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Multiple POV in a single chapter

Looking for input/opinions on having a chapter or two that include multiple POVs from main characters. If each previous chapter was from a single POV, would suddenly having a chapter with multiple view points be too jarring for the reader?
I did several character POVs in one chapter, and it's a popular chapter. Sometimes, it's just very natural, in particular with multiple characters coming together in one place during an event. It's the how and why that matter, IMO. Like most everything, it's all about execution more than anything else.
Is there anything special you did when switching perspectives? Like an extra page break, line between paragraphs, or something else?


I change POV in a chapter quite a bit. Typically, I write in scenes and not chapters. I start each scene with a POV character and they are positioned as such early one (first or second paragraph). Scenes changes usually get some extra spaces, and an all caps intro. Such as....'

BOB STOOD IN the hall and listened to the conversation through the wall. He did not like what Mary was saying about him... ...stuff ends

MARY COULD NOT believe Bob would be so insensitive as to listen in. That was the last straw, they were done... ...end of scene.


toujours gai, archie
It wouldn't be too jarring unless you make it so. It's all in how you write it. I, like others here, have done this. In my case, it was a chase sequence near the end of the book. It just felt natural to switch back and forth between the pursuer and the pursued. Whether it worked well or not is very nearly impossible to say without interviewing each person who actually read it. All I can say reliably is that I thought it worked.

Mad Swede

It should be OK, as Skip and others have written. But the POV does need to flow naturally between the characters, in that there has to be a reason (like a conversation or change of scene or something) for the POV to move.
If you're writing in 3rd person limited (as in, you're in a single head for a longer space of time), then you probably want to add a scene break when switching POV's. Just use whatever scene break you use everywhere else in the novel. A single white line sort of does the trick, though usually you have an ornamental flourish between the scenes.

How easy it is to get away with depends on how often you do it and your own writing. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for instance switches between POV's between paragraphs, and sometimes even within a single paragraph, and it's an amazing book. It's also written that way, which means it's not jarring at all (yes, I know it's also not written in 3rd limited).

K.S. Crooks

Some options: have a double space between text when changing pov, use a different type of text for each person regardless of if they are in the same chapter or not, use a different colour of text for each character
Being consistent in having a deep POV for each POV character—a character "voice"—will help make clear the scene breaks and switches between POVs.

For instance, you could start a new POV section with something like this:
Boys. They're always rushing headlong into the dragon's maw without a care for how their messy deaths might place everyone else into danger.

That's probably not going to be our POV characters Jack, Daltry, or Evan.

Unless one of them is likely to have just such an attitude.

If Imogen has that attitude, then it will sound like her.


Environmental queues can help also.

If you begin a new scene with a description of rats scurrying through the blackness and moans coming from an area not far away, the reader will probably realize this is Daltry's chapter...since Daltry was captured by the city guard in his last appearance and this is sounding like a cell in a dungeon. Perhaps he can hear muffled Feringen being spoken even farther away. If he's the only POV character currently traveling through the nation of Fering, this will clue the reader in. Or, if he was just arrested in the Fering section of the city (assuming a divided city), that signpost might help.

A description of the weather, the climate, the season—any number of things can instantly place a reader.

You don't necessarily need to begin a new section with the character's name. E.g.,

Daltry felt around in the darkness, afraid a rat might bite his finger.

You can do that, but a deep POV and/or environmental queues can do the trick rather well.