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Author Topic: On Point of View
KoDe Nichols
Member # 7884

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I've decided that the story I'm writing could use some more... depth. Up to this point, all the reflection and thinking has been done by the main character, but there are some others who will be playing a large part in the story, and I can't help but think that they should have some representation in the thought department as well. I'm a little wary of changing perspective too often though. Is it considered bad practice/confusing to have two points of view in the same section of writing? I'm leaning towards keeping it down to one perspective per chapter/section.

Any thoughts?

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Member # 7912

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This is an oft-discussed and debated issue. Me, I see all "rules" of writing, whether it be POV, "show dont tell" or whatever as tools. In the end, whatever is best is whatever works for your story.

You are writing a novel, I believe? In novels, the accepted wisdom is that a POV switch between chapters is fine. However, some don't have a problem with carefully-handled POV shifts within a chapter. It's all in how you do it. If you need to delve into another characters thoughts in a given chapter, do it, just do it smoothly and naturally as you can.

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Member # 8368

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A chapter break or a scene break is a natural place to change POV if you need to. It takes really careful handling to change POV within a scene (other than in a romance, where it's expected). But I have seen it done.

Something I've tried and am learning to avoid. Beware the scene break that's only there to change POV characters. That can get annoying.

I think it was in David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants (Subscribe if you haven't already. It's free.) where I read about this method:

  • Start with A's thoughts
  • Move out to dialog
  • Move out again to the setting
  • Back to dialog
  • And move into B's thoughts

I haven't tried that yet, but I can think of a couple of places where I might.

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Robert Nowall
Member # 2764

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It's a convention...but any convention you care to name, you can also find some great piece of writing that violates it. I can't think of any offhand that violate this one, but I'm sure they're there.

Personally, though, I kinda like this particular convention...if you start with one point of view and switch midway through the scene to another, you risk confusing the reader.

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Pyre Dynasty
Member # 1947

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The trouble with POV shifts is you have to spend some text establishing which character is thinking. And it is very easy to make a mistake and add confusion.

You could always go omni, it's a little out of style these days, but you could lead the resurgence.

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KoDe Nichols
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Care to elaborate?
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Member # 5137

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If you haven't already, pick up a copy (or borrow from the library) of Orson Scott Card's book Characters and Viewpoints. He has great visuals (last 1/3 of the book as I recall) that show the difference between deep penetration third person point of view, a more cinematic point of view 3rd person limited, and omniscient point of view.

Handling point of view well is important to making your book make sense to the readers. This is a skill, a learnable skill. If OSC's book isn't to your liking I'm sure there are others that are just as good, but I personally prefer how he slices up the universe of point of view, it makes good sense to me and I find myself referring back to the book often.

My opinion is that you should at least give a scene break or two spaces between person A and person B's point of view if you're not going to wait to switch POVs til a different chapter. This is pretty standard stuff in most fantasy - I'm 99% sure Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana does this. I think Elantris does this. I don't read heavily in fantasy so I can't come up with other examples, but point is you can read a few novels and assess how they do it and see if there are some tricks that will work for your story. I get my best ideas from other authors...

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