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  1. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Sudden Change in POV Style

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Void, Jan 7, 2015.

    So after that thread about "head hoping" I ended up reflecting upon my current work and have found some uncertainty about the use of POV. Strangely enough, I am currently finishing the final chapter for the first draft today but as I have begin to actually think about it further I'm less sure that the clear plan I had laid out for it actually works on a structural level.

    The basic set-up without going into too much detail is this. After the protagonist and various other characters put their planned terrorist strike against a totalitarian regime into action, they found out that they were walking into a trap since one of their own had sold them out. In the final chapter I'm writing now they have been taken to a large space station bio-dome where one of the leaders of the regime will hunt them all for sport (with their humiliating deaths broad cast to the masses to make an example of them). Within thi – No, it's not a copy or even inspired by The Hunger Games before anyone asks.

    Now, I'm not asking for advice on the actual merits of the story, but rather the presentation. The problem is this. The chapter as I had planned it would basically switch between four of the six prisoners to show their individual path and demise (the fate of the other two is implicitly given away). This seems a reasonable idea, yet the entire story up to this point has been from a single POV.

    So my question is this, would this sudden change from single POV to multi-POV in the final chapter be too jarring of a change? I basically expected that the readers would understand the necessity of it; since none of the characters stick together there really isn't any other way to present it. And I feel not presenting it would loose a lot of the necessary impact and last minute character development that happens in the climax.

    And to make matters even more complicated, I had other ideas (that I've more or less decided against at this point anyway. But I might as well put them out there). There are even more complicated perspectives that I had thought about including. Since there are plenty of other characters that still live under the regime, they will be watching the broadcast so I figured it might be good to show their reactions to it. The thing that makes it complicated is that the broadcast is not live, it will actually be shown a couple of days later. So the people watching it would actually be watching events that happened a couple of days after they have occured.
    Now, the reason why I have all but decided against this is because:
    A) Most of the reactions to it have more or less been implied in earlier dialogue.
    B) The way I had planned it would add an extra three perspectives that would each be little more than a single paragraph. I feel this many might begin to seem kind of strange.
    C) Adding not just extra perspectives at the end of the novel, but sudden temporal shifts, might be a bit too much.

    I would be interested in getting some other opinions.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that if you want to have the "hunt" seen from several of the victims' viewpoints, you need to give a decent section to each POV - and a line break between each one - to give the reader a fair chance. I also feel that it would be better to have the whole novel seen from these different perspectives.

    I don't feel that throwing in "spectator POVs" would really add anything, unless you're trying to make some point about the society - and that could really have done with being prefigured. If you do go for it, I'd show their reactions as if it was a live feed - does it really matter that they're being shown it as a recording? - hell, do they even know it's not live, but is being shown after a delay?
     
  3. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    I've completely thrown out the idea of spectators, since beyond the reactions it was mostly intended to answer questions about what exactly became of them, but I managed to work that information into it in other sections.

    As for showing the entire novel from different points of view, I actually intended to do that until I realised that it seemed kind of gimmicky since the sections in which it worked were too few to bother with. But I especially can't show the entire novel from these particular characters' points of view since most of them only come into play in the last third of the book (all of the characters who where there from the beginning were actually the planned spectators, not the victims).
     
  4. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tell us more about what "come into play" means. When are these characters introduced? How soon do they have scenes with the POV character? What's happening in the book such that his/her fellow team members don't seem to have much to do till two-thirds through? Are these guys really terrorists in the eyes of the population, or are they really resistance fighters? There's a difference. Do you want us to sympathize with them, or should we be rooting for the regime to stomp them out like roaches?

    Say you do want us to sympathize. My thought is that if you suddenly intrude multiple POVs in the final chapter I as a reader would say "WTH?" and throw the book down. You the author haven't cared to get me into their heads up to now; why should I want to be there at this point? Especially since I'd only be there to see them suffer and die. You're wringing my humanity for nothing-- or taking me for a sadist who'd enjoy the suffering and killing for its own sake.

    So, no. No last-minute POV scatterbomb. But here's an idea; take it for what it's worth. You've posited a futuristic, high-tech society, right? Why not give the totalitarian regime the ability to implant a chip or something into people's brains that will record their thoughts, sensations, experiences, everything, like a dashboard camera for the soul? They don't do it in everyone because it's too delicate and expensive and experimental. But have them plant it in these six before they're hunted. The hunter kills them off one by one. Maybe one per day: The hunter will want to sleep sometime, and why shouldn't he prolong his hunting pleasure? But each night he wirelessly transmits the experience of the victim of the day into the brain implants of the remaining team members, so as they sleep they will feel the full terror of his demise. Have the hunter go after the POV character last. This way you can write about his own attempts each day to elude the hunter and his reexperience each night of the death agonies of the ones who went before. What state will he be in by the time it's his turn? Will he give up all hopes for life? Can he figure out a way to take the hunter down with him? (If so, it might be a clever device to have that last day and its events broadcast by external camera(s) to the general populace. Complete with surprise ending the government doesn't foresee!)

    You'd have to decide whether the regime could receive each man's thoughts as a kind of live podcast, or if the data couldn't be downloaded without stopping the recording. I think it'd be better for the plot if they somehow couldn't or chose not to.

