1. bsharp
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    bsharp New Member

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    Question about POV

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bsharp, Feb 21, 2009.

    My novel takes place primarily during the 1960s. I start some scenes with a description of historic events, told in "an unknown universal author" Point Of View. Then, I shift the point of view to the MC - "Rob."

    I like the way the this technique seems to 'anchor' the scene in a certain time. I also like how it moves from a broad perspective down to the MC's perspective.

    However, I've been told that you can't shift the Point Of View in this way.

    Is it okay to do this? Can anyone think of other authors who have tried this technique.


    FOR EXAMPLE:

    1966

    Throughout the world, life progressed. The American Football League and the National Football League agreed to merge into one football organization. A couple of astronauts circled the earth in another Gemini capsule. Another Civil Rights leader, James Meredith, was wounded by a sniper in Jackson, Mississippi. Some crazy guy murdered eight nurses in Chicago. Another one killed thirteen students from a tower on the University of Texas campus.

    Rob's friend, Larry, went away for the summer to stay with an Uncle in Chicago, returning just before school started in August. When he came back, Rob noticed immediately that Larry had changed. He grew his hair longer, for one thing. Rob had never seen a black person with long hair, and Larry's made his head look like he was wearing a helmet of some sort. He said everyone in Chicago wore their hair that way, and called it an "afro."

    What do you think?

    Thank you for your help.
     
  2. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    You've been told? By whom?
    You can't? Why?

    Write how you want to. No one can forbid you to switch POVs.
     
  3. bsharp
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    bsharp New Member

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    A professional editor is working with me to prepare the novel to send to publishers. She has cautioned me against this practice.

    With the exception of John Grisham (maybe), I haven't found another writer who uses this technique. Thoughts?
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't see why this is bad. I recently read The Idiot for lit class and the POV started out in third person omniscient and gradually shifts to third person limited. So, there is nothing wrong with using a POV shift.
     
  5. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I don't think the technique itself is bad, (it's not really a 'technique,' as you're merely talking about two different things in two different paragraphs) but your delivery is a little blunt, in much the same manner as a baseball bat to the soft spot of an infants head.

    "A crazy guy murdered some people in Chicago. . . OH, YEAH, did I mention that Rob's friend did such and such?"

    And I feel like you just connected two completely unrelated things.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your opening paragraph lacks focus. The reader doesn't see, much less feel a part of, a scene. That is a weak opening.

    Of course, you CAN do it. You did, after all. The real question is whether you should. There is no absolute standard, but some constructs are stronger than others.

    The problem is not that you ae shifting your point of view, so much as that you are starting with a very murky, ill-defined point of view.

    Openings are crucial. Get the reader INTO the scene from the very start, not flaoting in limbo.

    No one wants to begin reading with a history lesson.
     
  7. Arrow
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    Arrow Member

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    I also have been using this "omniscient" third person POV then moving in to a limited third with my MC. Other writers who have read certain chapters are split as to embracing this style. Personally, I like it..hmm. :)

    I don't employ this in every chapter, but I do it at least twice. It's as if I'm making the location a character by focusing on setting before introducing the character into the scene/chapter. One comment from a short story writer was that they felt disoriented b/c I took too long to establish whose head the reader was in...whose POV.

    It does, in agreement with Cogito (written elsewhere), force the reader to float almost aimlessly until the character's POV is established. Of this I'm guilty. In both cases when used the characters are experiencing a sense of disorientation in the scenes. I'm just wondering if this approach works; or if it can be made to work effectively for the novel form versus the short story form?
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    An afro (and maybe bell-bottoms) would be enough for me to anchor the scene without the first paragraph. And hopefully the fact that it's set in the 1960s is not the sole 'hook'. But Rob could be watching marches on TV when his friend Larry, almost unrecognisable in his new trendy 'gear', knocks on his door. This way you've established POV from the start.
     
  9. bsharp
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    bsharp New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback.

