1. Katria
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    Katria Member

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    Choosing POVs...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Katria, Dec 8, 2014.

    First of all, I don't know if this is the correct place to post this thread, but if it's not I'd be glad to have a mod move it immediately!

    Anyway, so this is my problem. I think it's a little hard to explain myself, but I'm going to try. So I'm on the editing stage of my novel, and I've realized that I do a lot of head-hopping, so I'm trying to focus with one character POV at a time or scene, and so far I haven't had that many issues with it. However, I've started to check the following chapters and there are some scenes that I'm not too sure what to do with them, mainly because they have many characters. What to do when many of them have many thoughts I consider equally important to point out at one same scene? Or, for example, in one scene, when the character whose POV I'm using suddenly leaves the room, and the rest of the characters share a few words with each other? Should I use in this case an omniscient POV instead?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can use an omniscience POV, though I think that can be difficult to do well. In the situation where one character leaves the room, as long as you still have a POV character in that room you can still deliver the conversation to the reader without falling back on an omniscient POV. I think trying to present the same scene through many different POV characters, all in a tight POV, likely wouldn't work very well, and if you absolutely have to get all of those character's thoughts into the story, an omniscient POV may be the best choice. You could also have other POV characters reflect on the scene later, so that the reader gets their thoughts without you having to rewrite the same scene multiple times. You may also want to reflect on whether the reader really needs the thoughts of every character in the room after all.
     
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  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Couldn't some of the characters expose what they're feeling/thinking through actions or speech? It might make the ideas less telling and more interesting.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It's hard to give advice not knowing what the writing looks like. Scenes with multiple characters can be cumbersome, even just from the viewpoint of attribution. It probably isn't as important as you think for the reader to understand all of the characters' thoughts at exactly the same moment, so my first advice would be to rethink that. You may be better off creating a series of scenes in which characters in groups of two or three discuss (whatever it is), or else not having the POV character leave the room and witnessing the various reactions. You can also draw out the exposition of the reactions of at least some of the characters in separate scenes or chapters from differing POVs. Allan Drury did this really well in Advise and Consent.

    Or, as @Steerpike said, you can use an omniscient POV. However, the difficulty with that is it places the reader at a greater distance from the character.
     
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  5. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    I spent a bit of time reading this and getting to understand it. Certainly helped me.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I actually once read an editor saying people are far too concerned about keeping one POV in one scene. I'm not too sure what he wanted writers to do instead, however, since there was no example of quality head-hopping in the blog.

    I guess my first question would actually be: is it clear when POVs shift? If the reader is following perfectly, it may not necessarily be a problem to have more than one POV in each scene.

    Alternatively, you could break the scene up with an asterisk and shift to a different POV that way. You know, like:

    James left the room.
    #
    Sandra watched him close the door before turning round to the others and said, "Such a dick, isn't he? Think he knows it all."

    Like that? I guess another thing to ask yourself, as someone else has mentioned, is whether there're other ways of conveying all these thoughts, as well as whether it's truly necessary to present all these POVs in order for the story to move forward. More than one POV can enrich a story and give it depth, but sometimes it's good or even necessary to leave some mystery and let the reader develop their own opinion of what's going on or what a character's like. That could equally give a book depth.
     
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  7. Katria
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    Katria Member

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    Thanks for the advices, they've been really helpful :) I thought about having the characters reflect on the scene later (in their own POV), like @Steerpike said, but I was wondering if I could avoid that by inserting the thoughts in the same scene. But, in general, is it wrong to go from character POV to omniscient POV in the same scene--or even separate scenes? Or, even, is it wrong to go from a character POV to another character POV in the same scene and with no transition mark like a blank space? I'm not saying I'm going to do it, I just want to reflect in all the options. I never had writing classes, so this is why I'm struggling with decisions such as these.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Your suggestions would be definitely unconventional. In general switching POVs without a scene break is a big no-no amongst authors/agents, but with fiction there's always room to explore and break even these rules/conventions. The only question is if you can do it well. Another question to consider might be if you intend to self publish or go through an agent. An agent might see it as a lack of knowledge in how to present POVs. A casual reader might critcise it and say, "Ah I see now why it's self-published and no one else wanted it!" It really depends on whether you can pull it off, and the only advantage if you intend on self-pubbing is that your book will certainly see the light of day no matter how you write it. But it's definitely against convention.

