1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Pros and cons of multiple viewpoints

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by marcusl, Sep 14, 2010.

    I just wanted to hear some suggestions on what the pros and cons of using multiple viewpoints are.

    When you write in a third person limited perspective, the reader might find it easier to relate with and sympathize for the protagonist. So, you could say that by having multiple viewpoints, you allow readers to care for multiple characters. However, if you keep changing viewpoints, perhaps the reader simply won't care for anyone at all. Of course, there's another argument. You could say that if you're a competent writer, even if the story isn't written in a particular character's view, the reader should still be able to feel for that character. This is when I start to wonder, why use multiple viewpoints, or why not?

    Here is one potential reason to use multiple perspectives. If an important scene takes place, but character A isn't present, then you could dramatize that scene from the viewpoint of character B, who is in that scene.

    With that said, I want to talk about an issue with a book I'm currently working on. Just to keep things simple, I'll try to make it as plain as possible. Character A and character B are the two main heroes in the story. Let's say both of these characters are present in every scene in the book. At the moment, the entire novel takes place in character A's perspective. I'm wondering if the viewpoint could shift between characters A and B, just so readers can relate to B better.

    There's another reason why I'm considering this. There's a third person, character C, who has a strong relation to character B. Now, at some point in the story, character B dies, and character C replaces her spot. So, I was thinking, the book could shift between the viewpoints of characters A and B. When character B dies, the story will continue, changing between the perspectives of characters A and C. This will emphasize the relationship between characters B and C. The downside is, I'll have to rewrite half of the scenes in the book, so I'm not sure if there are enough rewards to make this worth doing.

    Thanks for reading the long post everyone.
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is this still 3rd person? 'Cause there's nothing wrong with a style that dips in and out of every viewpoint, no matter how close and exclusively it follows that viewpoint while it's in there. There's nothing to say you should only stick with one character, though obviously if you follow one guy for 100 pages and then randomly have this other guy for one scene, then the first guy again for another 150 pages it might look a bit odd. Since you're using 2 characters already, the readers will easily accept a third.

    If not, just loosen up the narration to be more general - as long as you're not going to make a mess on the page with personal thoughts left right and centre from all the people in the scene, you can pick the emotions from as many characters as you choose to tell. Keep it easy to follow, is the key thing. As long as someone reading it won't ever stop and go "Huh?" you can do what you like.
     
  3. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    You're fine dipping in and out of different VPC's, as long as the reader knows it's going to happen from time to time as they read through the chapters. As Melzaar said; as long as you don't switch VPC in a single chapter late in the book and then switch back again, cause that just seems strange.

    Switching viewpoints lets you explore how a different character reacts to something that happened in a previous chapter, or lets the reader see how they view other characters, events etc... As long as the switch is relevant to the story, you'll be just fine.
     
  4. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you read G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire? He switches viewpoint between characters very effectively, so if it's something you're interested in doing, his books are a good example to read.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I switch between characters (using their names, not "I"). It's a dystopia, and I have the POVs of characters who are aware of what's going on with my story's government, and of those who aren't.

    It depends on what the story calls for.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Tom Clancy switches viewpoints quite regularly, and in some cased over several POVs. It works because the plot needs it to work, with each POV having its own realm. OTOH, having two characters in every scene and yet switching viewpoints back and forth between them might not work so well - or maybe I just can't see why it would be needed. If the story was intensely personal to both characters, where the reader needed to see how each character was thinking and reacting and why, then perhaps it might work.
     
  7. white
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    white Banned

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    I could see alternating between two characters in the same scene if the characters had hidden motives, or if their true emotions were different from what they portrayed. That could be interesting.
     
  8. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    One of the best points about different character's POVs is that you can tell the story from many sides, giving the reader different ways of seeing it. After all to every story there is always more than one side to be known.

    The bad part, and what you have to be careful of, is that when switching between characters, you don't end up confusing the reader. There's been a few books that has made no clarification of switching characters and I've had to stop and go "huh?"


    A small suggestion (if I may) if you don't want to confuse your readers, and have two to three different viewpoints in the same chapter, you can do like the one author's work I've read (I can't remember the name right now but I'll try looking it up and seeing if I can't find it for you for example purposes). What they did was take a situation, like in the book someone cheated on their SAT and the group of study buddies got together to find out who did it. It was the same situation, but instead of squeezing five different point of views into one small chapter, the author managed to squeeze it into seperate chapters (each for one character) without dragging the story on. Sure there was a little bit of repeating what was already said, but it worked because it was a different character, and their POV on what it meant, and how they took it.
     
