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A question on switching POV

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Velka, Apr 14, 2013.

  1. Velka

    Velka Sage

    My story is being told through a 3rd person limited pov. One of my early chapters is when my male MC is introduced to my female MC by a mutual friend. It begins with the pov of my female MC, but then she leaves half-way through the chapter and I've continued it being told through the pov of my male MC.

    To me the pov switch is apparent, but I'm worried that it may seem, well, clunky for lack of a better adjective. Would it make more sense to end the chapter when she leaves and then have the conversation between the male MC and mutual friend be a new chapter? Or does her physically leaving the space create enough of a transition to switch to his pov?
  2. Jamber

    Jamber Sage

    Hi Velka,

    Below are some thoughts on point of view switches -- by all means take on board anything you like and ignore the rest. (I have strong dislikes around the issue, so I'm not very neutral.) :)

    My suggestions would be, if your story is going to switch points of view, that you try to use everything about a point of view to separate it from the others -- perspective and perceptions of the new character, voice, tone, language, sentence rhythm, imagery. If you do at least some of these things, I feel you shouldn't have to do more than a single line break or whatnot to set it apart.

    I think a lot of novice writers switch point of view merely to get across some information they can't reveal easily otherwise. Unless they're actually good at getting 'in the head' of someone else it can come across as careless and can irritate the reader (me!). The art of 3rd person limited is very much about having to work with a limited range of view (and therefore find new ways to show or hint at what the main character doesn't see); contrasting limited points of view (as GRR Martin does) can be extremely effective. All the more reason to put effort into it.

    Just my view of course,

    Velka and wordwalker like this.
  3. Velka

    Velka Sage

    I should add that I do tell the story through multiple POVs, but in every other chapter I've picked one and stuck to it. This is the only chapter that has me befuddled because the person who has the pov at the beginning (necessarily) leaves.
  4. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Since you aren't trying to do 3rd Person Omniscient (which is harder than it looks), I'd say your precedent has made it very clear you need the split.

    Normally I'd agree that a line break (with asterisks! never use an empty line and risk it ending up at the page top/bottom) is enough, but it sounds like you never did that with viewpoints in any other chapter so it's probably best to make this as big a split.

    But I'm with Jamber on everything else. In fact, since shifting viewpoint at the same scene is a little disorienting even with the right markings (and the cue of seeing the VP character walk out), you probably want the first lines after the split to be something that firmly shows this is the male MC's contrasting take on things, and also that he's still in the same place and time the female just left.
    Jamber likes this.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I think you should be ok with a line break. It's obvious that you've given this some thought, but is there a reason you can't tell this scene from the POV of the MC that stays?
  6. Jeff Xilon

    Jeff Xilon Minstrel

    This is just my opinion, but I think if you always have a single POV within any particular chapter except for this time then you should do everything you can to avoid having two points of view in this one chapter. The way I see it the change in POV might well work fine within your chapter, but not within your book. I think if you have chapter after chapter of single POV and then suddenly break that pattern the experience will be jarring for your reader, no matter how deftly you manage the change within the chapter. Once you've established a set of expectations for the mechanics of your narrative I think you risk breaking the readers flow of reading by going against them.

    It's kind of hard to give suggestions on other options, here are a few things I might consider, if it were me:

    *You said "the person who has the pov at the beginning (necessarily) leaves." Do you mean the character must be the POV character at the beginning? Or that they must leave? If both are not absolutely true then a solution might be don't have them be POV, or don't have them leave.

    *What about following the original POV character for just a short while (a paragraph or two inside their head while the walk down the street maybe), end the chapter and then start your new chapter back in place where the conversation has continued.

    *Does the part of the conversation occurring after the 1st POV leaves need to be in the story in "real-time"? Could it be left out entirely? Could it be refereed to later by one or both of the characters who have it at a different point in the story?

    Those are my ideas, they may be of no use to you, but hopefully the continued conversation helps as you work your way through your problem.
    Velka likes this.
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    This is my thinking as well. It sounds to me like you should just use the male's POV for the chapter. Unless of course, as PenPilot said, there's a reason you can't use the male POV for the entire bit.
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I don't even think you need a line break, necessarily. Depends on how effectively you can pull off the transition. There is something to be said for being consistent, but if the part of the scene from the male POV is relatively short, I don't know that I'd make it a new chapter, personally. There's nothing wrong with shifting within a chapter, and it seems to me line breaks are a common way to move between two POVs.
  9. Velka

    Velka Sage

    You're totally right.

    Thanks for all the great input everyone!

    In the end I've decided to split it into two chapters - the female MC needed to own the POV at the beginning for an important plot point/character revelation and she needed to leave for time/space continuum issues. With a bit of rearranging I am turning the conversation between the male MC and the friend into its own chapter.

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