1. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    Formatting between perspective shifts

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Jak of Hearts, Feb 11, 2014.

    I have been working on revising my first novel. It is currently written in 3rd person multiple following the five main characters and the two antagonists. Each scene is written in 3rd person limited following one character, however there are several scenes within a chapter. What is the proper way to distinguish when there is a character shift? I was currently putting a blank line, two centered asterisks, and then another blank line to break them up. I am wondering if there is a standard for this kind of stuff, or if I should do away with the breaks all together and just let the reader figure out that the perspective has changed. I tried to do a little research on the subject via google but came up with very little so I thought I would ask the more experienced. I appreciate any help you can be.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You could use a scene break like you suggested (though using "#" instead of "**"; see William Shunn's response on this). Or you could use a new paragraph. Heck, you could even shift mid-sentence if you're feeling avant-garde. There's no right or wrong way to do this, though using a scene break would probably be the least confusing to readers.
     
  3. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Yes, it should be broken up by these things #, but only use the one. That's the expected standard for sending your manuscript off to an agent or publisher.
     
  4. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I'm with the majority. I think manuscript submissions say center a pound sign and they'll change it to whatever they want on publication. As for after that, just make it clear right off the bat whose POV you're shifting to. Like mention their name in the first couple sentences. "Mark felt a stabbing pain...." so the reader knows as early as possible whose head they're in.

    When you say let the reader figure it out, I think you're referring to...what's it called...third-person omniscient? Shifting? Something like that. Anyway, multiple POVs in one chapter. That's a style. It's been used. But I think the trends is overwhelmingly in favor of one POV per chapter nowadays. My advice is to follow that unless you have a specific reason not to. But I'll let some others sound off in here. They might disagree with me.

    Edit: Heck, we're all readers here. We should probably be able to tell you what we see most. What I see most is one POV per chapter and tell the reader in the first couple sentences whose POV it is. I'm sticking with that. :p
     
  5. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    The reason I don't like 1 POV per chapter is that I have 5 characters plus two main antagonists. I currently have it divided into 16 chapters. That only leaves roughly 3 chapters per person and that isn't enough to really get into them I think. But I'm also trying to avoid head hopping at the same time so I'm just breaking the chapters up.
     
  6. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Breaking them into subchapters is fine. Like @thirdwind said, leave a centered pound sign between subchapters and you'll be ok.
     
  7. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Sounds like you're talking of scenes as location or time changes not units of tension. If not, and they truly are scenes, it sounds like your chapters are way too long or the scenes too short. Scenes end in disastwer for the protagonist, and multiple disasters within a single chapter seems odd.

    But that aside, a change of POV in the same scene is usually done with a white space (the # shown on a single line in a manuscript submission). A change of scene is usually done with either a chapter end or via the asterisk method mentioned above.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not everyone subscribes to the scene and sequel model, Jay. There's nothing wrong with defining a scene as what takes place in a single location and period of time.

    To answer the original question, you don't have to have a chapter change between scenes. You don't have to use a section break either, but if you do, it should consist of a single # character centered on a line of its own.

    At the least, a new scene should be a new paragraph. I would use a section break if the POV character changes or if there is a major change in location or time period, and if I don't want start a new chapter yet for whatever reason.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014

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