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Can I switch POV mid scene?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Anders Ämting, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. I've touched on this before, but the first major fight in my new story involves the main character going violently out of control when facing the main villain.

    What I would like to do is tell the scene from the villain's point of view, because A) the MC isn't thinking straight and I think it would give a better idea of how scary she suddenly became if viewed from the outside, and B) I can use the villain's reactions to drop some subtle exposition.

    Problem is that once the fight is over, the villain retreats and then I need to switch back to the MC's point of view. Now, I think this might work well enough, but I wonder if doing so is entirely kosher. Opinions?
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    No reason you can't if you do it effectively. I read a Virginia Woolf story where she switched PoV mid-paragraph (I think twice in the same paragraph). There are no prohibitions on this sort of thing. It either works or it doesn't. Give it a shot and see.
    Anders Ämting likes this.
  3. Well, I can probably use a chapter transition to switch to the bad guy. Tricky part will switching back in a way that seems natural, I guess. Oh well, just checking this isn't one of those literary faux pas things.
  4. MadMadys

    MadMadys Troubadour

    It can be done but it's something you'll have to treat carefully through. If you have any beta readers or friends like that, have them read it as you turn out a version to see if they can follow it. You could also try writing the scene a few different ways to see what works or if a combination would suit it better.
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    Just to be clear, there are a lot of writers and editors out there who would consider what you're describing to be a literary faux pas. Not making an argument either way, but you certainly risk judgment based upon it.

    Were I to write a similar sequence, I'd:

    1. Write from the MC's POV
    2. Do the * * * thing and write from the villain's POV
    3. Do the * * * thing again and write from the MC's POV
  6. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    As a reader, I wouldn't have any problem with what you describe. The end of a fight is a fairly natural break point anyway, even if the scene technically continues, so switching POV wouldn't seem odd to me. Sometimes you writer people agonise too much over these things (IMO). POV changes only feel wrong (to me) if they aren't flagged up well enough and cause confusion, or if they are too rapid and make me dizzy. I did read one book where the author deliberately (I assume) switched POV more and more rapidly to emphasize the maelstrom of confusion going on at the time (and it worked! I was totally confused, so not recommended as a technique). But I think POV changes upset readers less than you might imagine.
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    As with most things when it comes to writing, it just depends on:

    A) How well the author handles the switch
    B) The reader's inclination

    I for one, find POV scenes like these incredibly jarring as a reader. Few things can pull me out of story immersion as quickly as a mid-scene POV shift.

    Do whatever you please. Experimentation is to be commended. I'd exercise caution here though...
  8. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    I think it could be cool, like a scene within a scene. The thread of the MC's scene stops (after it's clear that she's not thinking straight), scene break, we're shown the antagonist's viewpoint and exposition in a synchronous way, scene break, then the heroine's thread picks up again as she recovers her senses. It shows the readers something important about the MC. We learn about the villain's character. We wonder about the MC's reaction because we already know what happened while she was out of it.

    Yeah, it might be difficult to transition smoothly (well, it would be difficult for me ;)), but I think it would be fun. I'm sure it's been done before. It might be useful for closure if you reuse the technique closer to the end, to echo the first time but in a way that shows how far the character has come.

    I'm not sure I fully understood what you want to achieve, but it doesn't hurt to try whatever you're considering.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  9. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

    You could do it, but I want to tackle the problem from an alternate angle - if you want to show anger, confusion, fear, etc. it might be easier to do that from the MC, since the confusion and rage overtaking her mind will translate better for the reader who knows her 'at rest' mentality and show that something is very, very wrong.
  10. Weeeell, that's not quite what I'm going for. Rather, I want to give the impression that this ordinary teenage girl suddenly turned into what is basically a very dangerous monster - something alien and incomprehensible and scary. The fact that she's really, really pissed off should come across from the context and her behavior.

    Then by telling the scene from the villain's point of view, I can have him go: "What the hell? Is she having a warp-spasm!? That's impossible! She's a woman, she shouldn't even have an escutheon! And where is she getting all this monsterous rí?"

    These are all concepts that have not been addressed before this scene, so I see it as a good way to introduce them.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  11. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Sounds like the right method then.

    You might want to split the scene (skip a line and all) when she starts berserking, but end the chapter when she stops or the villain escapes, so it's a new chapter when she comes to with that dazed "???? !"

    It might be more effective to not use the villain's VP, but use her injured friend's half-unconscious one or some bystander's. If you want us to be afraid of the MC, it's harder when we're rooting for the new VP character to get killed, and disoriented by the fact that we're in such an evil skin anyway-- but in another VP we can feel that "Go get him, guess he deserves even that but what happened to you, what if you turn on me..."

    (Though it depends on if the villain's the only coherent one who knows what's happening-- but that has its own problems if he knows so much more background than the MC normally does, which would make the MC afterward struggling with an ignorance the reader jumped past.)

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