1. scribbledhopes
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    scribbledhopes Member

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    Switching Scenes and characters in the same chapter

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by scribbledhopes, Apr 28, 2011.

    Hello everyone,

    What is the best way to switch POV of support characters in the same chapter?

    My Main Character has a fist full of support characters, each with their own personality that I weave into the story like colorful beads. This allows me to make them human. This happens in the first few chapters until the Main takes over, and hopefully if I have done my job right, the reader is hopelessly attached and rooting for the whole group.

    But the mechanics of the switch has me baffled. I have seen writers that use chapters to switch characters or settings. I have seen them bold out or change font of the first word of a paragraph to hint to the reader of the scene and character change.

    Since some of my setting changes fall within the same chapter. What are some of the common practices to limit the confusion of the reader?


    Please understand that I am not playing ping pong throughout the Novel. Once the supporting character makes it to the main plot, the MC's POV is usually the constant unless I devide them to serve the plot.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Scene break? Insert a blank line with ### in the middle.
     
  3. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I do it in one of my current novels, and I think it works fine. It's about wolves, and I usually switch the perspective by having my current POV character say something to the one I'm switching to. Then I switch to that ones POV and have them consider the statement for a second, before continuing along in their POV. It works quite well (I think) and I haven't had anyone get confused. I don't do it every 10 seconds, but I also don't use line breaks or chapter breaks to do it either. Too cumbersome for me in the current WIP. Hope that helps.
     
  4. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    If the scenes are long enough, you can use a page break. Personally, I'm not a fan of page breaks unless it is the only way, which is usually the case for first person point of views.

    The best way I have learned, is to latch on to sentence and/or paragraph right before it and make the transition..

    For example:

    3rd person switches.

    Mary shook her head and laughed as she watched her daughter run after her older brother as he marched up to the school like he owned the place. Looking up into the sky, she said a tiny prayer hoping that they would have a good day.

    Back in the car, John watched Mary carefully. The way she moved, the way her whole face would light up whenever her daughter would say something funny, the way she tucked her brown hair behind her ears anytime she was nervous. He didn't know how or when it happened... but he had fallen in love with her.

    1st person switches.

    Mary

    I watch Izzy run after her older brother, her backpack already trailing the ground and a solid look of determination on her face. Oh God, I shake my head and laugh. She’s going to get in trouble on her very first day of school, I just know it. Wishing that’s not the case, I look up into the sky and say a tiny prayer hoping that they both have a good day instead. Suddenly, the cool breeze picks up and I find myself pulling my sweater tighter around me as I head back towards the car and John. I wonder what he’s thinking, this is the first time that he’s ever offered to accompany me in the mornings.

    John


    I watch Mary laugh and shake her head at something before she starts making her way over. She pulls her sweater tighter around her and I can tell that she’s cold, the wind has picked up outside and I turn on the car and turn the heater on to full blast. That’s when I notice that she’s nervous – she tucked her hair behind her ear – and that I’m nervous too. This is the first time we would be alone together since last Saturday.

    3rd person to first person switches etc.

    Mary shook her head and laughed as she watched her daughter run after her older brother as he marched up to the school like he owned the place. Looking up into the sky, she said a tiny prayer hoping that they would have a good day.

    That was the first day I realized that I was in love with her. It hit me out of the blue, like a ton of bricks and I remember being nervous the whole drive home. I couldn’t sit still and any time we would hit a red-light, I found myself sweating bullets as to figure out what to say to pass the silence.

    After three red-lights and still no luck, I was startled when she had managed to say the first words.

    “Thanks for driving me this morning.” She had smiled.

    “Uh… you’re welcome.” I smiled back.


    The next day, Mary had to be up at four-thirty. Kevin was going to drop by Peter’s old boat and then was going to drop her off at work. She quickly rushed around the house, grabbing clothes and getting her things together while having a hearty breakfast of cold pizza. So, when the door bell rang at four-thirty sharp, her eyebrow shot up in question. Kevin was always late and she figured she had about forty more minutes to maybe just sit down for a while. Slowly making her way to the door, she opened it, startled to see John there instead. “John?”

    “Hey.” I remember shoving my hands in my pocket and looking at her with a small smile. I could tell she wasn’t expecting me…



    *** This last one is hard to see mainly because the passage I wrote is short and need a lot more depth to see how it is done, but that’s the jist of it. The switch here has to be done intricately and you have to watch your tenses and your timeline. It can also be done in different variations of the present etc.

