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A few musings on switching POV

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BWFoster78, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I've been thinking a lot lately about POV shifting from scene to scene, when to use it and when not to.

    When I read A Song of Fire and Ice, I found myself finding it hard to get into the story. I think there are multiple reasons for this. For one, he keeps killing off anyone that I like. Another important factor, however, is that he switches POV with every chapter.

    An author who I beta read for also switched POV a lot in his WIP, and I found it quite annoying.

    My first conclusion was that I don't like a lot of POV shifts. In my WIP, I tried to keep them to a minimum.

    Reading Benjamin Clayborne's The Queen of Mages recently, however, I noticed that I did not mind that he switched POV with each chapter. Obviously, my conclusion was that Benjamin is a much better writer than George R. R. Martin.

    Not saying that that conclusion is not correct, but I gave the manner some further thought. I think it's not the POV switch that annoys me; it's the jumping from place to place and person to person that interrupts the continuity of my reading. In The Queen of Mages, the POV shifts but, much of the time, the action stays with the same group. For example, his male protagonist and female protagonist are traveling together. When the chapter ends, we still see both of them in the scenes; it's just from a different perspective.

    For me, this did not impact the flow.

    I tend to like long series of books where I can really get to know the characters. I think this preference holds true internal to a novel. I want a long stretch of following a character or the same group of characters. Switching too often takes me out of the novel.

    I don't know if that's purely a personal preference or if it may reflect a trait prevalent in the overall set of fans of epic fantasy.

    For my own work, I'm adding more POV shifts in my rewrite.

    Anyway, just something to think about. What are your opinions?
     
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    BW I had the same initial reaction to Game of Thrones. I actually stopped reading it on my first try. The only character I first found that was of any interest was Dany. But now, I'm half way through now I'm completely hooked and enjoying every character.

    For me, you're spot on. Thrones has the cast spread out, each pursuing their own agenda which links up with a bigger picture that isn't immediately obvious. So it does feel like a lot of starts and stops at the beginning for each character's thread.

    But once I started seeing the links between all the threads and how they advanced the overall plot, that's the moment I connected. I became enthralled on how GRRM was going to pull all these loosely connected threads together into a wonderful tapestry.
     
  3. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    I can put up with POV shifts so long as each shift continues to advance the overall plot. Otherland is, to me, a series that continues to move even when it shifts back and forth. Safehold, to me, is a series that fails to do this, because in later books, the majority of the actions many characters perform don't obviously advance anything other than their own subplot, which may or may not ever tie into the main plot.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Again, it wasn't just the switching POV that got to me, it was the killing off the characters. I like reading about the same people over the course of 15 books. Can't really do that if you kill all the ones you like off.

    It was also just too dark for me.

    Didn't mean for this to turn into "why I don't like ASOFAI," though.
     
  5. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I think more people should talk about why they don't like ASOIAF. I don't care for it and I think it's kinda overrated.
     
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  6. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Whatever your opinion is, the fact that GRRM can manage so many POVs and plots is nothing short of amazing. The story may not be your cup of tea, but for those who appreciate the epic scope of the novel, it's not overrated at all.
     
  7. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    The sheer zeal of his fans is almost as galling as the twilight camp was back in their heyday. And I don't care for my fantasy to be brutish and nihilistic.
     
  8. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I think I need to make this into another thread, because we are going off on a tangent from the OP's musings.
     
  9. SlimShady

    SlimShady Troubadour

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    George RR Martin is one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time. If you think A Song of Ice and Fire is overrated you probably haven't even read it or you just don't like gritty fantasy. You can re-read any of his books (in ASOIAF) a dozen times and I can almost guarantee that you'll find something new in each one. His attention to detail is insane.

    The characters are so realistic in A Song of Ice and Fire that I've found myself weeping with them before.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    GRRMs approach works just fine. If you don't like the tone of the books, or what happens to characters, then that's a matter of personal preference. I didn't mind his POV switching. He stays with each character a decent amount of time and does them all well. Some people don't like to keep track of that many viewpoint characters and would rather have only one or a few at most.
     
