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  1. Seiya

    Seiya New Member

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    To change POV or not in chapter 1

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Seiya, Jul 31, 2020 at 3:58 PM.

    Hi there,
    First post for a first novel I'm looking to write as a hobby, maybe if it's any good I'll try and release it for free or something.
    Anyways, regarding the story I have in mind I have the prologue introducing the protagonist somewhat (years before), then I switch to the POV of a minor named character in the first chapter. Eventually the protag and minor character interact a bit and then from chapter 2 onwards the minor character is never seen again (or at the least very unlikely consider the genre I'm going for).
    It got me thinking then if we really should have a switch of POV to a character we won't see again?
    I wanted a change of view because I wanted someone seeing the main character from the outside and of course it helps to add a bit more exposition for protag but the idea of naming a few people that we'll never see again feels off?
    Opinions anyone?
    Thanks.
     
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  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Sure, it's fine as a way of introducing the reader into the story gradually, before bringing in your protag (aside from the prologue). I'm reminded of the way a lot of Doc Savage stories were written—first we'd see things through the eyes of an extra, maybe a witness to the first murder or whatever, because the protag wasn't involved yet. Maybe even the first victim. And then cut to New York, secret top floor of the Empire State Building, where Doc discovers what's happened and decides to pursue the matter.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's another one of those things which can work or fail, depending on circumstances. I'd say just go ahead and write it as you've envisioned it, and see how it turns out. If, after you've finished, either you or your beta readers think that losing the initial POV character hinders the story, you can rethink that approach.

    I know myself, if a character seems important at the start of a story, and then is never mentioned again, I will feel a bit on edge about it. I'll have it in the back of my mind that this character will re-appear. When he/she doesn't, my reaction is ''well, what happened to..."

    The secret, maybe, is to make the POV character's role clear (via tone or name.) Maybe don't name the POV character at all, but just refer to that character by his or her job, or position. The student, the maid, the dog-walker, the waiter, the judge, the policeman, the teacher, the bartender, etc. That helps the reader know that the character is just passing through and won't figure in the story from now on.

    This is another instance where a Prologue can be useful. People expect, when they see "Prologue" as a chapter heading, that the chapter will be different from the rest of the story in some way. So if you're showing how the progagonist is generally seen by others, or are showing something from the protagonist's past that is the basis for the story, then you can easily get away with using a narrator/POV character in a Prologue, whom we never see again.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020 at 4:41 PM
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  4. Dante Dases

    Dante Dases Contributor Contributor

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    Seconded. This is a good use of a prologue, and advice I'd follow. Think about how other writers have approached this problem: GRRM is a good example; James S.A. Corey another.
     
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  5. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    You have surely got other characters who DO come back into the book and play a major role, whom you could use for the same purpose? But no, you really shouldn't have a POV of a character who is never seen again. Also, whoever appears in Chapter 1 will tend to be assumed by the readers that that character is the main character - if this "main character" turns out to be so minor that he never appears again after one chapter? You're looking at losing a lot of readers here.

    Don't change POVs willy-nilly. When you use a character as a POV character, that is very intimate and you're literally letting the reader into that character's head - two things: firstly, why waste my time inside the head of someone who doesn't matter? And secondly, you've now got the readers emotionally invested in a character they will never see again and you're asking them to make a new emotional connection with the true main character.

    Readers are impatient. If they've spent time investing in your characters and you've got them emotionally hooked enough with that character to keep reading, you want to keep that character preferably. You don't want to ask the reader to make a second emotional investment to a new character when they're still at the beginning of the book and could not care less about your story at that moment. They only know the character you've introduced them to, and that's the character they will be interested in. Do you see what I'm saying? It's hard enough getting a reader to care about one character - you don't need to then ask the reader to care again about someone else almost right away.

    TL;DR - Don't do it!

    ETA: Readers also like continuity. Avoid changing POVs at all if it doesn't serve a very concrete story purpose. Also, POV characters should normally get a character arc. Minor characters should, by and large, not have POV chapters. I do understand very occasionally they might take a scene, but not entire chapters.
     
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  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    I definitely agree that you shouldn't invest the readers in the character, or lead them to believe it might be the MC. Jannert mentioned ways of doing this, but here's my own take on it:

    I wouldn't use a deep POV, I'd keep it external, probably 3rd Person Objective, the 'camera' floating along behind the character and taking 'documentary style' footage of what happens near or to him/her.

