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  1. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Shifting POV to Hide Information

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by John Calligan, May 1, 2018.

    How do you feel about going into a second point of view for a scene, just so you can avoid the POV character from spilling the beans?

    It seems like you'd need something compelling going on with the secondary character, where they stand to lose something important during the same time frame, or it would feel cheap.

    Anyone have any tips or tricks?

    Edit: I didn't think it mattered because I was asking in general. However, I am working on a 2k word short story, so the scene I'm thinking of would be close to a third of the story.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
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  2. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I'd avoid skipping to a different POV just for a single scene in an entire novel. Honestly, it might just be my brain, but that would seem jarring and out of place to me, and if it was clearly just to withhold information from the reader, I might think it was a bit cheap. I'd look for a better way. IMO even just a time skip would be better, to get past the part where this information comes out -- injecting a different POV just one one scene/chapter and just to obscure something makes my teeth hurt.

    I do have a corollary, because I'm being a hypocrite, otherwise. One of my projects has the first book solely from the main characters' POV, and in the second book she's the primary narrator but there are several chapters from the other characters' POVs -- and it is in part to hide what she's doing during those spans of time. But, I use those off-POV chapters to give the other characters needed development, it's not just a one-time thing, and most importantly, it's because the MC herself doesn't remember what she was up to in those time periods. I'm keeping it from the reader, but the MC doesn't know what's up either, so I think it's somewhat more excusable.

    I think that's what you need: a good, non-contrived reason for the reader to not be allowed to know what the POV character knows.
     
  3. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    No real tips or tricks, because I'm too new at shifting POVs, but my novel deliberately ping-pongs back and forth between the two main character's POVs because they're hiding things from each other and dealing with them alone, which is the theme of the book. The title is Exiles and is about the various ways people are exiled from each other. Structuring it this way could totally backfire and not work at all, but I wanted to take a stab at it. We'll see.

    I do think it shouldn't be just one scene, because it could look like a mistake that was missed in editing. I think it will look more deliberate if you find a compelling reason for the other POV and go to them more than once. Is the other person hiding something from them? Working against them? Working in parallel on something different that will aid them? Dealing with a crisis of conscience because they suspect the MC of doing something immoral? Worried for their safety? You get the idea.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My WIP bounces between three POV characters, and also bounces from close third to a more distant third. Part of the utility of that is indeed hiding facts.

    I worry somewhat about whether that much POV bouncing will be Not OK, but I'm going to worry about that in a later draft.
     
  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll I am the reason for safety briefs. :P Supporter Contributor

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    I bounce around 3 in 1st POV, and they all have info on one or another that
    the others don't know about.

    But for a 2k short, I would say don't do it since you have limited yourself
    to such a small word count. Also changing to another POV would be
    awkward and jarring if it is at the end of the story just to cover up something
    the original MC knows.
     
  6. honey hatter

    honey hatter Banned

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    I like this idea of shifting pov. The story I'm working on mainly sticks with the vampire, I'm using the shifting pov between vampire and ballerina not as a way to hide information.

    More as a way to make the information I release a character all it's own, so the story is more compelling. My intent of using the information as a third character. I don't know if the reader will pick up on this, because the information is split between the two MC in a back and forth duel of will.

    CT I have read many books with shifting pov, I was about to say I couldn't think of an example. Armor, by john steakley. He only wrote two books in his life and I love them both, I heard rumors over the years he was working on a sequel to armor before he passed away due to poor health for a long period.

    I prefer first person pov as it helps me get inside the characters head and get comfortable. Once I get used to the shifting pov way of telling a story in a book. I don't mind the shift.

    CT my story was going to be a short story, now I'm shooting for the stars, maybe too ambitiously trying for a novel. I have been thinking of splitting the first portion of my story into parts, however I don't have any connecting tissue to split the story up and bring the pieces together in a natural flow. Would this dilute the story too much I wonder?

    JC I've seen the hiding information by shifting pov, in crime a crime movie where all the criminals wake up with temporary amnesia. Also Quentin Tarintino's Reservoir Dogs shifting pov, I know it's an old movie but I don't want to spoil anything by example. I dislike spoiling a good movie for anyone.

    That shifting pov could also be extended to all Quentin's movies, he uses pov to great effect.

    One exception on spoilers, what's that Samuel Jackson scene/quote? *coughs* definitely watch Pulp Fiction for that scene alone!

    Izzybot, so far my story is a single scene besides what I have planned in the middle and ending. I'm trying to make it seem as if swimming through the information, instead of for example a jarring pov of a tennis ball being hit back and forth.

    Now that I've had time to consider, the story is a main character pov *vampire* shifting to ballerina's pov through the recollection of the vampire, also through the vampires pov by action and observation. Though not exclusively. The ballerina does have her own pov.

    Izzybot, I like your use of pov here. Also staying with a character for a few chapters for that off-pov character/story building. I like this idea very much. I need to give the ballerina some more love besides the love she is getting at the start. Character and story wise I think this is a great world building technique.

    Shen I do like the idea of hiding things from each other. I would use it for my MC as a way to show they care more about the other than themselves. I'm taking a stab at my shifting POV and hope and pray it doesn't fall flat like a soufflé...

    Chicken I think thes shifting POV can be used to great effect, I can't think of any more examples right now as my brain she is fried... Both Quentin Tarantino and John Steakley use it and I do think I like this brand of storytelling POV, especially if it's done well.

    Did I do a shifting point of view between you characters? *grins*

    Now everybody pick a color for your new name! I choose red.
     
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  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll I am the reason for safety briefs. :P Supporter Contributor

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    I am not sure if it would affect the flow or not.
    I am still kinda surprised I managed to pull it
    off with my first book and sequel WIP.

    You might get feed back on two parts that follow
    each other from 2 MCs, to see what others have
    to say in regards to the way the story flows. :)
    I don't think it will dilute the story, as long as you
    have strong characters driving the narrative. :)
     
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  8. honey hatter

    honey hatter Banned

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    How about death as a character, shifting POV. Cue music!!! *starts dancing*


    *me dancing*
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Very tricky. I know, because I've had to do it myself.

    I have two main POV characters, and the male one is hiding quite a bit, at least until the middle of the story where he spills the beans to the other POV character, who is a woman. Because of my prologue, the readers already know more about his deep past than the woman does, but we don't know everything. Until he tells her about his past, we don't find out what has happened to him just before the start of the main story.

    It's important for the readers to be shocked by this information, as well as the shock it gives to the female POV character. However, it's also important for the reader to know that he's not telling her everything. He's still keeping certain things about his deep past to himself.

    It's not a storytelling problem for one POV character to hide information from the other POV character. What is tricky is when a POV character hides stuff from the READER. Good luck with that.

    I know it was the trickiest part of my storytelling. I think I managed it, but it was not easy.

    I got around the problem two ways.

    One: I told most of the first half of the story through the eyes of my female POV character, so we saw him from her point of view. From her point of view, the guy is, quite legitimately, a mystery.

    Two: when I did need to use the man's POV, I hinted at what had happened to him, but made it clear that he was trying to live in the present and didn't want to remember the specific trauma he'd been through. So I had him focus on what was happening 'now,' but also made it clear he was refusing to face the truth about himself. I was able to be in his head, without digging too deeply at that point—or outright lying to the reader.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2018
  10. honey hatter

    honey hatter Banned

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    Thanks CT, here's hoping it doesn't dilute if I go that route. I'm going to continue the story before I see If I can get stronger characterization. Sweet sweet inspiration, let the words flow!

    *sings* "Talking to myself on the way to the station."
     
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