What do you think? Is it possible to pull off a POV shift from one character to another in a short story?
I have a story that I have been working on, but it requires one bit of background/scene setting done by character A. However, I mostly want to write the story from perspective of character B. But character B was not at the scene in question, so I can't write that scene from her POV. I'm not sure I could pull off omni - there's reasons why getting into (and staying, once I get there) the head of character B will be interesting. I'm finding that this problem is keeping me from writing the story, because I feel like I have to have it solved first! Argh. Like I need more excuses for not meeting my writing goals.
It's entirely possible that what I need to do is bag the idea of this as a short story and just write a novel, but being unpublished, I want to have some sort of success first before sinking the kind of time I would need to in a novel.
I read something about this not long ago. The short answer is that it is possible and accepted. However, the author points out that you should not change POV within a scene - new scene, then switch POV. Hope this helps you.
[This message has been edited by nitewriter (edited June 07, 2007).]
I'm not sure you're asking the right question. You can do anything you want when writing a story -- James Joyce has proven that.
Rather, what you should be asking is these questions: Is it absolutely necessary for me to shift POV? If I shift POV, will I confuse my reader? How can I shift POV without jarring a reader from the story.
In one of the early chapters of SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, Card shifts POV in the middle of the chapter. I remember it because he seemed to break the POV rule. But what does it matter? Though I can't find the thread, I was the only Hatracker who did notice it. It's almost seemless, and I think the reason I did notice it was because I was really focused on POV at the time.
So do it, put your story aside for several weeks, then go back and reread it. If you like it, great. If you think it works, great. Send it out and move one with life.
Readers readily accept a switch of POV when you switch to a scene that doesn't have the POV character. This is even okay if only one scene deviates.
Shifting from a first person singular POV to another fps POV might be a little more tricky, but it's done. Browse through Faulkner's As I Lay Dying to see an example of it. He juggles several character POVs in first person.
Seemingly contrary to opinion, you can switch POV in the middle of a scene, but I don't think it's advisable for a rookie. (The only place I've seen it done well is in a Nobel Peace Prize winning book.)
I feel you can switch POV if it is necessary. Anything can be done, if it is done well, in my opinion.
Recently, I was reading Xenocide, and I thought I saw a POV shift in the early chapters. I quickly realized it wasn't a shift, though. The POV character was putting herself in another characters shoes and working through their thoughts. I thought this was an interesting alternative.
Try it. It might work. One great thing about writing is you can be as wrong as you feel you need to be because there is always the delete key, the option to go back and do it differently. Good luck.
As said by others before me, try the POV shift - all such "rules" have exceptions, and it may work just fine.
If it doesn't work, examine your objective:
Why does the reader need to see a scene that B was not in? Do they really need this scene?
Is it possible that the B knows what happened in the scene, but just wasn't there? Can B imagine or dream the scene?
Is there a reason that you need the reader to know, but you don't want B to know? Does the reader need this at the very beginning, or could both the reader (and B) be told at the end (video, captain's log, etc.)?
I wrote a short story with three POVs. The problem was that it did upset people BUT everyone who read it agreed that I had to do the shifts or the whole story would be lost. So, I tried to focus on the transitions and making it extremely obvious whose viewpoint I was in when and in the end, I think it worked.
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Well, I've started writing it, but the POV shift will happen WELL after the first 13 lines. The first scene, in the POV I don't plan to stay in, is at 2-3 pages right now (not double-spaced, I don't manuscript format til I'm closer to the end - find it too hard to read/scan for my own purposes.)
I'm toying with the idea of just staying in this persons' POV, though. Everyone's comments make a lot of sense - that it can be tricky to manage, it might be off-putting to some editors (last thing I need is a reason to reject me, LOL) and that there should be a compelling reason to shift. I think the truth is I would like to write a novel-length story with these characters, in which case I can shift POV, but am going to try to stay in this POV for the short story while I work out some of the plot and world details.
Thanks everyone for the input! The story is only that one scene long so far, so I won't post my 13 yet, but soon, I hope.