    This approach would mean more chapters at the end of the book. But if this is the big climax you're aiming for, give it the room it needs. Otherwise just give me an Afterword where you report, "After a brief trial, all the convicted terrorists (your word, not mine) were transported to the Space Biodome where they were executed by hunt according to the standard procedure of the People's Empire. The End."
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2015
  5. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Without giving too much away, this regime is attempting to depopulate the the planet so that they can control everyone. There are a series of theocratic enclosures that are presided over by a high priest (really just an extension of the regime) who keep the people living in a pseudo iron age society, they are all kept ignorant of the world outside the enclosure so they don't know anything about this regime's existence (their faith frames the enclosure as god protecting them and judging them worthy to re-enter the world).
    The protagonist spends the first portion of the book living in this enclosure before escaping and being allowed to live under the regime. He then spends the next ~1/3 of the book living in their city while secretly wanting to rebel. The reasons why the characters don't come into play until about 2/3 of the way through:
    A) He already had various friends from the beginning of the novel, but upon arriving in Utopia (that's what they named the city) they are apathetic about rebelling and would rather just live a safe and luxurious life. Leaving him to basically go his own separate way.
    B) Two of these rebels are people he used in order to locate the rebels and subsequently join them (who come with him for various reasons). And he doesn't actually decide to put this into action until about 2/3 of the way through.
    C) The others are people who were already running a rebellion, so he doesn't actually have a chance to meet them until he has fled from Utopia.

    So without completely changing the plot, there isn't really a chance to introduce them any earlier than around the 2/3 mark.
    They are terrorists by any reasonable definition, since there overall plan is to blow up some facility.
    However, as for which faction you are supposed to sympathise with, well ... that's actually left ambiguous. It's partly why the second third of the book takes place in the city, so that the reader has the chance to understand the setting and all the various aspects of the regime. There are plenty of aspects about the regime that are abhorrent, but many that are good. The rebels/terrorists on the other hand, they do have good reason to want to rebel by any means necessary, but overall their plan is overly idealistic and won't do much good for the world, plus it is heavily implied that they are fighting a battle that they cannot possibly hope to win and they will never be free.

    So overall I would call it morally ambiguous (but since it is presented from the protagonist's perspective, the regime is the antagonist). I would expect it to depend on one's own personal philosophy which side is right. But the overall it's more of an "I fought the law and the law won" type of story regardless of who was morally right.
    It isn't strictly necessary show each of their demise, but I feel that some of it needs to be shown. Also it isn't just the same death for each, the four were selected because they had the more interesting reactions/paths through the bio-dome (one requests a quick, painless and dignified death since she realises there is no hope of escape, and receives it. The leader of the rebels drowns himself to escape the more painful death he would receive otherwise and to deprive them of the satisfaction).
    While that sounds like an interesting idea, it's not really consistent with the personality of said hunter or the purpose of the hunt. It's mostly used to make an example out of the participants, to get the public to enjoy watching enemies of the state killed and to 'de-fang' the terrorist factions (it's mentioned earlier in the book that they want the public to laugh at terrorists, not fear them).
    Their torment is supposed to be public and humiliating, but keeping them locked away while a chip in their brain lets them experience all the horror is more of a private and sadistic type that I would associate with a true psycho. Plus it's rather out of line with the people involved. While I won't deny that this hunter enjoys the hunt (and toying with them before death), I wouldn't really say she's evil, certainly not evil enough for that kind of thing. Most of her use of violence has more of a purpose outside of sadism.

    Plus, I might add, that this is more of a sci-fi/fantasy than just straight sci-fi. So the idea of him killing her or even resisting in any way is basically impossible since she (like all of the other leaders) is basically an immortal demi-god who could lift all six of them into the air and snap their necks with her mind.

    Also, the broadcast isn't live exactly because they don't want to lose control over the events. The convits are followed around by flying camera drones, so it wouldn't be hard for them to use their air time as an opportunity for seditious speech. As such, anything they don't like is edited out before the public sees it.
    Now that I've thought about it again, I actually think I could probably eliminate all but the protagonist's perspective. The person who drowns himself doesn't really do anything in the bio-dome other than find the river and jump in, so I could always just have the antagonist mention it in dialogue when they meet. The person who requests a painless death is already seen waiting by the antagonist's side (the protagonist gets lost and finds his way back to the start again, only to find them both waiting there for the timer to run out) so I could always just mention why she's waiting there at that point (which would probably be better since the antagonist could then offer to do the same for the protagonist, giving him one last refusal to give up).

    But getting rid of all this in the last chapter would cause another problem; there is a single place in the story that takes a perspective other than the protagonist's, and without the change of perspective in the final chapter, this single other change would stand out even more. And it seems even more difficult to get rid of since it can't really be left out (it happens when the rebel base is being raided in the third last chapter. The protagonist is off being part of the plan, and so he cannot witness what I would regard to be an important part of the narrative.)
     
  6. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see. And if this is helping you think through the POV issue, good. However, "terrorist" does not equal "people who blow up things." It's more like "people who blow up things so ordinary civilian people who have that sort of thing will be afraid to have that sort of thing and will give up having that sort of thing so their way of life will be paralyzed and we, the blowers-up-of-things, will dominate and win." Witness the recent attack on the weekly in Paris, and how other publications are now censoring themselves right, left, and center.
     
  7. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    They don't actually refer to themselves as terrorists of course (with a few exceptions for various dissenters). They call themselves rebels, the authorities call them terrorists. Although I would still regard them as terrorists, since terrorism is often defined:

    noun
    1.
    the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
    2.
    the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
    3.
    a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

    I would regard people who blow stuff up to intimidate others as terrorists (the word doesn't have to be exclusively immoral as long as their cause is just).
     

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