Author Topic: multiple point of views  (Read 797 times)

mike herman

multiple point of views
« on: December 05, 2018, 11:59:23 PM »
I'm wondering how people feel about this, in a single chapter, is having multiple points of view Taboo? Or is it just breaking rules? Or is it no big deal?
 

VanessaC

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2018, 01:50:50 AM »
I'm wondering how people feel about this, in a single chapter, is having multiple points of view Taboo? Or is it just breaking rules? Or is it no big deal?

I think it's the old answer of "it depends". 

At the moment I'm writing third person but following a single character, so my hands-on experience as a writer is limited here.

As a reader, I have no issue with books with more than one POV as long as it's very, very clear who is "speaking" at the time. It drives me crazy when writers switch POV mid-paragraph, sometimes mid-sentence, and do not seem to know they are doing it, and I will put the book down at that point.  POV shifts mid-chapter are fine, as long as I can follow what's going on.

POV shifts can be hugely effective when done well.

So, for me, mid-chapter shifts are not taboo, not breaking the rules, but just take care to be clear.

     

Genre: Fantasy
 
The following users thanked this post: mike herman

cecilia_writer

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2018, 04:03:02 AM »
I find it easier only to change POVs by chapter when I'm writing - even then I usually have to type the character's name at the top of the chapter to remind me whose POV I am currently writing from.
I usually have either 2 or 3 POV characters per novel.
As a reader I don't mind POV shifts inside a chapter as long as they don't happen in every other sentence or by mistake.
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

munboy

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2018, 06:01:19 AM »
There are rules of thumb involved, but breaking rules isn't always a bad thing if done skillfully and with purpose.

In the same scene, you have to be careful with head-hopping. If you're going to shift POVs in the same scene, there should be a clear reason WHY you're doing it and it should be obvious it happened. A reader shouldn't realize 2 paragraphs later that they're in a different POV. Also, jumping back and forth between POVs will get sloppy. In other words, shift POVs but don't shift back and forth between the same characters.
 
The following users thanked this post: mike herman

She-la-te-da

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2018, 11:50:17 PM »
I've done it, but I make sure to have a scene break when I switch. It's very easy to head hop without realizing it, and then the reader can be confused. Heck, the writer can get confused. When I've slipped, I've found myself going back, trying to see why something later on isn't working, and I realize I've gotten characters mixed up. That's bad.
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 
The following users thanked this post: Jeff Tanyard

DrewMcGunn

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2018, 12:14:26 AM »
I've done it, but I make sure to have a scene break when I switch. It's very easy to head hop without realizing it, and then the reader can be confused. Heck, the writer can get confused. When I've slipped, I've found myself going back, trying to see why something later on isn't working, and I realize I've gotten characters mixed up. That's bad.

This is what I do, as well. For me a single scene has one POV. In one of my books, I had an epic battle and I had three or four POVs for the battle and I shifted them as needed, but each shift was it's own scene. As a reader I like clean breaks between POV, and that's what I try to write.

Drew McGunn
 
The following users thanked this post: Jeff Tanyard

Jeff Tanyard

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2018, 08:27:33 AM »
Like others have mentioned, I'll switch POV within a chapter, but not within a scene.  I always use asterisk breaks to mark the switch.


I had an epic battle and I had three or four POVs for the battle and I shifted them as needed, but each shift was it's own scene.


Robert Jordan did something similar during the climax of Winter's Heart.  The scenes were shorter than usual for him, so the pacing was faster, and as a reader, I thought it worked really well.  It's one of my favorite parts of the series.
v  v  v  v  v    Short Stories    v  v  v  v  v    vv FREE! vv
     
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy (some day) | Author Website
 

Scrapper78

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2018, 06:33:56 AM »
You need to 'pass the baton' clearly when you shift.

Use a scene break, asterisks, or a chapter break if you want to live safely. If you don't mind a little danger, you can shift POV within a scene for extra tension. Here is an example:

****************************

Bill stared at John from across the table. This was his oldest friend, a man he had known his whole life. How John could do such a thing was a complete mystery, and the churning in his guts mirrored the frenetic pace of his thoughts.  In that moment, Bill could not decide if his sadness was greater than his rage, or if his anger sat behind the wheel unopposed.
     Bill's internal battle was plainly written across his features. Seated just four feet away, John could read curl of his lip, see the twitch of his eye, and mark the straining of Bill's clenched jaw. [[Baton hand off!]]. How could he make Bill understand? John was certain Bill would have done the same thing in his place, but there was no point trying to reason with a man in such a state. Bill needed to work that part out on his own, and all John could do was weather the storm until he did. His shame and remorse was all-consuming, but he could not bring himself to the point of self-recrimination. He had done what needed doing.