    And I would also write it in such a way that it's clear this isn't an important character. In the Doc Savage stories I mentioned, which drift between mysteries and crimebusters, it would be done something like this: "John Thrimblemartin spent the last afternoon of his life organizing his stamp collection. One of the decades-old albums was beginning to come apart, so he walked to the hobby shop to buy a new one, but along the way he witnessed the final event he would ever see..."

    I mean, that's pretty over the top, but I just mean it as a vague idea of how to approach it. I think it would work well in a crime or mystery type of story, because sometimes we need to see an event that happens far from the protagonist, who isn't even involved yet, and it's more powerful if it's attached to a human witness or victim.
     
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  7. Seiya

    Seiya New Member

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    Thanks for the comments.
    I should also probably clarify.
    By POV I mean that the book is all 3rd person perspective where in the prologue we have focus on the protag (as if the camera was behind her so to speak) when she is a girl and a tragedy is happening which shapes her.
    Chapter 1 is still 3rd person but now we're focusing on someone else (now the camera is behind him), years in the future, where protag will make an appearance half way through the scene.
    I'm still considering If I want a scene transition to put the focus back on her midway through that chapter but chapter 1 is always such a nightmare to write.
    After chapter 1 no-one else but protag will be seen again. Why? She won't be on Earth anymore... :p
    That's why it's a little bit different and why any named characters introduced in chapter 1 can't and won't (barring some magical transportation which I'm not looking to do) be involved in the rest of the book.
     
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  8. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Is there a particular reason for wanting a distant perspective throughout the story? That would feel pretty cold and—well, distant. I would think when you come back to the main character you'd want to go into his/her head for a close perspective. You can begin distant and transition to close, which is pretty common. Often a scene will begin outside of the character, like a camera view, and with the MC not even in the 'shot' at first, instead detailing the scene visually, and then after a paragraph or 2 like that you show the character, and then you shift into their head and remain there for the rest of the scene or the story. It's also common to sometimes transition out of their head when you need to show something external and their own reactions aren't so important, but the 'camera' should still remain close to them. When you move in or out of their head you want to transition smoothly. Something like:

    The mountains stood majestic and stolid over Cityville, clouds wreathing their upper peaks. Across the broad valley antelope and chickens frolicked and tumbled and penguins darted nervously to and fro clutching their homework. Sam stood atop the small hill known as Grumbledown Viceroy, surveying the town spread below. His town.

    "No!" He shouted into the gathering storm, "I'll never relent!"

    He finished assembling the sniper rifle from the case that lay open at his feet. Then he set up the small tripod and nestled the heavy gun into it—sighted through the massive scope, and swung it slowly across Main Street, picking out each store and building along the way. He knew them all intimately, hated each with a burning vengeance.

    I'll show them he thought. They'll remember me, those who survive.

    This was surreal, stupid, and mostly a joke, but it does illustrate how to transition from an external (objective) POV, show your character, and then move behind his eyes and into his head. I sort of moved into his head stage by stage—first he spoke, then he performed some actions, and then I went right into his inner thoughts.

    When you want to move out of his head later you can reverse the order, or just do it suddenly at a chapter break or scene break.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020 at 5:58 AM
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Wait, I think I misunderstood. You didn't actually say you wanted a distant POV throughout the story, only for the prologue and chapter 1. Oops! :whistle: :ohno:
     
  10. Seiya

    Seiya New Member

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    Oh no There will be no distant perspective. Your example of a 3rd person POV is mostly what I'm aiming for.
    So to write an quick (and dirty writing) example

    Prologue

    She was hurting inside, not physical pain but a mental anguish that was nigh on inconsolable. Her friends could do nothing but watch her weep over the casket of her dead parents.

    Unbeknownst to anyone there at that time this would be the pivotal moment that her life's path would take a dramatic turn.
    Chapter 1


    David Fletcher was on foot patrol along the usually quiet streets of Inverness, it was an unusually hot day this far up the North of Scotland...
    ...
    ...


    If we were to base this ghastly written example on my previous question, David Fletcher will never be seen again (after a short encounter with protag midway in chapter as he watches her do her thing). Also, yes it appears I've misused the term POV here as it will always be 3rd person (not distant POV) but we're following unnamed protag (crying girl) in prologue, what she sees, what she feels then we switch to and focus on David in Chap 1 and it's what he sees and what he feels then onwards past that only the girl appears plus new characters.

    Of course we've named David, it's the first chapter after a prologue but he'll never appear again, because essentially he can't.
    My unnamed protag gets moved to a fantasy world after she dies then her name is revealed :D
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020 at 7:26 AM
  11. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Just to be sure we're on the same page, 3rd person can be in either close or distant (or Omniscient, which is a whole different can of worms).

