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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Throwaway POV

   
Author Topic: Throwaway POV
enigmaticuser
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I'm on my third draft of a novel, finally had a beta take me to task on the number of POV's I was using. So I've been rewriting scenes that had more than the essential POV's.

I've had pretty good success, finding I could tell the same scenes from a more persistent POV and make them better. But today, I was editing a chapter with two throwaway POV's. Each of them comes from a generic character, that I could easily leave unnamed and without description. And the longest is about 300 words.

I can't really justify keeping them except that I think they show something more interesting than what the MC is involved with at the time (being a drunk philanderer), so I'm 60% likely to turn the scenes into flashbacks, but it made me wonder:

While many readers seem to dislike throwaway POV, I wonder if it differs based on the length of the POV's appearance and the intimacy with which we meet them? If you are told about a dangerous antagonist showing up

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Reziac
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Didn't we just leave this party? [Smile]
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=273967

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enigmaticuser
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I'm cultivated multiple options =)
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rcmann
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I try never to introduce a POV into a story that doesn't matter, at least slightly, to the plot. Personal preference. Maybe it's just the way I structure my plots.
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enigmaticuser
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Rcmann, so would you say that say covering a waiter's perspective for one scene (without a MC present) where the drama does or will directly affect the MC shortly, would that satisfy the relevance meter?

I know it could obviously be revealed in another time/place (as I said I'm heading towards removing it to flashback land, if that). But the drama present does move the plot forward though not altering the course.

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redux
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To me, as a reader, it would depend on the type of story that is being told. I just finished reading a Sidney Sheldon novel (one of my favorite summer-read authors) and he sprinkles his stories with what would be considered throwaway POVs. Those POVs typically serve the story by building suspense, or explaining some backstory or furthering a plot point. I find that it fits his storytelling style. Sheldon is a master storyteller who basically got started in Hollywood writing movie scripts and TV shows (The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, I Dream of Jeannie). Anyway, this is my long winded way of saying that his stories are like watching a movie or TV show, and because they are fast paced, so-called throwaway POVs work.
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extrinsic
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Two novels on point for the concern are Thomas Harris's Silence of the Lambs and John Grisham's The Confession. The secondary viewpoints in Harris's novel are the villain's in first person, and Jack Crawford's in third person, with, of course, protagonist Starling's in third person. Harris developed his use of multiple viewpoints in that novel. Harris's next two, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, similarly portray first person and third person viewpoints. In every case, the viewpoints have deep psychic access: access to thoughts.

Grisham's novel, on the other hand, is entirely in third person and only shallow psychic access. Several viewpoint characters are portrayed as auxilliary influences (throwaway POVs). However, their thoughts and viewpoints influence the action. Grisham summarizes and explains more, tells, than I prefer, but then the idea of the novel is more appreciable than any one character or viewpoint or character voice, which the principal voice is Grisham's as real writer and implied writer and narrator in one persona.

The idea of the novel being unequivocal and irrevocable proof an innocent man is executed for a crime he didn't commit. The theme of the novel also. The message of the legal thriller novel is the criminal justice system's rush to judgement imperils itself.

Anyway, multiple viewpoints is challenging, perhaps too challenging for a first novel. On the other hand, perhaps the story supports multiple veiwpoints, if the theme or idea is the foreground emphasis, rather than character emphasis in particular, which ought as a best practice emphasize one viewpoint. Plot or milieu, setting, or event emphasis may or may not support multiple viewpoints though.

Audience is also a prime consideration. Less sophisticated audiences favor one viewpoint. More sophisticated audiences can access and may find multiple viewpoints appealing. However, I don't feel a "throwaway" viewpoint character is either a helpful way to think about a character or a best practice. Thinking about a character as a throwaway to me seems incidental, rather than influential, and may feel like a gimmick.

If a service person, like a waiter, is influential, then yes, maybe a throwaway in the sense of an appreciable influence rather than per se a disposable and incidental character; otherwise, if an observing character, ideally a main viewpoint character, he or she may secondhand show an interpretation of the waiter's viewpoint. Or if accessing the waiter's thoughts are essential, then use that kind of perspective regularly throughout the novel.

For instance, Buffalo Bill's first person perspective is used repeatedly throughout Silence of the Lambs. He's the only one in first person. If you have several "throwaway" characters, and each's perspective were expressly in first person, for example, I think I might appreciate that. Or if vice versa; first person for the protagonist and third person for all other characters' perspectives. Or perhaps past tense for all third person perspectives and present tense for any first person perspectives.

Using consistent, timely, judicious, and throughout the novel tense and person, and degree of narrative distance and psychic access variables I think could make "throwaway POVs" work for me.

[ July 17, 2013, 05:51 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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legolasgalactica
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I've read stories where I not only thought it worked, but even enjoyed seeing events from a nonessential character's point of view--provided it adds to the story in a way that couldn't be achieved otherwise. The only draw back for me, even when it works, is that sometimes those characters becomes interesting enough that I wish we could find out more about them or see them again later and I'm sad and disappointed when we don't. Perhaps the author let me care too much about them to have them be so inconsequential.
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enigmaticuser
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Legolasgalactica, I did read that as warning on the parallel discussion.

With throwaways, you have the risk of either creating a POV that is so uninteresting that the reader will be bored with what's happening and just want to get back to the MC.

Or you might make them too interesting, in which case the reader loses someone they wanted to get to know. I suppose that would be a good way to introduce a spin-off storyline.

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rcmann
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In other words, every book is different, and so is every author. Some people can make it work and some people can't:)

Not much help, is it? Try it and see. And get a second opinion. And a third opinion. And a fourth opinion if possible. I would suggest using major characters whenever possible. Otherwise, do whatever feels right to you.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Consider this, if you try something and it doesn't work, you've still learned by actually writing it. No writing is wasted if you can learn from it.

However, delaying writing by talking about it will not teach you nearly as much as actually doing the writing and seeing what works and what doesn't.

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extrinsic
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I've noted several features of "throwaway POVs" that might work artfully. One is to portray a character as one- or two-dimensional. Like particularly one axis of likeability: loathesome or likeable, unpleasant or pleasant, happy or upset, alienating or empathy-worthy. Another is to avoid dwelling on a character's personal wants and problems. Only dwell on what the character at the moment and place concerns. Another is to solely portray the character's immediate stimuli and response related to the central action. No character depth of any kind except how and why the character interacts and influences the moment of the action.

Of course, the opposites work for central characters. So writing throwaways builds skills for writing important characters and vice versa.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
Consider this, if you try something and it doesn't work, you've still learned by actually writing it. No writing is wasted if you can learn from it.

However, delaying writing by talking about it will not teach you nearly as much as actually doing the writing and seeing what works and what doesn't.

Wisdom. [Big Grin]
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