Tags:
  1. AlyceOfLegend

    AlyceOfLegend Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2022
    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    State of Aggravation
    Currently Reading::
    Fanfiction- Stranger Things, Supernatural

    Head Hopping

    Discussion in 'Point of View, and Voice' started by AlyceOfLegend, Sep 23, 2022.

    When writing third person POV and changing between perspectives of four characters, does each have to have equal time?

    I realized that of the three characters in my story, two are getting more perspective time than the other one. One character has less than one chapter as POV and is never heard from again. The character is in the story, but not as POV.

    Is this unbalanced approach acceptable or does it tend to give the story a lopsided view?

    Or should I rewrite in order to balance between the other two characters?
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    10,324
    Likes Received:
    17,605
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    In theory it doesn't need to be perfectly balanced, but each character needs enough time to justify its POV status. Unless it's a quick one-off curveball, which can be very effective if done right. One of the worst things you can do is extend a POV for page-time's sake if it leads to unnecessary fluff or filler scenes that lead the plot astray. And of course things can get really jumbled when you have multiple POV characters in the same scene and one of them has to own that particular POV. Particularly if you choose the wrong one.

    I'm assuming by "head hopping" you're not referring to omniscient POV. That's a whole 'nother story.
     
    AlyceOfLegend likes this.
  3. AlyceOfLegend

    AlyceOfLegend Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2022
    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    State of Aggravation
    Currently Reading::
    Fanfiction- Stranger Things, Supernatural
    Well, at the time it was giving perspective of the MC, but as I read it, I think I have already established that.

    I try not to hop within a scene, sticking to one until the end. At least having a clear break and transition when the POV switches.

    As for omniscient POV, I'll have to read more about that.
     
  4. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    261
    I am assuming that you are talking about multiple limited POV (not omniscience, though you might be using some form of that), wherein one character is the viewpoint character for a period of time (section, chapter) and then someone else is the viewpoint character for the next section, on and on, perhaps switching anywhere from 2 to 100 different times. If done clearly, it is not headhopping, so I'll clear that up.

    The answer to your question is that balance is definitely the wrong way to think about this. Forget about balance. It has zilch to do with whatever your concept and needs are. It is perfectly normal, in multi-limited, to have one character (usually the main character) as viewpoint for more time. It is also normal to have someone control the view only once. Nothing is unusual about that at all. In fact, I have one novel wherein I shifted views 4 times in the 1st chapter, then had that last viewpoint (MC) control the next 80% of the book before handing over to view 5 for half a chapter, and finishing with the MC. It worked just fine.

    At some point in this discussion, you will need to ask yourself the question: "Why am I shifting viewpoint at all?" Follow that up with this one: "What am I losing when I shift viewpoints?"

    People sometimes have really bad reasons for shifting viewpoint. For example: "Balanced approach and avoiding lopsided view." That is a seriously awful excuse for shifting views. The most common one is that the writer imagines the need to shift views so the reader can see the depth of what each actor is thinking. That's an admission that they can't write and are enslaved to the internal narrative (the easiest form of writing and usually the least engaging). People also seem completely unaware of the massive hit the book's voice is apt to encounter due to shifting views. Voice (in the overall narrative) is largely a component of view, and if that is unstable, so too will voice tend to neutralize. All of this means that shifting views is not without a cost, and that cost can be staggering. Know that when you make the calculation.
     
    AlyceOfLegend and Xoic like this.
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    13,596
    Likes Received:
    8,186
    Location:
    California, US
    You can shift POV as often as you like for any reason you deem sufficient (including reasons of style). While general guidance can be given in the abstract, the truth is the only way to determine whether what you’re doing is successful is to write it and then analyze the end result, getting feedback from others as needed.
     
    AntPoems and AlyceOfLegend like this.
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    9,604
    Location:
    Way, way out there
    Yeah, just to back up what Gary said, it's only called head hopping when it's done poorly. When done right it's known as rotating POV or multiple POV, or possibly a few other names.
     