  11. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I couldn't keep reading his books after he left out half the world of his characters and promised the next book within a year or two (only to have it delayed interminably).

    I have no faith in him as an author and view the entire book as a gigantic failure and a big eff you to his readers.

    And to be fair, I read him ravenously. I tore through his stories. I loved and hated what I was seeing, but more importantly, I wanted to see what would happen next.

    But he ruined the series with his "Meanwhile at the Wall" afterword for me. I may revisit the series if and when he finishes it, but I have no time to be toyed with and manipulated. After already being invested in the series, I did not need a cliffhanger that was going to take two books and apparently a decade to resolve.
     
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Hopefully, I've made clear that I didn't find fault with GRRM's work; just that it wasn't for me.

    A lot of people don't have a problem with the POV shifting, but I think it's worthy to consider that the use of that technique makes it harder for some people to become immersed in the story.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    There is no way to satisfy all readers, nor should you try. In the end, you have to go with what appeals to you as the writer. Worst of all, when trying to satisfy everyone you can end up at the lowest common denominator, which isn't good for writing as a whole.
     
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I'm just saying it irks me when people treat Martin like the second coming of Tolkien, and crucify you for daring not to like his work. I'm sure he's a great writer, but I don't think the rabid zeal his fans display is called for and his style is not for me because it clashes with my personal values.
     
  15. icebladeaskante

    icebladeaskante Dreamer

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    POV shifts can be interesting I think. In many ways it allows you to see characters in a way that you may not have understood yourself from just reading their point of view or from someone else looking at them.

    In Harry Potter (and its been a while since I've read them so please understand if I get this wrong) you only got to see Harry's pov up until the final book. And even then a lot of the characters seemed to have a unerring faith in Harry as the second coming of Christ. (okay a little exaggerated) In that case the changes only facilitated the moving of the plot, since much of what led to the final battle, and how it was fought, depended on other characters.

    However in a series I adore, Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels, the character doesn't change pov in the books, instead they have several novella's, short stories and a book set in that world using characters that have come up in the 'main' series. With each story you get to see the main character and everybody else in that world a little differently, which adds to your enjoyment.

    Another (in a single book and one people might know better) example of this is David Gemmell's Legend. Various different pov that switch but give you a richer experience as a whole. From one point of view a character could be a coward, and another he's a hero. And by seeing this you get to see more of their strengths and weaknesses and see them as a much more complex character, or even a person.

    To me POV changes is a little like sitting down with a friend and a bottle of wine and talking about common people in your lives and how they bug you or endear themselves to you. We all make little judgements even when we don't mean to and sometimes talking with people lets you see another side to them. ... Sorry if that's a little rambling to make a single point
     
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    As much as I'm enjoying Song of Ice and Fire, I find the POV shifts frustrating at times, especially because of how seldom most of them overlap. I find myself wanting to skip through and read all of Jon's chapters - or else skip Jon and Daenerys so I can focus on what's happening with the other characters. I don't think it's a good thing I can do that without missing much.

    GRRM's success with a multitude of POV characters, I think, is the exception instead of the rule. He's setting up disastrous, independant conflicts all over the map, and it wouldn't work any other way. But even just reading it can be at times a daunting endeavor that wouldn't be worth the investment, I feel, if it wasn't for the quality of his storytelling powers.
     
  17. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    I think much of the hype of GOT has come from the TV series. Honestly, I hadn't heard of it before then.
     
  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't know. These books were award nominees and bestsellers before the TV series. Feast for Crows, for example shot straight to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list as soon as it was released, and that was some five or six years before the TV show. The TV show has helped sell more, but these novels were already tremendously popular, with a lot of readers waiting for the next installment. I'm sure the popularity of the series is part of what caught the attention of HBO.
     
  19. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    mmm... maybe I was too interested in other books at the time then, or it's down to cross-atlantic differences. Never seen the NY Times Best-seller list, I've heard of it, but I've never seen it sold anywhere over here.

    But certainly, the series has reached out to a wider audience. A number of colleagues who don't normally read fantasy are making their ways through the books because of it.
     
  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, same here. I know a number of people who never read fantasy who are reading the books.
     
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