    Hope this helps. :)
     
  5. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Here is an example of how I switched while in first person POV. I'm sure some will say it doesn't work, but it does for me and so far I haven't had any complaints :D ----

    It has begun to snow again in earnest and the elk calf is lying so still she looks like a large snow covered log on top of the snow. She is completely motionless, her eyes open, and her nostrils flared as she stares at me. It has been so long since she has blinked that the impossibly long lashes around her big brown eyes are white with fallen snow. I smell her fear, blood, and…. Something else I cannot name. It smells wrong and my heart starts beating faster. I whip my head around, scanning the trees, and my tail drops. What is that smell? I creep towards her slowly, belly down, nose and ears up, trying to place the scent, but I can’t. I am waiting for her mother to crash through the trees and crush me, or perhaps whatever animal injured her, when there is a sudden voice behind me. “Laiska, you are awfully far from home.” It says.

    I whirl around to face an old black wolf with a gray muzzle. “Rishna,” I lower my head briefly out of respect, “You are right. Hunger of the pack has driven me far.”

    Rishna studies me thoughtfully for what seems like twelve seasons. “Are you not afraid we will kill you for hunting on our land?” he asks gruffly.

    “No. You either kill me for hunting or I die of starvation. Or maybe I get food and get away. I’ll take my chances.” I reply with far more bravado then I feel.

    Rishna finds himself admiring the young wolf. She isn’t much more than a pup, yet here she is, staring him down on his own turf. She has a good point, too. You don’t get much of that in young ones these days. He thinks perhaps she could be a good match for the male that is to take over the pack when he dies. Her fur is as black as his own, her eyes clear and intelligent, and if she is scrawny and thin, well, he can overlook that under the circumstances.

    Shocked by the turn his own thoughts have taken he answers her gruffly, “Fine. Take it then. Take it back to your own territory and I won’t kill you.”
     
  6. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Use scene breaks, plain and simple. Sure, we can find exceptions where authors seamlessly transfer between multiple characters, but these are not only usually exceptions, out-dated, but also done by authors who already have the experience or contracts in place that allow them to get away with such things.

    Scenes don't have to be long. If you want to switch to a new characters perspective for even only a paragraph, it's fine. Actually, highly encouraged.

    Also, I would rethink the notion that giving a reader a little insight directly into many support characters will build the readers interest and they'll feel a connection to all characters. More likely, they'll just barely feel a connection for any. It's the jack of all trades, master of none theory, but in these terms it's like a little insight into all, but an actual empathic connection with none.

    Or worse, one of the characters is particularly interesting and the reader wants to keep getting their pov, but then doesn't, and after it switches to the MC's pov, there's a bit of a let down.

    My advice would to be just sticking with the MC. We'll root for the entire group and see them as human if that's what's built through the MC's perspective. There's a reason a character is chosen as the MC, because we should care about the world and characters as that MC does. That's what hooks a reader, seeing an authentic experience of a real-feeling character and wanting to know what happens to them, through them. This can be pulled off with more than one MC, even several, but the more connected experiences you try to build, the bigger chance you have of breaking the ties you've already built (and very often such novels end up be painfully long, as it takes a lot of work to get a reader into that fully connected point, and each time you have to re-establish that connection, so with multiple experiences like this, it takes many more words, and novels can get bogged down).

    If you insist on this collage of different support characters, then definitely just use scene breaks (single, extra space in the middle of a page, add a # sign if the scene break falls on a page break, to avoid confusion). If a character's pov/perspective isn't important enough to even have a section divided out by a scene break, then is that one or two sentences from their pov really going to matter?

    Starting a novel with a collage of support character POVs is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but that I don't believe is. So really, my advice would be that if the rest of your story is good enough to be told through a MC's pov/perspective, then certainly the opening (the most important part) is as well.
     
  7. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Mallory's statement is what I have read too.

    Break of time or place=blank line and #(the place I read said one in the center. Probably publisher's choice.)

    I try to do chapter changes, but sometimes it doesn't work well in that format.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Break in time, place or POV typical suggests a scene break should be present. Single pound sign is usually sufficient. Typically centered.
     
  9. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Agreed. You should avoid switching viewpoints in mid-scene. This is often termed head-hopping, and not only may confuse readers, but will drive editors and publishers insane. A great reference on this topic is Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.
     
  10. Merlin
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    Merlin Member

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    A handy way of seperating scenes and point of views in chapters is, I find, to be something like this:

    Chapter One

    Bob Said, blah, blah, blah (And so on)

    (CENTERED)-I-(CENTERED)

    Hi, my name is Sarah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah (Etc)

    (CENTERED) -II- (CENTERED)

    You get what I'm trying to do here? Roman Numerals. Or, just plain and simple numbers.
     
  11. John Yeoman
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    John Yeoman Banned

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    The easiest way to learn about scene breaks, I find, is to read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. He has a technique I call the Dan Brown Shuffle. Whenever a scene becomes interesting he switches to another scene. Then ditto.

    He handles as many as ten scene shifts per 'chapter', though he calls each scene a chapter.

    He simply inserts a gap then takes up the last scene from where he left off.
     

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