    The entire novel takes place throughout the 60s. I mention probably 30 different events that happened during that decade (almost Forrest Gump style). I want the reader to recall as many of those tumultuous events as I can.

    However, I can't keep having someone watch a TV report or hear a radio newscast.

    I wonder if I took some of these "omniscient third" POVs and placed it in a different font with wider margins (almost like a "call-out" or a sidebar) if that might work.

    Has anyone ever read a novel with sidebars?
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know Rob's age, but many of us growing up in the 60s were less interested in the political stuff and more interested in:
    the latest music, films, TV (lost in space, flipper, and skippy) men on the moon (bit late, 1969), Abebe Bikila winning the marathon, the latest game and toy crazes (saw my first Barbie 1966), everyone taking transistor radios to the beach, male teachers suddenly wearing pink shirts (and even the queen of England wore mini skirts).
    Student riots in Paris impressed me, though, I remember. And yes, Vietnam played on relentlessly.
    But people living in the 'era' aren't always aware of it in terms of world shattering events. If you aren't writing a social history book, I think it's the personal memories that are important. But maybe I was shallow.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    P.S. In answer to your question, I would not like to read a NOVEL with lots of footnotes (always avoid them) and I've never seen one with 'sidebars' but I'd probably dislike that, also.

    But yours may be so creative and different it would be attractive (not if it's as long-winded and full of whimsy as Forrest Gump, though).

    I read history books or biographies to learn about history. But I love a good novel that gives me an insight into a period, which usually means the writer has done a LOT of research or has personal experience of the era.
     
  12. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    I wouldn't have particularly said the opening was weak as it made me think that something exciting was going to happen in the book, on the scale of these events. Also, it's such a short paragraph that it isn't going to lose the attention of the reader even if they don't like it.

    I don't see any problem with the shift in POV, personally. I've read lots of books where POV changes throughout- it just makes things more interesting.
     
  13. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I agree with Atari in that the POV shift isn't necessarily bad, just the really abrupt way you did it. You don't gradually shift POVs, you start with a summary of historic events and then bam, all of a sudden the focus changes. The two POVs have no connection so why are they together on the page? What connects them? Nothing, currently.

    Perhaps find a way to merge them together a bit more...relate them to one another and make the transition more gradual, to show the reader how and WHY these historic events have any tie to the POV character--and it might work better. Ask yourself, just because this story is set in the Sixties, is it even important to mention these things in the first place?

    I can start my stories talking about how Obama is president and Madoff allegedly ripped people off and peanut butter is poisoning people and whatnot but what does that really have to do with the plot...? Just because it's in the same time period doesn't mean it has any relevance to my story. You need to find your relevance.

    I don't even understand what you mean by using "sidebars." Have never seen anything like that in a novel, and it would make it hard to read, IMO. When reading a novel I want to read one linear story, not jump back and forth between the story and a sidebar.
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    It's done all the time, but you have to zoom in, so to speak. The way you have it right now, the camera is focused on the states, and then it bounces inside of Rob's head.

    Another one killed thirteen students from a tower on the University of Texas campus. James Meredith, was wounded by a sniper in Jackson, Mississippi. Some crazy guy murdered eight nurses in Chicago.

    Chicago, where industry boomed, where large towers let off black smoke by day and flames by night, and where people of different nationalities freely walked the streets.

    Rob’s friend, Larry, even told him that the streets were filled with trash. Larry had gone away for the summer to stay with an Uncle in Chicago, returning just before school started in August.

    Here is a quick attempt at what I mean by zooming in. If you change the order of the last two sentences in the first paragraph, you more easily lead into Chicago, rather than the last place mentioned being Texas. Then I attempted to zoom in from the states to a city. The camera then swooped in to the streets, and finally to Rob’s head.

    These aren’t the first two paragraph’s of the story, though, right?
     
  15. bsharp
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    bsharp New Member

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    Correct. This takes place about 2/3 of the way through the novel.

    Thanks.
     

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