1. dazbizkit
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    dazbizkit Member

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    Good ways to indicate perspective change

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dazbizkit, Apr 1, 2010.

    I recently posted a thread about character perspectives and Cogito swiftly gave me the answers I needed. But now I have another question! :D

    What is a good way to let the reader know what character the perspective has changed to at the start of a chapter? Too often have a I read a book where a new chapter starts and by the time I've figured out what character is narrating I'm already two or three paragraphs in. Which means the flow is totally ruined for me.

    Has it been used where the character's name is at the top of the page? Written small in the header or underneath the Chapter title?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It has. Sue Grafton did this in her newest novel, U is for Undertow, in the chapters that focus on a character other than her protagonist, Kinsey Millhone. Also, because the chapters jump back and forth between 1988 and the late 1960s, each chapter also has a date in the header.

    It's not the only way to handle it by any means, but it works.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    That's also the method Bret Easton Ellis uses (very successfully) in his novel The Rules of Attraction.

    But even without those names, it would be easy to distinguish within a few paragraphs who was speaking, so if that isn't the case with your work, maybe you need to think about doing more to make the voices distinct from each other.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A few paragraphs is too long to leave the POV unanchored. You need to get the reader locked in to the POV within a sentence or two of the transition.

    At the beginning of the book, you can take slightly longer to leave the reader floating. But when you make a transition, it's different. The user needs to be cleanly pulled free of the preceding POV, and renachored smoothly to the new one.

    A little mystery at the beginning intrigues and engages the reader. Confusion during a transition loses the reader.
     
  5. dazbizkit
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    dazbizkit Member

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    Thanks guys for the help! I wasn't sure whether using the method I asked about would seem awkward or not, but clearly it works if many authors are using it.

    I feel I'm good at distinguishing different character voices and have no problem letting the reader know who's narrating at the start of a chapter. But it also depends on the subject or situation of the chapter. Sometimes, even with character traits showing through the narrative it won't always be immediately clear in the first few lines. But I was wondering if I could also use this method so a reader would understand who's narrating for sure.

    What are the other possible ways it can be done?
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Show the passage of time through narration. It might be the signs of a change of season, or showing the person (previously a student) getting ready for work, or the previously single girl rolling over and kissing her husband before getting out of bed. These work best for large gaps in time. Smaller gaps are shownby changes in weather or day/night, or activities that take place at a particular time of day or day of the week.

    Other times, you might explicitly say something like, "Felicia took the weekend off, and gave the matter no further thought until Tuesday morning."

    It helps that readers expect some kind of transition at the start of a new chapter, or after a section break.

    With that out of the way, get back into the flow of your story as quickly as you can.
     
  7. dazbizkit
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    dazbizkit Member

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    Cool. Thanks Cogito, I'll give them a try! :p
     

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