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  1. Wolfo
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    Wolfo New Member

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    Switching viewpoints without an alert

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Wolfo, Jul 18, 2011.

    Do you think that it is possible for the writer to switch viewpoints, WITHOUT alerting the reader, and having it feel natural?


    This is a brief example:


    Chapter 1

    I met someone on the street that was juggling bowling pins. He looked kind of odd with his tall hat and his long beard...


    Chapter 2

    I get strange looks from all kinds of different people, but this hat is the only thing that connects me with the world. You see, I am blind, so I need this hat's psychic abilities to go about my everyday life. And these bowling pins are the only things protecting me from the demons that haunt me!


    You see, viewpoints switched without any notice, and it should have been easy to pick up on which character was talking. I think that it's possible for an entire novel to follow that format with multiple characters, although I'm not an experienced writer and want to hear what some pros have to say. A book may already exist that uses that, and I just don't know about it. If that's the case, is this a formula that new writers can try, or does it take the finesse of an expert?
     
  2. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    I have seen it done badly, and very well I myself am working on prefecting this talent.
    Best of luck!
     
  3. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I definitely think it's possible to switch viewpoints and let the reader know from context. You're making it harder by writing in first person, though, since readers can usually assume the "I" in Chapter 1 is also the "I" in Chapter 2.
     
  4. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It seems quite clear to me the way you did it.

    Once you have created a bit more of a 'set-up' (i.e. introduced different locations, beginnings of various storylines), the reader will be able to associate these with each of the characters, and it might work nicely.

    Just remember to keep 'in character' - how does the blind man know people are giving him strange looks?
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think the shift is clear to the reader only because there are two contrasting sentences right next to one another. But if Chapter One was, say, 20 pages long, then it might not be clear to the reader that the POV had changed.

    As Islander pointed out, this problem goes away if you use 3rd person instead of 1st person. Besides, the whole idea of first person narrative is to give the reader a greater sense of intimacy with the narrating character (at least, that's why I use it when I do), and that's lost when there is more than one "I" competing for the reader's attention.

    The problem of describing the blind man getting strange looks also goes away with third person.
     
  6. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good points Ed.

    The reader may not remember 'the hat', if it was described too long ago. And having something contrasting linking everything together each time would be a bit forced.

    I don't know, I guess it needs a bit of experimenting.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's very hard to pull off in first person. In third person you are actually shifting the narrative focus rather than the POV, so it's easier to keep the reader with you (or you can maintain an objective focus and nothing is shifting).
     
  8. Raging_Ty
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    Raging_Ty Member

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    I have read many novels in which the author switched view points between chapters without alerting the readers and it worked out well.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It only works if you have alerted the reader, either explicitly, or implicitly by means of context. A skillful writer will engineer the change of viewpoint without the reader noticing the transition, but without leaving the reader disoriented for even a moment.
     
  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    The most important thing to get right is character voice, especially if you're in first-person. Characters' voices should be distinguishable enough that readers can easily tell who's talking.
     
  11. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    One thing I learned is let your reader in on the "rules of the book" early on. Your method of switching points of view should be trained into the reader as soon as you can, so that, for the rest of the book, they're already accustomed to how you work it.
     

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