***

I move the POV across the table to John with one clear cut. This has always worked well with me, but it must be used sparingly. I try not shift POV within a chapter at all, but if I must (It can make for some great emotional tension)  then I limit it to one time per chapter. If I follow those rules, it comes off as pretty smooth.
 

Denise

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2018, 04:50:18 AM »
I used to think that it was weird, until I read a few books doing it. It's actually genius! And it can help with pacing.

Usually, in contemporary fiction, there's a scene break, and then a pov change. I think it's fine, as long as you're not head hopping.
 

Frank Feliz

  • Flash Fiction unlocked
  • *
  • Posts: 34
  • Thanked: 9 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Published author of gay YA/NA lit; cover artist
    • Website
Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2018, 03:37:57 PM »
For me it just depends. I've done by chapter and by scene, depending on how many POV characters there are and how long the scenes are. Short scenes, then yes, always by scene.

Frank Feliz | Website | Twitter
 

JB Rowley

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2019, 05:37:27 AM »
As a reader I do not cope well with changes in point of view and I rarely finish a book where that strategy is used by the writer. Change in the point of view takes me out of the story and I lose my reading momentum. I just gave up reading The Girl in the Spiderís Web for that reason. (The friend who lent me the book loved it so the point of view changes obviously did not bother her.)

Here is what Sol Stein says in Stein on Writing.
'In general, I advise the less-experienced writer not to mix points of view within the same scene, chapter, or even the same novel. It is unsettling to the reader. If you mix points of view, the authorís authority seems to dissolve. The writer seems arbitrary rather than controlled. Sticking to a point of view intensifies the experience of a story. A wavering or uncertain point of view will diminish the experience for the reader.

The experienced writer who has mastered point of view can experiment with tightly controlled yet shifting viewpoints. When I started out I used the most neutral kind of third-person point of view. It was only after my confidence increased that I started using multiple first-person points of view in different parts or chapters, with the point of view established and clearly identified at the outset of each part or chapter.'
 
The following users thanked this post: Denise

Tom Wood

  • Long Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 946
  • Thanked: 346 times
  • Whatever you imagine can make your life brand new.
    • Agents of DISRUPT
Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2019, 06:45:06 AM »
Take a look at the tables of contents for Moxyland (Lauren Beukes) and Rule 34 (Charles Stross) to see how they separated multiple POVs by chapter. Moxyland is 1st-person, present tense. Rule 34 is 2nd-person present tense - a very odd choice.
 

PJ Post

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2019, 06:57:12 AM »
As they say, it's all in the execution.

With third, you can change in the middle of a sentence. With first past, I wouldn't change at all, because it's always going to read kind of like a memoir. I write in first present and use chapter breaks, which is pretty common and seems to work well.
 

Bill Hiatt

  • Epic Novel unlocked
  • ****
  • Posts: 1045
  • Thanked: 409 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Tickling the imagination one book at a time
    • Bill Hiatt's Author Website
Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2019, 07:31:45 AM »
As others have said, clarity is the key. Different shifting patterns will work, as long as the reader knows what's going on.

I tend to confine shifts in viewpoint to chapter breaks unless I really need to switch at a point that that wouldn't be a good chapter point. In a case like that, I use a scene break. That happens most often in a short chapter which I don't want to split into two tiny ones.

I've noticed the editors I've worked with have had very different preferences. One of them didn't like POV changes at all. One of them thought a scene break was enough and wasn't crazy about making a chapter break to switch POV. Some of them thought what I was doing was fine. (Editors vary as much readers.)


Tickling the imagination one book at a time
Bill Hiatt | fiction website | education website | Facebook author page | Twitter
 
The following users thanked this post: Denise

GeneDoucette

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2019, 07:35:16 AM »
I've changed POV within a chapter plenty of times, but not for two characters in the same situation. That is, I have to go with close 3rd POV with character 1 in this part of the chapter because character 2 isn't there, and later in the chapter, when character 2 is somewhere else, nowhere near character 1, obviously it has to be from character 2's perspective.
 