    Are you sure you need David's chapter to also be in a close perspective? That could cause the kind of confusion people are talking about, where he might be seen as another protagonist or even the main protagonist. I would strongly consider writing his chapter in 3rd person distant POV, or maybe move between distant and close, but favor distant as much as you can. Use any tricks you can to make it clear he isn't someone important.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020 at 8:23 AM
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  12. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    When I write I do it almost entirely in 'tell' as it is easier and by far the quickest way to finish the first draft. Then I fix all the issues at the end with the editing process; p.o.v, show, tell, plot holes, character development.

    I have tried micro analysing and editing as I go and to be frank it slows down the writing process in my opinion, almost to the point of procrastination.

    I would look at p.o.v once you complete the first draft.
     
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  13. Seiya

    Seiya New Member

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    Just googling the difference between close and distant (wasn't all to sure). Ah yeah I should be keeping it distant for chapter 1 from Dave's perspective but then we still have the named character 'syndrome' perhaps?
    "He's in chapter 1 and he's named, must mean something..." kind of confusion.
    Will be on my third chapter 1 rewrite :oops:
    Though I guess with how it plays out in the end I suppose you should lend some level of intelligence to the reader?
    Given that protag has died and moved to another world, well David isn't going to likely appear again, if ever.
     
  14. Seiya

    Seiya New Member

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    chapter 1 is a bit of a mess unfinished, but I know how it'll end. Already started chapter 2 which seems much better and will probably continue before I go back to chapter 1. Maybe the rest of the writing might help me decided how to complete it :)
     
  15. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Then are you even sure that's where you should start your book at all?

    If you're gonna start using POV terms, use them properly - camera behind him isn't even a term. Is it 3rd person limited (or 3rd person close), or 3rd person omniscience? POV only means Point of View. POV can be also 1st or even 2nd person. Therefore it is impossible to say, "By POV I mean everything is in 3rd person" - those two are not the same terms.

    The truth is, if you had to ask, the answer is usually, "It's not a good idea." By all means explore it if you still wish, but you've been warned. Readers do not enjoy being misled. Readers do not care about the same things you care about. What does showing a distant POV on the MC actually add to the readers' understanding of the story that you can't possibly show in a different scene by more traditional methods? Why do you insist on doing things like this?

    I hate rules. I'm an advocate of breaking them. But you need to know the rule first and you better know why you're breaking them, and you better have a good reason. Otherwise, just don't. Very often we do non-traditional things not because we're particularly clever or artistic, but because we're enamoured by the idea for no particular reason, or worse, because it appears to be the smoothest and easiest way to achieve the thing we want. I've found taking the easiest route is not always good for your writing - being forced to do things a certain way also forces you to come up with fresh ideas that are, often, far better than your initial thought.

    Take the truly easiest route - not the convoluted route. It's a fine line.
     
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  16. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Distancing does two things, simultaneously. It allows you to tell the reader lots of stuff. It also keeps the reader at arm's length, meaning they won't actually experience anything. It's like the difference between being there, and just reading about it afterwards.

    Both have their uses. Just be aware of the effect your choices have on the reader.

    If you're going to start with a chapter of distanced perspective, the situation or dilemma you're presenting had better be innately intriguing. If it's just routine background information instead, you are likely to lose your readers before you ever hit your stride.

    You CAN present the routine background information in an intriguing way, but you'll probably need to use a POV character whose personality and outlook on these bits of information will draw us in.

    When writing, you can more or less do whatever you want. It's HOW you do it that will make the difference.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020 at 2:12 PM
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  17. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    I think what you need is a good guide to the various POV choices and how to use them effectively. Most people start with the mistaken idea that all there are is 1st, 2nd and 3rd Person, but it gets a little more complicated than that when you bring in Close and Distant and a few other factors. That was all I understood when I got here last year, all the rest was gibberish and gobbledygook until I found a great resource called Novel Writing Help.

    That's the Roadmap page that helps you navigate your way around (it's a big site with lots of information). Scroll down to the section called The Complete Guide to Point of View. It'll take a while to take it all in and for it to start to really unfold and make sense. But stick with it—it's well worth it. Nobody's writing gets really good until they understand all this POV stuff clearly.

    And you might want to stop by my blog and grab the chart I made to keep it all straight in my own mind. It's intended to work as a quick reference guide after you've studied it in depth. Note—on my chart I use the term Deep instead of Close. They mean the same thing, just different ways of saying it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020 at 3:54 PM
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