1. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    POV question

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by hippocampus, Oct 5, 2013.

    So I'm writing my novel in the third person. I have four POV characters. I switch POVs at the chapter changes.

    My question is this - can I have a scene/chapter/etc. where it's no one's particular point of view? Or does one of my POV characters have to be there to see it?

    I'd like to have a chapter where we see something happen to a secondary non-POV character. I don't want it to be from her POV. I just want to say, "Susan was filing papers when The Agency came in with a warrant and rummaged through her boss's office. Susan called her boss and said, 'OMG, they're raiding your office!'"

    Well, that's not exactly how I'll phrase it, but you get the idea? Can I do that?

    This is one thing that has been unclear to me for a while now.
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Everything can be done if it's done well ( I give this advice cautiously cause it's like handing out dynamite to newbies. )
    They did this alot in old 80's romances, the ones that read like Dynasty/Dallas seasons. But the trick is to set it up to show
    the scene has shifted into someone else's point of view. It can't be just one sentence.

    Also, the character that you switch to should be relevant to one of the main characters not just there to carry the scene.
    If she never shows up again, I'd rework the scene to fit a more relevant character. You're story isn't just about the overall
    picture but the journey of the characters.

    I was just reading one of those romances and it had a huge shifting pov cast but everyone was relevant to each other - lovers, bosses,
    co-workers. And everyone had their own storyline, sub-plot.
     
  3. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Thanks Peachalulu! That helps I think. It will be quite obvious that the scene isn't from one of the main character POVs.

    And yes, she's important - we do see her throughout the novel. In fact, she has an important impact on quite a few plot points. However, we just never "see" what she's actually thinking. This particular scene is about 4oo words so far - it greatly impacts the MC - he's just not there at the time.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What it appears you're describing by your example would be Third Person Dramatic, where it is an observer telling what he sees without the benefit of thought or insight of the character(s) being followed. It is not a commonly used POV, but it is used on occasion.
     
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  5. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Third Person Dramatic? That's a new one on me! I'll have to look it up.
     
  6. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    First, a clarification: point of view doesn’t refer to which character you talk about. It doesn’t refer to the type of personal pronouns being used. It refers to whose mind is perceiving the events in the scene and how they interpret those events. They the one who makes the scene live for the reader by acting as an emotional measuring stick with which to calibrate our own reaction to the scene's events. This article may clarify what I mean: http: //jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/the-grumpy-writing-coach-8/

    Something else that matters is that in any given scene (not a chapter, a scene), the protagonist should always be the person who has the most emotional involvement, one who has a scene-goal that’s going to be thwarted, and who loses the battle in that scene (scenes end in disaster for reasons too complex to give here)

    A reader doesn’t come to us to get to know the people in the story better, so changing the POV for each chapter contributes little other then to dilute the reader’s sense of involvement with the most interesting character.

    Your reader has one goal: to be entertained by having you make them feel. The plot of the horror story we read is the framework, only. What we want is the excitement of the ride that plot takes us on. The protagonist may be terrified. But unless the prose makes us terrified, for the same reason—unless it makes us feel as if the events are happening to us—it’s just the history of a fictitious series of events.

    The protagonist of the scene isn’t the character the reader is learning about. They are the reader’s avatar, and are someone to worry about. Readers feed on worry

    Write a nice story about a nice man who meets a nice girl and marries her and people will be bored and stop reading. But have it turn out that the husband is, in reality, a monster, one who the bride must escape or die—in a situation where escape is impossible, and things even worse than dying are in the wings—and you have a story a reader can worry about.

    Have a scene in which there is no protagonist and you have a history lesson. You have the transcription of someone we can’t hear or see, talking about that history. And that removes the tone, the delivery, gesture, and all of the things that place emotion into the storytelling. Worse yet, you’d be expecting someone who knows nothing about the story—the reader—to know how to deliver a line as you would speak it, without knowing what it will say till after they’ve read it. And that’s not possible.

    So my answer is that if you change the POV for each scene (Unless the chapter ends are also the scene changes it probably won’t work) You had better have several things in play:

    1. The necessities of the plot demand it be done.
    2. The story be better for a reader because it was done.
    3. The reader, who is emotionally invested in the previous protagonist is pleased by the change.
     
  7. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Thanks JayG. That's a very informative post.
    (By the way - if anyone wants to visit the link to Jay's blog, you'll need to remove one of the "/" from the URL. It pastes as http:/// in the address bar.)

    I feel differently about this.

    As reader, I rather enjoy this approach (George RR Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Audrey Niffenegger, etc.) - I think it's fun to read and a good way to drive the story forward. As long as what they are doing affects the MC, I don't believe that it dilutes the reader's sense of involvement with them.

    I do understand that the POV refers to "whose mind is perceiving the events," so perhaps I should clarify.

    I think what I'm trying to do is write Subjective Omniscient POV without head-popping.

    For my four main characters, we "see" their thoughts. To use an example from scribophile.com, this is how my four main character chapters read:

    And this is how the scene I'm trying/wanting to write reads:

    Does that make more sense?
     

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