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What is your opinion on cutaway perspectives.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Edward Evjen, Oct 21, 2020.

  1. Edward Evjen

    Edward Evjen Dreamer

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    I love them. Especially for humor.
    Cutaway perspective: Unexpected head-hopping or a new chapter that features the point of view from a new character.

    Brandon Sanderson uses them (to the frustration of his editor).
    Five-sixth's through the book the perspective shifts to a slave miner. Through his eyes, Sanderson reveals Kelsier raiding the Atrium mines.

    I was reading a fantasy novel, I want to riddle you the title for now. What do you think of this bit of prose?
    I love it. Its funny. Am I bit of a wild card? Or would you enjoy your narrative being interrupted by fox-thoughts?

    It's The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien. MC's name is Frodo. Friendly locate is Shire. Hobbits and hobbit were covertly changed to humans and human--hobbit is a bit of a giveaway.
     
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  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    LotR, of course. Fellowship of the Ring, to be precise. And no, I didn't look it up.

    I'm fine with the prose. It's just story telling.
     
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  3. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it feels like cheating.

    There's a difference between LotR (I don't have to look it up either...) and Mistborn. LotR is written in omniscient third, while Mistborn is third limited. Which means that in LotR any perspective is valid, even within a single chapter or scene. The story is told by a narrator who can jump into any head he wants.

    In Mistborn you're stuck in a head for a given scene. In this case you have to think a lot more carefully about head-hopping. As said, if it is done intentionally and well, then it can be very powerful. If it's more accidental and random then it can feel awkward and contrived.
     
  4. Eduardo Letavia

    Eduardo Letavia Minstrel

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    Any trick of the trade should be fine as long as you don't break the reader's experience, the so called "contract" between writer and reader. That excerpt you put there, Edward EvjenEdward Evjen , is a good example of how to give a different insight of the characters and their current situation in a surprising but funny way that fits perfectly well with the prose style and mood of the story. Of course, we could have a debate about how to break the "contract" without alienating the reader, but that in the end also goes down to understand each writer's own style. Some are willing to be more experimental with their writing, while others care more about the story they're telling: the classic conflict between form and function, so to speak.
     
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  5. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

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    I always thought that fox scene in LOTR stuck out like dog's balls. Of course it was just part of the tonally very different early part of the trilogy which ended when the hobbits left Crickhollow (then briefly reprised during the ridiculous Tom Bombadil sequence).
     
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  6. Eduardo Letavia

    Eduardo Letavia Minstrel

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    Certainly The Dark OneThe Dark One , Bombadill is one big odd thing standing out in the whole trilogy (probably the reason it ended being completely left out of the movies): although why he behaves the way he does is kind of explained later, that whole arch still feels unnecessary somehow. In fact, I don't remember him having a big role even in the Silmarillion tales, although it's being a long time since I read those so maybe I'm forgetting something. But well, in this thread were shouldn't just discuss LoTR! Maybe Bombadill could be consider another example of how not to deviate the reader's attention from the main storyline, although this character probably has a symbolic meaning that even right now I'm not getting. This could lead us to talk about the dangers of being too abstract or obtuse with our readers...
     
  7. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

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    I always interpreted Bombadil as Tolkien trying to insert himself into the story.

    I reckon if he'd published the trilogy as just one book he would've edited out TB for sure.
     
  8. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

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    Mind you, Bilbo also was an avatar of Tolkien. A writer can have more than one version of him/herself in a story.
     
  9. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

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    If I remember correctly Joe Abercrombie does this, or something similar, a fair bit.

    Like anything it depends on the use. Overuse it and it creates confusion for the reader. But done tastefully? All good.
     
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  10. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    I hate hate HATE when a new chapter changes perspective!! It feels like the flow of the story is interrupted. The worst is when every second chapter is a storyline several decades into the past. There's so much distance between the two stories.
    However, I like those minor perspective changes at the end of a chapter. We know that we are at a temporary perspective, so it kind of feels like the camera is panning out, giving us a broader view.
     
  11. Edward Evjen

    Edward Evjen Dreamer

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    I'm glad to get the opposite perspective. (A different perspective, ha.)
    Kasper HviidKasper Hviid, how do you feel about toggling perspective between two mains? I am currently using it myself and the book Pax by Sara Pennypacker uses it consistantly.
    I like it because I can reveal lies to the audience while keeping it to one character.

    You reminded me of the film Children of Men. The director constantly did this to show dying society.

    Excellent, gives me something to look forward to when I pick up Abercrombie's work. His work is darker, I'll be interested to see how a grim mood uses a playful technique.
     
  12. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    I liked it in GONE GIRL and THE MALL, where juxtaposistioses two different persons against each other. So I'm not entirely against.
    And I'm not entirely sure how it plays out in the general composition. I guess it must kinda give the feeling that somthing entirely new is happening now. Only, I gets annoyed by the interruption. :p
     
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  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I must admit, I am a Bombadil fan, but I can't explain it, heh heh.
     
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  14. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    At the risk of taking this a bit of topic, but I liked the Bombadil scenes as well. And I do think he serves a purpose in the book. He highlights the growth of the hobbits throughout the book. When they start out they're clueless and helpless and are only saved because a powerful magical being comes to their aid. When they return, they are capable of solving their own problems. Gandalf even says as much upon their return to the Shire, before going to visit Bombadil.
     
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  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    In defense of the fox:
    The scene takes place early in the story, while we're still in the Shire. It keeps the same sense of whimsy we find at Bilbo's birthday party, or the interplay among friends at Fatty Bolger's. Tolkien is subtly shifting keys, introducing ominous notes while still calling back to happier sounds. It didn't strike me as being at all out of place.

    In defense of Bombadil:
    Same as above but in reverse. Tolkien is showing us there are different kinds of powers (Old Man Willow as well as Tom or Goldberry) in Middle Earth. There's more to the place and the stories therein than just Brave Hero versus Big Bad. Sure Tom's songs are silly, but he can banish barrow wights with song, so he's not just a cartoon character. He's also part and parcel of our introduction to Middle Earth magic. Sure there were Gandalf's fireworks, but that was just fun. The Old Forest is where we glimpse a bit of the depth of magic in this place.
     
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  16. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Sanderson has actually spoken about this on his podcast a few time. I think, essentially, he suggested it as a trick to get the writer out of his doldrums—literally. Or literal-metaphorically? I am referencing the nautical meaning of doldrums, the area near the Earth's equator where surface wind can disappear or become very weak, stranding sailing ships for long periods, back when most ships used sails. Basically, if a chapter isn't working, try it from a new perspective. If you are bored and the story has stopped moving because you are bored—you've slipped into those frustratingly calm waters, and you need to get through them even so—a different POV from an unexpected source can help to add some life to the process.

    I may be mischaracterizing his reasoning; it's been awhile since I listened to those podcasts.
     
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  17. Carl Brothers

    Carl Brothers Scribe

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    Personally, I don't mind as long as it is well done. Sometimes being handicapped by certain "Thou shalt nots" can be detrimental to a powerful narrative.
     
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