1. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Perspective issue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by terobi, May 20, 2015.

    I'm currently finishing up the first draft of my first novel. Looking back for the redraft, it's looking like I have an issue with perspective; while the rest of the novel takes place entirely from one point of view (bar a few flashbacks from a different one), my first chapter switches between that and another POV.

    Initially, I didn't think this was an issue, but I'm increasingly thinking it's a little jarring to suddenly go from two viewpoints to a single one - the trouble is, if I simply chop out the other perspective, the "action" of the opening (a break-in) happens entirely off-screen as my POV character goes about her normal daily life, until right at the end.

    First; is this actually a problem? Would writing the first chapter from multiple perspectives but the rest from a single POV be too jarring and/or promising a certain style that the remainder of the book does not fulfil?

    Second; if I were to excise the alternate character's scenes, would there be a good way to re-insert them, using a prologue perhaps?

    Any opinions on this would be helpful, cheers!
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it would definitely be weird to have a POV in the first chapter that is never used again in the book.

    I'd suggest you either go with a prologue (which could be a bit dodgy, as many people apparently don't like them) or try to start the story a little later, and just have someone tell your MC about the break-in, or have her thinking about it as she does something else, or whatever.
     
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  3. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the response BayView;

    I've heard the thing about editors/publishers disliking prologues before - I can see how they might get overused, else used when they're frankly not necessary, but presumably there are times when they're necessary (and I have to say, personally I've never been put off a book because it had a prologue, though I have been put off books by their opening few chapters having little to no action in them).

    I'm not entirely sure starting the story later would be useful, since the end-point of that break-in is the story's "inciting incident" - running into those characters mid-break-in and the confrontation they have is the event which has my POV character begin to question the world she lives in and the information she's been told - skipping it or trying to do it through reflection later on seems like it would probably feel unnatural.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Does the character whose POV is only present in the first chapter appear elsewhere in the story as a non-POV character?

    I think it comes down to how the use of the character's POV serves the story.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd use a prologue - I wouldn't shy away from using a prologue if your story actually needs one.

    I'd be wary about having multiple POVs in the first chapter. I did that in my own WIP once - I switched between 3 POVs. One of them is a minor character who returns, one of them a minor character who dies in the same chapter, and one of them the villain of the novel.

    The feedback I got? That no one could connect with any of the characters by the end of the chapter cus they never stayed long enough with one character to really get to know them.

    So, switching POVs in and of itself doesn't have to be a bad thing - but when it's your first chapter, before your reader is properly immersed into the story, I'd say switching POVs is generally a bad idea.
     
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  6. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Yeah, she (and her brother) are major non-POV characters through the remainder of the story.

    My POV character coming to understand how those characters see her world is part of her arc though, so I'm not sure if presenting that view right at the beginning is either necessary or helpful - I think it might work better if the reader gets to work it out alongside her, rather than being presented with two competing views "up front" right in chapter one.

    I think the prologue approach is probably the best one, to be honest.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, that would be my take as well.

    Unless I missed something, this wouldn't square with your first statement above. Prologues are generally separated from the main action of the story in time. For example, a friend of mine has a novel in which the main characters are in their 20s, with a prologue from when they are children.
     
  8. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Well now this is where it starts to get confusing - I do have a number of short "interlude" chapters, which take place ~50 years before the main narrative, but which lay the foundations of the world we 'now' live in. It also serves the handy function of giving more background and "screentime" to my antagonists, since it takes place from their perspective, and allows me to make parallels between them and my protagonists.

    While the "prologue" wouldn't be separated so much in time (a few hours, perhaps), it sets up events that nobody in the "main" narrative could possibly know about, since (being a break-in) it is deliberately engineered for them not to. I'm not talking about anything grand, a small piece establishing something that is happening that the characters couldn't possibly know about but that the reader needs to make sense of any of it.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That is exactly what many prologues are used for. The fact that it's a prologue rather than a chapter one signals to the reader that this contains something important to the story, but something that stands apart from it in some way. A character we won't meet again. An event that happened in the past. A different POV character who won't be a POV character again. Things like that.

    Rather than tangling up two POVs in one chapter, if this prologue device makes sense to you, then use it by all means. Make it intriguing and lively, and readers will gallop through it. When they get to Chapter One, they'll know the story will have changed in some way, and will be ready for the new POV.

    If they skip it because they 'never read prologues', that's their problem, not yours. They'll have missed something important ...and who knows, they may even eventually backtrack and read it anyway. And maybe learn that they shouldn't skip prologues? :)
     
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  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I keep coming back to this, though. And I think you need to decide whether it benefits your story for the reader to have this information up front, or, if as is suggested by the above statement, you want to place the reader in your POV character's shoes in discovering how others perceive her. Keep in mind, though, that if you give it to the reader up front, whatever sense of discovery that might be revealed throughout the story is taken away. OTOH, if that isn't your main goal, it might be the way to go.
     
  11. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    I think you are right here - I was planning to perhaps put the prologue in a more "outside" perspective, rather than any of the characters POV (though not omniscient), so that it can say something "unbiased" about the setting and describe "dark figures doing X" rather than actually giving their viewpoint.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know that any story 'needs' a prologue. I tend not to like them because they're often poorly done, so if I decide to buy a book that has one (and sometimes I'll put the book back on the shelf if I see a lengthy prologue), I may just skip it.

    I think @EdFromNY is right on the POV issue - it depends on how it serves the story. I've read plenty of books where the author switches to a POV character briefly, to serve a specific purpose, and then never goes back to that character again. It's not an unusual device, it's just a matter of whether it is the right one in your situation and whether you can employ it effectively.
     

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