  9. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    In my opinion, you just might want to include B’s POV, but to a minimum. That way, when B dies, the audience will have a really bitter-sweet feeling in their stomachs. For one: B had a relationship with C. A good bond. And two: having less of B’s POV revealed will make it more tragic for the reader. (You might want to reveal just enough of B’s POV to make the readers like him/her. Then with B’s death, the reader’s will immediately become depressed B died. It’s all about manipulating the audience, I guess you could say).

    I hope this helps. PM me if you need more suggestions :D

    T
     
  10. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Thanks heaps for the replies. They've all been very helpful.

    Yes, with this story, using multiple viewpoints will definitely work. I'm just trying to figure out what I gain and lose for doing that.

    There's one thing I neglected to mention. This story takes place in, let's say, another dimension. Characters B and C are residents of this realm. Character A came from our world and is new to this dimension. When I think of it like that, I figured perhaps sticking to character A's viewpoint. Because character A is from our world, it's nice to discover things about this other dimension as he discovers them.

    There's another point. Character A has a crush on character B. He would love to know what she feels about him, but at the moment, we're stuck in A's view, so her feelings are a mystery. The truth is, character B also likes A, so if we enter her perspective, we know this right away. But it could be tantalizing, which is interesting, I suppose.

    That's about it, really. Of course, in the end, I'll have to make the decision. But I'll appreciate any opinions I receive from here. Cheers.
     
  11. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    One more reply, the cynic one.

    You'll most probably do it wrong. Any change of PoV or narrative voice has a really high chance of being a huge mistake and a slim chance of really adding something to the story.
     
  12. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, sounds to me like it's more plot relevant to really just stick with A 100%... if there's stuff you can ONLY tell from B and C, just don't tell it, and leave it to A to figure out on their own. From what you've described, circumstantially, it just seems like it might be telling too much to write all the POVs when A is the key figure and B's head is full of spoilers, etc etc.

    Also, Thanshin, cynicism is good, but learning to write is better, so I think things like that should be attempted - generally, I guess - because otherwise if you never try you'll never know.

    Maybe the novel in question SHOULD be written from different POVs just as an experiment, though overall I think the plot sounds like it'd be better presented from one POV... But then, I just know that from a few words of explanation on a forum, not from having read it. :p
     
  13. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I didn't suggest not doing it, I just said it'd be wrong.

    If someone's reaction to expecting a less than perfect result is not doing it, I don't think that someone would've started writing in the first place, unless he's exceptionally optimist. :)

    Do it. Expect it to go wrong. Study he result or be pleasantly surprised.

    We pessimists are very happy people, as everything goes better than expected.
     
  14. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fot you own sake, and for the sake of the book, i think the best suggestion is:

    Give it a try. Write an first draft on few key scenes seen from B perspective and see how it works.
     
  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with W176 try it out, I told my first story from 10 viewpoints until i found the one I liked best. My second story didn't take as many attempts but I am on my third viewpoint.
     
  16. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Honestly, I don't see how you can write a book, entirely from the point of view of the main character (not and have it interesting).

    At the very least, you'd have to present the story from the point of view of the antagonist, to explain the motivations and schemes behind the conflict, otherwise you run the risk of your antagonist becoming a two dimensional, card board cut out, lacking all depth :(
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Really? Have you read any good murder mysteries told from the perspective of the investigator?

    Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries are mostly written in first person, from Kinsey Millhone's perspective. Her later books in the series do step outside her perspective, but all the earlier ones use a single point of view.

    Nor is it only mysteries that are written this way. Larry Niven's Nebula Award winning novel Ringworld is told entirely from Louie Wu's POV.

    Every writer should become proficient in writing from multiple POVs, but that doesn't mean every novel must use them.
     
  18. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Now that you mention it, that is a valid point.

    Murder mysteries aren't really my thing, so it didn't occur to me to consider them, but in retrospect, I can now recall quite a few that fall into that category.
     
  19. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    The entire "Harry Potter" series is written almost exclusively from Harry's point of view. Generally speaking, if Harry isn't present for a scene, you don't get to hear about it. (Some prologues and asides are the exceptions.) Yet you still get to know each of the principle characters very well in this series, just from Harry's point of view. We forgive Hermione Granger's morally ambiguous behaviour because we are led to believe she is one of the "good guys", and yet condemn Draco Malfoy's single-minded determination because it puts him in opposition with the protagonist. This clear delineation of good and evil would not be possible if the story were told from multiple points of view.

    If it were me, I'd want to write the whole thing from Character A's perspective, because he/she would be the only one with a sense of wonder about the new world he has entered.

    Having said that though, experimenting with an alternative model couldn't hurt.
     

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