1. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    Multiple Viewpoints Keeps Writing Fresh.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by rasmanisar, Jan 11, 2014.

    This links into and is partly inspired by the 'First draft is terrible' thread, but I thought this was off topic enough to justify a fresh thread. Anyway...

    I was reading the aforementioned thread and considering the fact that it is often hard to separate yourself from a piece of work and analyse it as critically as you would another persons. Often it is all too easy to get caught up in a deep narrative, and not realise glaring continuity errors and perhaps a certain stifling of flow. However, I've found that writing from the perspective of more than one character, i.e. regularly changing the angle from which the tale is being viewed, can be really helpful in gaining the necessary separation to critique previous sections. Once I've spent a few paragraphs writing from another persons perspective, I start to get into that characters way of thinking, which then gives me room to breath for the first.

    This has resulted in a slightly yo-yoing style of writing where I finish a chapter, write a few hundred words of the next, and then drop back into the previous one in 'editor' mode, by which point I really get a feel for which sections need more development, and then flesh them out to match the rest.

    Anyone else find they do this? Also, do you have any other good tips on separating yourself from a chapter/character so as to critically evaluate them?
     
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  2. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Perhaps it seems to work, but what will you do if you write a first person story?

    I have to ask if, when you are writing, if you're in the POV of the character or only having them as a focus character. To write in their POV you have no choice but to show only what they notice and react to. as against what you, the outside viewpoint, order them to do and say.
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like this idea. I think all writers develop a strategy that works for them. As long as you keep your POVs straight, and don't end up changing them too frequently—it's terribly disjointing for a reader, to be yanked in and out of different heads—this method would certainly force you to look at every scene from different perspectives.

    In fact, you could go one better, here. You could write every scene from a couple of different perspectives. Once you're done with your story (or section of story) you can decide which POV best accomplishes what you want the scene to do.

    Myself, I rely on the old 'give it a rest' technique. Once I'm done, I put my story away for a LONG while. When I come back to it, I can divorce myself from having written it, and see continuity errors and other kinds of mistakes I missed, either when actually writing, or just afterwards when I was still too close to the process. Of course sharp-eyed beta readers are also a big help—but only if they're willing to read your story from start to finish.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think these are two different questions, and frankly, I don't think that the number of POVs from which you write would have much impact on either.

    Your concern about being able to critique your work is a valid one, and something that many of us have struggled with at some point. Certainly, you can't hope to be successful without it. But if you struggle with being objective about your writing, I don't see how changing POVs helps you. Even if the root problem is overidentification with one of the characters, does writing from an opposing POV really change that?

    The second concern is another topic of frequent discussion here - edit-as-you-go or wait until you finish the first draft. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. I have always preferred waiting until the first draft is complete, because I didn't want to become so involved with editing an existing chapter that I never finished the draft. But my current project, a historical novel spanning nearly 500 years, has made that impossible. It sounds like the edit-as-you-go strategy works for you and my only advice would be to make certain you don't lose forward momentum when you go back to edit. But that "yo-yo" sensation you get from the process will be with you regardless of the number of POVs from which you write.

    As for what you can do to gain a greater sense of objectivity, I agree with @jannert about walking away for a while. I do that myself, both when the first draft is completed and if I get to a point where I feel I'm just stuck. In either case, I focus on some other creative activity for a while. Then I come back when my batteries are recharged. But I also would suggest that you participate in critiquing in the Writer's Workshop. Get used to critiquing others and then use those acquired skills in critiquing your own work.

    Good luck.
     
  5. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice folks. I agree with you on controlling how often the POV shifts - the way I'm working my current project is that each 'chapter' is primarily following one of three characters (I also enjoy using a minor character's POV from time to time as it gives the opportunity to describe the main characters in a way that others view them), all of whom obviously have differing emotional reactions etc that alters the way in which they perceive the world - I find that this provides a great sense of separation because it gives me the opportunity to leave a character alone for a while but still make progress.

    I have to say, I like the idea of trying to interpret a scene from several different viewpoints and seeing which works best. I'll have to have a play with that within my current project.

    @JayG, First person is something I'm definitely not as experienced in, being as my favourite style is third person past tense. I think I'll get a little mini-project going so that I can get more comfortable with it.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Rachel Simon does this in The Story of Beautiful Girl. Each chapter is devoted to one of the three main characters, with one chapter involving a supporting character. E. M. Forster, in A Passage to India, not only alternated among three characters' POVs, he also used that device to highlight the conflicts among three different cultures.
     
  7. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    I really enjoy this style of character expression, as I like the ability to portray several characters emotions without it just being from an external perspective. The novel starts with two independent story arcs, which then draw together slightly before the third enters, but with a character that interacts across all three. I'm drawing these together so that they eventually follow the same story arc, but maintain the split perspectives. 20,000 words in, I'm having a lot of fun.

    Slightly off-topic, but I'm finding good planning to be really key in making it flow. Not so much going overboard on the detail (that, after all, is what the writing process is for), but rather finding what I want the key focus of the particular scene to be, and then building around that. I flesh it out to certain extent, and then start the actual writing. This works much better for me than simply setting the scene and writing away, as it gives me a solid goal to aim for and construct the whole chapter around, so that I can get into the flow of good writing without worrying about ad-hoc plot development.
     
  8. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    The other problem with swapping POV's is the one I'm having with Rain When I Die. The story is about the contents of my MC's diary, but the intro is written from her older sister's POV. What ended up happening was the readers became attached to Zoe's perspective, and Zoe as a character in general, which lead to some moderate resistance when Alesia's POV came into play. In other words, when the POV swapped, everyone wanted Zoe back and didn't care much for my MC who the story is really about.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do change POV regularly in my stories, but not out of any real strategy for writing - only because that's what works best for the telling. However, I have changed POV when having trouble with a particular scene - it sometimes gives me a fresh perspective or allows me to see something that gets me past the trouble spot. I can then turn around and put the scene back into the hands of the "proper" character. It doesn't always work, of course, but often enough that I find it a useful tool.
     
  10. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    Maybe this is a sign that the older sister works best as the interpreter for the younger sister? IMO that would make a nice concept, the sister discovering her younger counterparts actions through the medium of the diary - you could make a really good transition by simply starting with her reading a page of the diary as one would normally read something, perhaps for a sentence or two, then drop into the real scene in first person POV of the younger sister.

    Obviously this is all random interpretation when I'm sure you have your own methods more than figured out. Still, it could be fun.
     
  11. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    That was my plan exactly. What I did instead, because the diary was the main crux of the novel anyway, was start a blog where I will be posting these stories in real time. I think it works a tad better that way since this is in essence my story-my struggle with addiction-and I care about gaining neither money nor publicity from it. (Though I wouldn't mind if the blog went viral and some publisher picked it up :p)
     
  12. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    Care to post a link? :)
     
  13. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Sent it via PM
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  14. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    "I think I'll get a little mini-project going so that I can get more comfortable with it."

    Try an interesting experiment. Take a piece you already have and change it to first person. You'll have to smooth and change a few things, but you might be surprised at how much just changing pronouns handles the job.
     
  15. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    That sounds like a good idea, I'll give it a try. I'd also like to try writing a new piece from a purely experiential first person perspective, where the story is completely POV and the main character is unaware of the reader, if that makes sense.
     
  16. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    When this happens to me, I find it's usually because I'm still drafting.

    Even if I've outlined and thought I've figured everything out, I really haven't. I'm following more than one character to see their place amongst the whole.

    Some / many drafts later, it all sorts itself out.
     

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