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Old 11-24-2010, 05:11 PM   #1
sportourer1
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Multiple points of view POVs - why do people get so agitated?

What is wrong with switching POV? Is this another example of dumbing down?
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Old 11-24-2010, 05:26 PM   #2
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Switching POV in the middle of a scene, or even a paragraph, is irritating at best. It feels like watching a ping pong match.

Yes, some published authors do it. That doesn't mean we all should. IMO if you stick to one POV per scene, you'll become a stronger writer because you'll have to show what the non-POV characters are thinking, rather than telling it. And you can use misdirection and misunderstanding to control the plot, because the POV chara can always make a mistake in what the non-POV chara is thinking.

My 2 cents.
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Old 11-24-2010, 05:54 PM   #3
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I find it okay if chapters are one character's point of view.
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Old 11-24-2010, 06:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sportourer1 View Post
What is wrong with switching POV? Is this another example of dumbing down?
Do you mean switching POV within a scene (omniscient)? Or just in general?

I just finished reading 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King. It used a mostly omniscient viewpoint. Within a scene viewpoint could move from one character to another. Seemed to work. YMMV.

-David
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Old 11-24-2010, 06:27 PM   #5
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Actually, I quite like dual POVs. I like seeing how each character interprets what is going on, though I do like some method to flag me that the POV is going to change, otherwise it can get quite confusing.
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Old 11-24-2010, 06:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidRM View Post
Do you mean switching POV within a scene (omniscient)? Or just in general?

I just finished reading 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King. It used a mostly omniscient viewpoint. Within a scene viewpoint could move from one character to another. Seemed to work. YMMV.

-David
There's a difference between switching between 3rd person POVs and Omniscient POV.
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Old 11-24-2010, 06:47 PM   #7
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I use different points of view, but not within the same scene. And I don't do too many characters because I think that muddles the story.

Omniscient view are also okay and sometimes necessary.

Joyce
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Old 11-24-2010, 07:09 PM   #8
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Personally, I like novels that are written from a single point of view - a close third person following one character.

However, despite the advice that writing books offer, you can shift points of view within scenes and do it effectively. It is a difficult skill to master. One book I just re-read recently "A Suspension of Mercy" by Patricia Highsmith uses this technique. There is no confusion, because she clearly signals the shifts from one character's point of view to another.

What happens with inexperienced writers (and I've done it myself) is that they shift from one character's perspective to another with no signaling to show that this is being done.

To quote from "A Suspension of Mercy":

And Sydney was secretly relieved, because he wasn't really going to Ipswich . . . but he hadn't been able to think of any other kindness he might do Mrs Lilybanks.
When he had gone, Mrs Lilybanks put on an apron and did the dishes . . . the dishes, she felt, were enough exertion for the evening . . .

Highsmith signals the change by referring to Sydney leaving, and then telling us what Mrs Lilybanks did, and then what she thought.
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Old 11-24-2010, 08:02 PM   #9
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@ Luke King - Would you mind giving an example of an ineffictive POV shift? When I write it is usually from what I think is a subjective omniscient POV, often describing various character's internal mindstates all within the same scene. I'm trying to get an idea of how poor my writing is .
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Old 11-24-2010, 08:37 PM   #10
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It goes something like this:

"Hello," he said, wondering at the smile on her face.

She held out her hand, thinking he was extraordinarily attractive.

He took her hand, noting her smooth skin and soft hands. She reminded him of his mother. He reminded her of her father, though both of their parents were dead.

Ellen entered the room, surprised to see that they were both in conversation, as though they had known each other for years. Her plan was working out. The two of them were together, and neither of them (at that moment) had any idea that it was all Ellen's doing.


As you can see, the point of view is all over the place, and really, this is omniscient point of view (popular in the nineteenth century). However, if you're going to use it, you have to give clear signals when you shift from one point of view to another.

You can shift within scenes, as I suggested, but the "rule" where you stick with one point of view for each scene isn't a bad one. The thing you have to remember is that you can only write about what the point of view character can see, hear, taste, smell, touch, think. The idea is that you're inside them, inside their head, walking around in their body. They can't suddenly know about something they can't see, or know what someone else is thinking.
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Old 11-24-2010, 10:05 PM   #11
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Well, what do I know? Perhaps the MFA in teaching creative writing I earned is bogus.

I'd encourage anyone who uses head hopping POV to try to write without it, then ask an unbiased person which text reads better.

More food for thought:
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/headhop.shtml
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Old 11-24-2010, 10:14 PM   #12
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Thankyou for taking the time to provide that. Your example is a really good obvious one. Just reading it feels wrong.

I think the problem I'm going to have is that I am probably doing something similar, but it is not so obvious as your example. I think I've got a little re-writing to do this weekend .
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Old 11-24-2010, 10:31 PM   #13
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That link clears it up quite a bit for me. Thankyou!
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Old 11-25-2010, 05:14 AM   #14
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What is wrong with switching POV? Is this another example of dumbing down?
I read this as "I wrote my story the way I liked it, and readers wanted it their way. Someone please tell the readers they're embracing stupidity, or just plain wrong."

It depends on what you read and what you write. Personally, my taste in books being what it is (including a strong tendency to exclude anything recent) I don't like it. I get whiplash. I'm one of those people who likes to mentally put myself in the place of the main character, and I can't do that if I'm being whipsawed between one viewpoint and another and five more, so I'm lucky if I even know which character is thinking at any given moment. With the modern preference for tomes instead of novels, which can only be done by replaying every moment multiple times from multiple viewpoints, there's no avoiding the whiplash; that's probably why I tend to dislike them.

What it comes down to, really, is value: what value are you getting out of switching points of view when and how you are, and is it enough to make up for what you give up in exchange, such as identification with a character and a possibly unreliable narrator? Which do you need? How would it be a different story if you handled POV differently?

I don't think anyone likes a POV shift between sentences, though. Luke's example of how not to do it is excellent. After a while, people don't think it's worth making up a scorecard to tell the players apart, and just find a better book.
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Old 11-27-2010, 08:18 AM   #15
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Certain scenes can benefit from switching if it can be got right and it can create the freneitic atmosphere of an argumentative group of characters in debate.
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