    My advice is, if you're not terribly experienced in writing novels, then stick with convention for now. Experiment against convention perhaps with smaller projects or projects you don't really intend on publishing, and once you've found your way to do whatever fresh new approach it is, make them into published works.

    In general, for third person limited, you're usually following one or a few more characters' POV (up to a handful or so, definitely not too many but I don't believe there's necessarily a "set" number here), and these are usually separated by chapters. Occasionally they can switch mid-chapter between scenes, but if a character's getting a POV at all, they tend to be important and therefore tend to get whole chapters.

    For third person omniscient, there's no limit, of course.

    I'm not sure I've ever seen third person omniscient mixed with third person limited. I actually don't see a need to mix the omniscient POV with anything at all since the omniscient POV is by its nature without restrictions.

    For first person it's common to follow just the narrator or to switch back and forth between 2 narrative first person voices, usually alternating chapters. Definitely not mid-chapter.

    Very occasionally there have been books who mix first person chapters with third person chapters - this is sometimes frowned upon but you'll probably have to start another thread on this matter, because I don't get this first/third person switch myself. Some see it as pointless or ineffective it seems. This might be the closest POV choice to what you want, however, so it might be worth exploring why some authors have made this choice and how they went about it. It's unconventional, but definitely it's been done before.

    My advice would also be to go read books where the POVs switch between many different characters and see how those authors did it and what choices (POV or otherwise) they made. Sometimes it's simply easier to see it at work.

    PS. it just occurred to me, however - is there any particular reason you don't want to write in third person omniscient? Seems to me that would resolve the whole problem of switching back and forth within a single chapter or even scene.
     
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  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not head hopping is tough. You can do scene breaks and shift pov but that's clunky. I'm experimenting now with a chapter where I'm narrating one evening from four points of view, and while the time keeps moving, a lot of characters rehash the same event in their dialogue over the rest of the chapter. It starts in Character 1's POV where she's having dinner with Character 2 outside a big meeting (she's a reporter trying to figure out who's inside), then has to sneak off to take a phone call where she bumps into Character 3 (a participant in the meeting) and makes a deal to hide his identity. Then I shift to Character 3's POV and show what goes on inside the meeting but never show how the dinner ends outside. Then I jump to the other side of town for a seemingly unrelated distracting POV from Character 4 (Character 1's roommate coming home from a party) then jump to Character 5 (who works for Character 2) who bumps into Character 2 in the hotel bar later and hears 2's view of what happened after 1 made her phone call. Then I jump back to 4, who gets back to the hotel just in time to see 5's activity in the lobby before going upstairs where her roommate Character 1 brain-vomits her view of how the dinner ended.

    So, by the end of it we know what both 1 and 2 think of their dinner interaction, plus what 3 did inside the meeting that was being spied upon. Plus we also know what 4 and 5 were doing at the same time, and I was able to use their activity as interlude scenes that hide my POV shifts within the main scene at the restaurant.
     
  10. Katria
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    Katria Member

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    There is no particular reason except for the fact that I'm not sure that what I'm writing is considered Omniscient and not head-hopping. So that's why I'm trying to avoid it all together, but in some scenes/chapters I feel too limited with only character POV.