Wifey

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2019, 09:06:24 AM »
Stephen King head-hops all the time within the same chapter/scene.
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

LilyBLily

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2019, 09:20:39 AM »
Older Nora Roberts head-hopped, too. Don't know if she does it anymore, but it stinks no matter who does it.

I'm writing romance, where it is expected to see both his and hers POVs. I separate them by asterisks, and if it happens mid-scene, I try to use a thought in one person's head as the lead-in to the thought in the other's. After all, these are two people falling in love and to some degree their thoughts and feelings will align.

I was told by the last agent to whom I sent a ms. that I had too many POVs in a women's fiction tale. In it, the chapters generally alternated POV and I always started the chapter with "Eloise" or "Richard," much as one might start a chapter with "London" or "Paris, 1917." Usually in italics. The agent didn't like it, but it's my best-selling novel, so I guess readers were okay with it. No one has ever left a review complaining.
 
The following users thanked this post: Denise

Denise

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2019, 08:22:08 AM »


Here is what Sol Stein says in Stein on Writing.
'In general, I advise the less-experienced writer not to mix points of view within the same scene, chapter, or even the same novel. It is unsettling to the reader. If you mix points of view, the authorís authority seems to dissolve. The writer seems arbitrary rather than controlled. Sticking to a point of view intensifies the experience of a story. A wavering or uncertain point of view will diminish the experience for the reader.


Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out. I was never a fan of Stein's advice and I'll continue to steer clear.

I think this is terrible, terrible advice. If a writer doesn't have a good control of point of view, the writer should improve this aspect. It's going to affect the prose regardless of the amount of povs in a book.

Yeah, a wavering POV sucks, but it's going to suck no matter what. I've read stories with poor POV control, and it slips even if it's in first person or limited third. If the POV is poor, the narration and the prose suffer, so it's better to get that fixed, and choosing one single POV is not going to fix that, unlike what Stein suggests.

I also disagree that you will have a stronger "author's authority" with a single pov. WTF is even author's authority? Is is the author's voice? I don't really like it when I see the author's voice creeping through the narrator, with some exceptions. Austen, for example, has a delightful sarcastic and snarky voice that's always a pleasure to read. She achieves it through an omniscient narrator who actually peers into different POVs. In fact, her going in and out of heads allows us to get the super snarky narrator's voice as an entity separated from the character's thoughts. Not everyone's Austen, sure, but still, I don't think people want a narrator's voice in contemporary fiction. Also, sometimes people think that the character's voice is the author's voice, and it's easier to make the distinction in a book with different voices. Not that everyone can write in different voices, though, and in this case I understand it's easier to write in one single POV (so perhaps I agree with Stein a little, but for very different reasons).

I also find that multiple POVs can create suspense, and work really well for a climax, for example, if you have something like:

Character A's pov chapter ending in cliffhanger.
Character B pov cliffhanger.
Character C pov cliffhanger.

It can be a lot more interesting and intense than if you solved character A's issue right away. It can be sometimes infuriating for readers, but I think if povs are interesting it works. I hate it when I shift from an interesting POV in a cliffhanger to a boring POV in which nothing happens. I also dislike it when authors add the same events from different POVs. OK, sometimes it's cool to see how they react differently, but you don't need to narrate the scene twice.

So sure, there are ways in which multiple POVs can be terrible, like with anything.

 

dikim

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2019, 10:25:50 PM »
The most important thing about changing point of view is to make sure you don't confuse the reader. If they have to step back to think about whose head they are in, they are stepping away from the story and risk not getting back into it. Changes are clearer when they happen at some sort of story break - end of scene, end of chapter. That doesn't mean you can't change mid-scene but it does make it riskier. Think hard about whether it's really necessary. Can you get the same or a similar effect without doing it?


Author of more than 40 books and several scripts. Writes fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults, adults and other writers.
www.dianakimpton.co.uk
 

ragdoll

Re: multiple point of views
« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2019, 12:07:58 AM »
When a writer changes mid-sentence or mid-paragraph or every other/few paragraph/s, they definitely are committing the cardinal sin of head hopping. I try to stick to one POV per chapter. But if the chapter. I'm not opposed to short chapters (I've seen page-and-a-half chapters in Koontz books). And I'm not opposed to scene breaks that mark a change in POV. But not short chapters with scene breaks, especially with POV changes. I can envision where many different characters get their POV in a chapter could work, such as a battle melee -- or, perfect example, a relay race (but let's put it on an alien planet where the fate of each team's home planet hangs in the balance -- even then, would probably give them each POV chapter).