Sunday, April 25, 2010

Switching viewpoints

When I began writing some centuries ago, I never put much attention to the structure of the book. I wrote what came to mind. It made the revisions and editing that came later very difficult. I was a novice at this. I completed my first novel and then I decided to learn how to write. Does that make sense? It’s learning by what is known as the school of hard knocks. I've been there, done that, and hopefully learned from the experience. I’m still learning.

I didn’t begin to think about the structure of my novel until I began reading other people’s works with a writers eye. We all have heard the no no's of writing. One of the big ones being head hopping: not confusing the reader as to whose POV the reader will be engaged with. I think, just as the selection of your POV characters, this should be something you think about early on. In an effort to avoid accidental head hopping, it's a good idea to know a bit of what has been done. I'm sure as readers and writers, you know exactly what I'm referring to.

I’ve listed a few options.
  • Dedicating a chapter to each character. I actually like this one after reading George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones. It is definitely easy to follow and I have to admit I did skip over a few characters to get to the ones that interested me most. I went back to reading them later and found that I still was able to understand what was going on.
  • Leaving gaps between character viewpoints so the reader knows exactly when the change in viewpoint occurs. I just finished reading JR Ward's Lover Avenged and I liked the way she gave the reader the gap to indicate change. It allowed the reader to delve into another characters viewpoint of the same scene.  
  • Changing viewpoint mid scene; ending the scene with another characters viewpoint.

 I'm sure there are others. 
The important thing to remember is whatever option you choose, it needs to work for your story. The shift in viewpoint should be necessary to move your story forward and add to the scene. The shift shouldn't be forced or added to offer more information than necessary for your reader.

Do you have a preference in how you structure your POV switch? I tend to use gaps and/or ending the scene with another viewpoint. But I love the idea of dedicating a chapter to each major character.



  1. I definitely use gaps between scenes, but the idea of changing mid-scene sounds interesting and a great challenge for a writer. I think that would be a great way to grow. I just may try it.

    Thanks, E.

  2. So far, I've chickened out of writing multiple POVs, but I definitely wish to try it with future projects. More and more authors are doing it in such a great way that it inspires me, but I'm scared that I'll just suck at it and end up confusing the reader.

    Practice makes perfect, I guess ;) Thanks for the post!

  3. The best thing about writing, I think, is that there are so many different ways to tell the same story. What is important is that whatever way you choose to tell it is right for the story your telling. **I think i confused myself** LOL

  4. I haven't written in multiple POV's yet. But in reading them, like you, I prefer a whole chapter devoted to a character's POV.

  5. I like writing in multiple POVs. One trick you can use, when writing in third, is to use the viewpoint character's name as early in the chapter as possible, and make sure s/he is the first character you name in that chapter. Readers pick up on that quickly.

    I hate it when I have to read several paragraphs to figure out which POV I'm in.

  6. Ooo, I like that Deb. I too hate to have to read ahead to figure out whose POV it is. Thanks.

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  8. I've got one novel written almost entirely from one person's POV, and only switched POV when I needed to provided the reader with some background information that otherwise would have been difficult to get across properly. I like working from just one person's POV, but it can be rather limiting and difficult to pull off.

    I've also written a novel in which I switch POV quite a bit. I tried assigning whole chapters to whomever was doing the talking, but that didn't work out, so instead I decided to leave gaps between character viewpoints, and make sure the reader always knew immediately in whose POV we were. The latter, I feel, is essential. After all, I don't want to confuse my readers.

  9. Pov... I can never make up my mind which one I want to be in. I try to use two throughout- such as diary entries, etc.

    p.s.- I nominated you for a blog award at ;D

  10. I'm the same way. I like knowing how the scene affects the characters and its hard to pick and choose.
    Thanks for the nomination cipherqueen!


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