clear from context whose eyes we're seeing through.

    Switching PoV within a chapter is a little trickier, but definitely doable.
     
  8. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    If you're using first person, then clearly mark who the current perspective character is. For example, in KA Applegate's Animorphs series, a few (the Megamorphs books) switch between characters each chapter, and the chapter heading tells you who the current perspective character is.

    If you're using third person, you can signal the shift naturally with the character's name, so no need for headings. You can shift between chapters, or within chapter with a break in the text. But please don't switch perspectives without a break - it's far too confusing.
     
  9. gimble13
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    gimble13 Member

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    personal i don't mind switching, i think it can work really well but only if the charicter is as likable and interesting as your main one.

    islander mentioned songs of ice and fire but i must say i found this to be the worst story for that very reason from the start it brakes up into seven characters, and despite the fact that i appreciate his detailed and well thought-out characters, i couldnt help but get bored with particular characters and often had to read over fifty pages before getting back to one i actually cared about
    so if you are going to switch just remember not to drag it out chapert after chapter as you never know who your reader is most atached two
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Zillions of writers do this and it's not confusing at all. Just beware of switching in the same scene, without a break, because that is pretty confusing and even skilled writers doesn't always manage to do it well. You've probably read books that switch between characters in third person so just look at how they do it and how they separate the different POV's from each other.
     
  11. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    ScreamsfromtheCrematory Member

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    Sometimes I don't think it's confusion that could be the problem as much as a lack of distinction - if you just sort of switch from one to the other and don't make any noticeable changes in implied perspective of the character, the over-streamlining will almost feel un-noticed and "feel like" it's just the same character, only somehow in a different body.
     
  12. -Junebug-
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    -Junebug- New Member

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    Hello everyone! Thank you for your replies:) This is my first post so I'm very encouraged to keep asking for advice. I'm glad that many of you seem to enjoy changing POV - as long as it's well executed, of course.

    Islander, gimble13: I have read some of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and although I did find some of the chapters too long or descriptive (if it was about one of my non-favourite characters), I honestly really enjoyed the multiple changes in perspective. I love feeling like I'm inside a character's mind, and you can tell WHOSE mind you're inside just by the narration.

    ScreamsfromtheCrematory: Most of the chapters that aren't narrated by my 1st main character are still about her; the objective/subjective views are to clearly show the different sides of her personality. I am thinking of having both first- and third- person narration though, to clearly show if it is her or not. (Initially, I wanted to have everyone narrate in the first person, and just have each chapter title being the narrator's name. I've since realized that is much more confusing, and that having first- and third- person help keep the focus where it should be, while still letting the reader become attached to different characters.) The tone of my 1st main character's narration will be very distinct from the third person narration, which would be the same for all the 2nd-main characters being 'followed'. It's going to be challenging writing from both the inside and the outside.. Thank you for the encouragement - I accept the challenge:)

    Thanks again everyone!!

    * ~ Junebug ~ *
     

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