    AlyceOfLegend likes this.
  7. AlyceOfLegend

    AlyceOfLegend Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2022
    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    State of Aggravation
    Currently Reading::
    Fanfiction- Stranger Things, Supernatural
    Thanks for the clarification. You give me a lot to ponder. I will reread my story and see if the shifting POV helps or hinders.
     
  8. AlyceOfLegend

    AlyceOfLegend Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2022
    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    State of Aggravation
    Currently Reading::
    Fanfiction- Stranger Things, Supernatural
    Thank you for the reply. I will get feedback and see how the readers react.
     
  9. Banespawn

    Banespawn New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2022
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    14
    The scenes in your story drive the choice of POV character, not the other way around. Figure out which scenes you need, then determine who is the best to use for that scene.

    When I wrote the first draft of my WIP, I didn't know what scenes I needed. I had my plot and character arcs, but no real plan for getting them on the page. At that point, my MC was the only logical choice as POV character, since he is driving the story. While writing that draft, a new character appeared. Not only did she become the MC's love interest, but she played a pivotal role in the climax. I was very happy with how the ending turned out, as it was better than I originally intended. However, there were lots of issues. This new character was more of a plot device. She didn't have any goals of her own and the love interest thing was the only reason she left her life to go on the run with the MC. Also, as part of the climax, I needed to use her POV. The MC sacrificed himself to save her, and then she discovered something inside herself that enabled her to triumph. I couldn't show that from the MC's perspective, one because he was unconscious, and two, because I needed to show her thoughts to show how she comes to that discovery.

    In the current draft, I'm adding all the things I need to ensure that she isn't just a plot device, and to make the ending work. I've given her goals. I've added subplots, thereby creating a situation in which she is forced to leave with the MC. And I've foreshadowed her role in the ending. I was going to have her first POV scene after she meets the MC, but there's quite a bit of story to get through before that happens, so I've decided to begin her story sooner and show it in parallel with part of the MC's journey. So if I'm envisioning the story as 3 acts, she would be introduced at the beginning of act 2, and they will meet sometime later. This will give the reader a clear indication that she is important, and creation anticipation for when they meet.

    So those 2 are the primary POVs for the story. He still gets the vast majority, but she'll end up with maybe 8-10 scenes of her own (still working on it). I've written one scene where they are together (other than the climax scene) and she is the POV. I chose her as the POV for that scene because the goal of the scene is her goal, not his. She's the one with the most at stake in that scene.

    I have some other POV characters who get scenes here and there. The MC's bodyguard has 2 very short scenes early in the story. The first scene is him with the MC and the second is him with the MC's father. I felt like using the bodyguard as the POV provided a good view into the characters of both the MC and the father, but I'm not entirely happy with the way those scenes came out. They feel too heavy-handed. I may end up changing the POVs to the MC and the father, respectively. I have another scene that shows one of the antagonists. This scene exists to create suspense. The reader learns prior to that scene that the MC is in danger from his father's enemies, but the MC doesn't take the threat seriously. By showing the antagonist, the reader sees that the threat is real. However, I didn't want the reader inside the antagonist's head. I didn't want the reader to understand at this point in the story the way the antagonist thinks or what he is planning. So instead, I used a throwaway character as the POV. This character appears only in this one scene, and I make it clear to the reader that this character isn't important. He's just an old merchant, being offered a ridiculous sum of money for his wares by a stranger, who is trying to figure out what the stranger is after. In the end, he decides he doesn't care. His only concern is the money and being able to drink top shelf for the rest of his days. So even though he is the POV character, the focus of the scene is on the stranger and his plan, with the implication being (based on the prior scenes) that it involves the MC somehow.

    These are my reasons for choosing the POVs I did, and they are all based on the scenes I need to show to make the story work.

    Start with your primary protagonist. If you don't know who that is, then either figure it out first, or pick one and see where it takes you. Most stories are, ultimately, more about one character than the others. Use that character as your POV for every scene and only use a different character when you are sure you need a scene that would require a different POV character. If your story includes multiple story lines (different characters doing different things in different places), then obviously you will need more than 1 POV character. In that case, choose a primary POV character for each story line and stick with those characters unless you need to show a scene in which their POV doesn't fit.
     
    AlyceOfLegend and Xoic like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice