Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

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jennica
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Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by jennica » January 5th, 2010, 11:52 am

I'm writing my novel in third person point of view, but using several different characters' viewpoints throughout. Should I ensure that I am only following one character's viewpoint per chapter, or is it okay to switch to a different character's viewpoint within a chapter, as long as I stick to one character per scene?

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Seamus
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by Seamus » January 5th, 2010, 1:08 pm

Several years ago, I was admonished by a more experienced writer in a workgroup by my free movement from one point of view to the other. He didn't just advocate giving the reader some assistance by transition devices to let them know they've switched persons; he just didn't think it was understandable carry too many viewpoints in a chapter. Since that experience, I have paid attention to works from accomplished authors who just don't pay attention to such conventions. Right now I'm reading John Irving's A Son of the Circus, which moves without notice between viewpoints. Like all things in writing, it seems like it's a question of whether it works or not (and by "whether it works" I mean not just that it can be read, but that it can be sold). Seemed to work for John Irving.
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taylormillgirl
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by taylormillgirl » January 5th, 2010, 1:12 pm

I just read a fabulous trashy romance novel in which Rachel Gibson changed POVs multiple times during several scenes. It flowed quite nicely and wasn't distracting in the least. It's all about keeping a natural rhythm and making it clear when the POV switches over.
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Alexandra Little
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by Alexandra Little » January 5th, 2010, 2:52 pm

Nora Roberts (writing as J.D. Robb) will change POV in the middle of a paragraph occasionally. Frank Herbert's Dune often has multiple POV changes in a paragraph, though that novel is pretty out-of-date but still a science fiction classic. Kelley Armstrong changes POV nearly each chapter in her most recent books, but sticks to two-three characters. But all of those authors were well-established, I believe.

It simply depends on how well you handle it and what your story requires.
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Mountain Lion
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by Mountain Lion » January 5th, 2010, 11:25 pm

Sands Hall wrote a book, Tools of the Writers Craft, which has an interesting section about using multiple POV. She suggested that before shifting into a new POV, the writer take a sentence or two to describe what the new POV character is doing or to somehow let the reader see that character from the outside before going inside. She also suggested using a device such as passing an object or even a touch and let the POV move with that object or touch. Both of these are cinematic devices, but help with the transitions between POVs.

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Holly
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by Holly » January 6th, 2010, 4:17 am

jennica wrote:I'm writing my novel in third person point of view, but using several different characters' viewpoints throughout. Should I ensure that I am only following one character's viewpoint per chapter, or is it okay to switch to a different character's viewpoint within a chapter, as long as I stick to one character per scene?
Great comments from everybody.

I'm trying to finish the same kind of novel. My bugaboo: be sure to change the POV near the beginning so the reader knows what to expect.

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Scott
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by Scott » January 6th, 2010, 9:03 am

I change, but carefully and only when I feel it interests the story and makes sense. And I make sure you know exactly whose head you're in. At present I'm deciding whether to make a line break, too. It sort of serves the story to strongly indicate the hop, but "sort of" isn't the kind of thing I'm going for so we'll see.

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kelly.morgan
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by kelly.morgan » January 6th, 2010, 12:48 pm

I have 3 POV characters. I switch them in the same chapter but keep one POV constant in each scene.

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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by Kaitlyne » January 6th, 2010, 9:24 pm

Are you going for omni or limited? I guess that's the real question. If you want to keep it limited, then you should only change at scene breaks when it's very clear to the reader that you are doing so. Otherwise I think it has a tendency to feel very head-hoppy. With omniscient, however, you could theoretically go into anyone's head whenever you felt like it. It just shouldn't be overused as a way to constantly tell the reader what the characters are thinking. We usually don't need to know. It sounds to me like you're aiming for limited, however, which would mean stick to clear divisions.

matt mc
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by matt mc » January 7th, 2010, 10:02 am

I agree with the majority here that it's a question of each individual scene. The key is to make it clear enough to the reader what is going on.
Last edited by matt mc on January 29th, 2010, 8:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Hillsy
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Re: Third person point of view with multiple viewpoints

Post by Hillsy » January 7th, 2010, 10:29 am

Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break, Line break, Line Break, Line Break. I can't say it enough.

Please, for my own sanity! Yes, there are books which swap POV and are brilliant. Peter F Hamilton's Night Dawn Trilogy, all 1.2 million words of it, is frankly genius, but the POV jumping took a hell of a lot of getting used to. Especially when it happened in the middle of a sentence!

Jumping POV without a line break may not ruin your book if you do it right, but rarely will it improve it.

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