I know that sounds weird so let me explain.
I am working on a novel where I spend the majority of the time from the view of what I would call the main character. But what I'm kind of wanting to do is throw in a scene here and there from someone else's point of view. For example:
First Scene is from character 2's view. The next ten scenes are from character 1's. Then one form character 3. Then another ten from character 1.
Would the abrupt shift in PoV to another character, combined with how brief it is, be distracting or otherwise ... bad?
Does this happen much in the industry and also what is your opinion as a reader?
I see it more than I used to -- playing fast and loose with the pov.
Sometimes it's very effective. Sometimes I just find it annoying, as if the writer was merely being lazy. What makes the difference? Have to think on that. Maybe it's if there is a good reason for the shifts -- to goose up the tension (though sometimes when it's blatant, I find that really annoying) or shed a different light on part of the plot or a character.
I have also been seeing that lately. I'm a fan of tight POV, limited third, so I find it a little annoying. In my mind the way it usually works is that the author couldn't figure out a way around a plot issue (something the MC couldn't know about yet but he/she wanted the reader to know so they stuck it in.) However, there are also cases where it works just fine. I think, like arriki said, it's a matter of being thoughtful and purposeful with your choices.
If you're just throwing it in because you can't figure out how to tell a part of the story from the MC's POV, well...maybe that deserves some re-evaluation. If you're doing it on purpose to create suspense, that's probably a better reason. Even better yet would be to show what's going on somewhere really far removed geographically from the MC's environment - but somehow connected. And better yet if the connections aren't readily apparent but begin laying out a puzzle for the reader to solve (the connections are there but the reader has to read a while to see all the threads.)
My suggestion, based on having read this kind of POV shifting in stories of late, is to avoid hopping between many other characters. Pick a few other POVs that you need and return to them throughout - rather than doing Char 1, char 2 for 10 scenes, char 3, char 2 for 10 scenes, char 4, char 2 for 10 scenes, etc. It would be more jarring to do it that way, in my opinion.
I read about an author, I forget who, who reads POV-changing books as a serial process. They go through and read all of Char 1 POV's chapters, then go back through and read the other character's chapters. Sounded interesting. Tells you another way some people look at multiple-POV books.
I've encountered a fair proportion of shifting points of view, perspectives, and focal characters and settings from all eras and schools of literature. What the narrator's standing is to the action is one of the aspects most critical to whether I notice shifting as I read and whether it's disruptive to read. One absolute no-no as far as I'm concerned is shifting narrators, but even that I've seen done adequately well, perhaps because the writer knew that was what was necessary to the story. (In an experimental story presented to a college workshop class.)
When any shift doesn't work for me is when it's not consistent with the level of psychic access to a character's thoughts and/or consistent in temporal or positional relativity. Close third person should (must) keep in touch (KIT) with the focal character and be relatively immediate in temporal and positional relation; immediate and now-like from right here. Limited third person doesn't need to remain as tight, but should KIT. An objective third person is welcome to move around as though the narrator (regardless of whether the narrator's a part of the action, just an interested bystander or remote to the MICE) is journalistically reporting on a milieu, idea, character, or event after the fact when all the pertinent information is known.
I've found in my reading that shifting around in character-oriented stories is complicated due to potential issues arising from the countering benefits of close psychic access; introspection and emotion narrative modes. Milieu, idea, and event easier to move around, event perhaps easiest, at least when the story is reporting on an emotional level.
When a shift works best for me is when my curiosity about what's going on elsewhere that's relevant to the story's dramatic action is strong and wanting satisfaction.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited March 02, 2009).]
I am having that problem right now too. I was all over the place with shifting POV and when I read it to my local writer's group, they raked me over the coals (very gently I might add). The point was that the reader should be able to tell with ease "whose chapter it is" and if they can't they get very annoyed. I admit that after rereading my work changing to a tighter POV made it read much better and the pace improved. The advice I got was whenever I wanted to change POV I should begin a new chapter.
[This message has been edited by Denem (edited March 02, 2009).]
Guilty. I shift POV. Sometimes, in a first draft, I'm not even aware that I'm doing it and then I may need to revise. I may not always succeed, but I try to do it for a reason. Sometimes, I need to show the reader something that the MC cannot know, or can't know yet. Sometimes, especially as we get to the love scenes, I may need to let the reader know how another character feels about the MC.
Most of the time, I think the shift flows. That is, dialog between MC and Character B, in MC's POV. Next scene in B's POV as he does something based on that dialog. Then back to MC's POV.
When I shift to another character that is far away from the MC, I try to do that as a separate chapter--except during the climax, where I don't want to slow the action down that much and I'm only going to spend a very short time away from the MC anyway.
Recently, I've actually been inserting some short scenes that are from my villain's POV, both to build tension and to give a glimpse of what his motivations/goals are. Especially since his goals evolve (or devolve) somewhat during the story.
I have one scene that I haven't fully worked out, though. This one concerns a birth and I really want to show what both parents are thinking/feeling at the same time. (They're not both in the room) I haven't come up with an elegant way to handle that, yet, so right now that scene is kind of a muddle.
In my case I am only jumping between the 3 characters. The first character, who leads the first scene, his PoV is never returned to again. In fact his whole character disappears and a large part of the plot is the effort to find him. My main character, whose PoV dominates 95% of the writing is the main person pursuing the disappeared character one. The third PoV that I will jump to oh so rarely is mostly to gte a second opinion on the hunt, and to help the reader understand her character and motives a bit more. Since the main character sees her as something of a nuisance and I want the reader to see her a bit deeper than that.
There is nothing more disappointing than coitus interruptus. When a page turning story runs with two or more POVs, the transition should not occur at a key moment where it annoys the reader enough to skip over the next paragraph
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I do exactly what you said in your first post, Zero. Most of my novels are from one person's POV most of the time, with an occasional shift. I read somewhere that every scene should be told from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in the scene, and that works for me both when I'm reading and when I'm writing. I rarely even notice POV shifts when I'm reading something I like. It does bug me more than I can say when an author tries to shift the POV in the middle of a scene.
Just an aside: The author of The Poisonwood Bible wrote the entire novel from every character's POV and then picked her favorite POV for each chapter. Melanie
I think it's okay when done carefully, and it sounds like you're doing it carefully. I do that exact short of shifting in my novel, with most of the POVs from one character, with the occasional chapter shift to the villain to see what he's up to.
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Thanks for the responses once again. I'm going to proceed with the plan and see what my beta readers think. Thanks for giving me a bit more confidence.
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