1. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Shared scenes between characters with differing viewpoints

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Complex, Jul 7, 2012.

    Alrighty, question time from Complex again. I've finally found a starting point for my novel, leaving plenty of gap before I connect to the first major plot point, so that I can fill in a few bits of free space for character development and addressing a matter with the initial rallying of the scattered characters. Another weird problem has presented itself in the process of fixing these loose ends.

    Problem is as follows:
    Main character A is followed by the story with third person omniscient narrator that corresponds to character's views and thoughts.
    Main character B is followed by the story with third person omniscient narrator that corresponds to character's views and thoughts.

    Both characters have differing views of the situation, yet I want each character to retain their own view of the situation. Character A sees thing this way, Character B sees it another way. It is literally the same events happening, but the difference is in the perception of the characters. Spoken dialogue matches for both, but the character's individual impressions lead to drastically different views of the situation. I really don't want to combine the two story lines as one for this sole chapter. Though I do not know if having the same events repeated with a different spin is really a valid option.

    FYI. I've got more then one of these occurring in the novel, the worst one has six main characters (followed separately up to this intersection) in a climatic showdown of wills, wits and devious execution of a Xanatos gambit to ensure the antagonists victory. It boiled down into simply 'telling' because 'showing' was out of the question and it read like one of those annoying soccer announcers screaming wildly at the players as they move around the field. Then yelling, "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL!" for a span of thirty seconds at the climax of the scene, droning on long after everyone stopped cheering. I'm stumped.
     
  2. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    There's an old movie called He Said She Said, which handles the story of a romance and its disintegration through the eyes of each character in the manner you're describing. It uses the completely awkward device of splitting the movie in two, with each half devoted to one view; probably not feasible in the context of a novel.

    I've got a story bubbling that will be told from two PoVs. I intend to interleave chapters to avoid confusion if at all possible. I'm not sure if that would work for your story, but it's a thought. Obviously, that approach is not amenable to representing the views of six characters -- that sort of bloat would kill any sense of climax, I imagine. Myself, I would limit it to two or perhaps three, rather than six, and I would interleave them tightly, perhaps into one or two chapters, to preserve the impact of climax.
     
  3. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    In Jurassic Park, there is a dispute between John Arnold (not Hammond) and Ian Malcolm. I'm talking about the novel. What Crichton does, is that after all of the characters had talked to one another, after the discourse, we go into the mind of each one. So Crichton doesn't do it during the interaction, but afterwards. So Malcolm goes, in his mind "hey, I know that everything I was told by Arnold a second ago is total BS, because mathematics proves these patterns and the system isn't stable."

    And Arnold goes "hey, what Malcolm said to me 10 minutes ago is BS. He doesn't get that even so-called stable systems are in fact unstable."

    Crichton does it in third person, not first person as I've done it here, but you get the point. So I suggest, write the interaction, and then spend some time inside the mind of each person, as that person thinks about the interaction and analyzes it in his/her head.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    With all due respect to the late Michael Crichton, it's neither necessary nor desirable to overindulge in cranium diving. The conversation is more than sufficient to show both positions, and it is also clear that neither has been swayed by the other's argument.

    It's a clear instance in which showing is preferable to telling.
     
  5. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    If only it was an argument I had to deal with! I'll go into detail about the major one I cannot resolve.

    (Scene details) Assassin slips poison into goblet to kill the leader. Servant notices and doesn't openly call out the assassin, intending to dispose of the drink quietly before summoning the guards. Assassin sees the servant attempting to ruin the drink and challenges the honor of serving the leader. Servant argues back and forth, drawing the attention of the leader. Leader tells them to stop fighting and 'You act as if it was poisoned-' before drinking it. Leader drops dead. Assassin implicates the servant. Servant implicates the assassin, but the guards back the assassin and take him away. For a brief time the nobles are sit to converse about the horrible event until the servant admits to poisoning the leader and is set for execution.

    (Scene goal) The whole scene is the execution to 'kill off' the leader (long overdue for a planned vacation of sorts) and gauge the reaction of their allies. The scene revolves around the version of the events being relaid accurately with difference to 'noticing' the fight over the poisoned cup. Whereas the servant appears to be the plotter instead of the assassin. The entire scene is a focus point in which it is reiterated by those who witnessed it, forming two distinct factions. Those who believe the event as it is told and the others who believe the confessor was innocent; eventually coming to a head with 'who saw what' battle between the two factions with evidence to firmly convict either side of the crime. While the target (who apparently died) operates from a distance, trying to uncover the plotters with the help of his rival leader (also a target). The antagonists do a victory celebration of 'dance puppets dance' and later reveal themselves to the wrong character for the right reason before the coming execution.

    Setting up a very nasty Xanatos gambit is difficult, but understanding the characters actions are key. The entire plot comes to this climatic moment, which only sets up several other major ones just a bit down the road. For our shadowy antagonists their 'I win' gambit is as follows:

    Antagonist
    1. Poison kills him = Victory
    2. Attempt is uncovered and implicates secondary target = Victory
    3. Attempt is uncovered on the assassin = Victory
    4. Poison is added yet anyone in room drinks it = Victory
    5. Poison is ineffective and alerts target to plan = Victory
    6. The poison isn't taken, but its corrosive side effect leaves a lasting impression of the attempt = Victory.
    7. Poison kills target, implicates secondary target and leads to crackdown on their enemies = Mega victory.

    The antagonist's have succeeded in their plan the moment the poison was added to the drink or if it was uncovered during the attempt itself. The result is neutral only if the assassin doesn't attempt the mission. Beating this gambit requires a bit of finesse and I want to carefully show that it was defeated by a already predictable plot point foreshadowed prior. Its execution relies on characters view of the situation to the point that much of the attempt is repeated in six different ways from the different sides. Including the target who laughs about how terrible the poison tasted and revealing that it ruined his precious goblet in the process.
     

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