    Damn, that's some huge mess haha. I don't see it impossible to pull, in fact, I've seen similar things in other books. But it's exactly what I'm trying to avoid doing, since I'm sure I'll go nuts specially with so many characters.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Then you should read books written in third person omniscient to learn more - the tone and voice are quite different to third person limited. I don't write omniscient myself so I'm afraid I can't give you more detailed advice. Omniscient, I believe, is harder to write, but by no means impossible and sounds like the right POV for you. Just because it's omniscient doesn't mean you must present every character's POV - it simply means you're unlimited to that. It is common for such a book to be written with a distinct narrator as a character in its own right, and often have a unique voice and even its own views that are not necessarily that of the characters within the story. It might be actually kinda fun :)
     
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  12. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love the Writing Excuses podcast - and they did a good episode on omniscient viewpoint. I actually considered going omniscient myself as I'm a serial head-hopper, but decided my story wasn't really the kind of thing where readers will tolerate that. So in my case I battened down the hatches and forced myself into third person limited - for me that's fun because it's made me think more about scene breaks and who sees what when. But it also leads to the sort of complexity I described, and if you don't want that, well, look at omniscience.

    http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/03/18/writing-excuses-7-12-writing-the-omniscient-viewpoint/

    I know they also mention in there that the head hopping rule is NOT an absolute, and it has been done by good writers, but it adds a degree of difficulty.
     
  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    And amen to Mckk on the omniscient narrator having their own voice and views different from the characters.
     
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  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know about going from close third to omniscient in the same scene, but JK Rowling quite effectively goes from omniscient to close third in the opening of Harry Potter. Might be worth a look.

    (It's been a while since I read that book, and I never read any of the sequels, so I can't say whether she goes back in the opposite direction, or uses this trick consistently. But I checked the free sample on Amazon, and it's definitely what she does at the start of the first book.)
     
  15. qp83
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    qp83 Member

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    I just read a book where the author simply switched pov between paragraphs. And the last action scene he even rewinded time letting you read the same scene all over again two-three times but from different pov. Worked really well imo. Of course, before I was prepared the author wrote this way, I was a little confused, suddenly popping from one character to the next, but once you were prepared for it, it flowed nicely, and i enjoyed it.
     
  16. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I know this is sad to ask... but what is a POV? All I see on this thread is POV this and POV that. :confuzled:
     
  17. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Point of View
     
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  18. Katria
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    Katria Member

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    Can you recommend me any books that are written in this POV? :) Also, you might have mentioned it and I lost it at some point, or maybe I'm just dumb, but you said it's frowned upon to change POV style, like from third limited to omniscient, in the middle of scenes. But what about doing it in different scenes? Is it viable, then?

    Thank you so much for this podcast! Yes, I don't think that using third limited there is a bad idea, in fact I find it interesting, I'm just not sure it will fit in the particular scene I have in mind in my novel. I'm sure, though, eventually I'll use it some time.
     
  19. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't recommend any because I sadly am not as much of a reader as I should be given that I'm a writer, but the podcast should cite multiple examples.
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    A change in POV is traditionally always done between different scenes or different chapters unless you're talking about third person omniscient, so your question wasn't really a question lol. I've only seen the 1st-3rd person switch in the same book once, and it was a YA book, and personally I didn't feel it added anything to it. The book could have perfectly well been written in third person limited throughout without the switch. It boils down to the question of: "Is it necessary? Or is there another POV I could use to be more effective? What is there that I can do with this POV that I cannot do with another?"

    I'm not that experienced with switching between first and third person POVs - it's not that common I think. I believe a lot of people see it as pointless or just a poor choice of POV. I suggest you start a different thread or read up on the advantages and purposes of using certain POVs.

    Considering you don't sound too experienced with this, I would strongly advise you against doing it anyway. Stick with one POV. Different POVs have a different tone and writing style to it - it's really not just a matter of changing the pronouns. I tried it once myself without knowing anything and it was a disaster lol. Before you are experienced, it is better to stick with writing conventions and only explore in smaller projects you don't want to publish. Simply because 1. you don't wanna mess up a huge project for no reason - it's a lot of work and heartbreak lol and 2. if you don't know how to write within convention, likely you would be even more lost outside of convention. Better to learn the normal rules first, and only after you know them well, then have fun experimenting with breaking them :)

    As for books written in the omniscient POV - off the top of my head I only know of two. Perfume by Patrick Suskind and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. However, if you asked on the forum, there're plenty of us here who're far more well-read than I who could likely recommend you something even better, or within the genre you're hoping to write :)
     

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