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General SF&F discussion > Alternating POVs

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message 1: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ward (timothycward) Opinions vary, obviously, but as an aspiring author, I'm curious what my generation thinks about a few POV questions:

1) When do you feel it is too late to introduce a new POV?

2) What do you think about stories that insert a secondary character as a POV? (even if there are already three for the main characters, and even if their POV chapters or scenes will be minimal)


I would like to say that I can utilize POV switching for places that make the story better, but I get that readers have expectations. I don't mind bending those, but I also don't want to take them out of the story.


message 2: by Andreas (new)

Andreas A fresh sample that I read recently uses POVs in an unexpected way:
Abercrombie in The Heroes introduces POVs for just a couple of paragraphs in battle scenes - as soon as they die, he switches over in a cinematic way to the next POV who caused the first one's death.


message 3: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ward (timothycward) That's the kind of helpful example I'm looking for, Andreas. Thanks!

I recently finished Beyond Exile, which blends first person journal entries, third limited and third omniscient. The third omniscient took a little to get used to, as he would switch from soldier to soldier, sometimes in the same paragraph, but reflecting as a writer, it started to make sense. I wouldn't want to have read those scenes from only one pov because of the action I'd miss, and once I realized what his cues were for switching, it didn't take me out. I learned to expect the head hopping and thought it added to the frantic pace of running from zombies.


Isis Unbound by Allyson Byrd won a Stoker Award a couple years ago, and she freely switched povs in a third omniscient style.


message 4: by Kelly (last edited Nov 27, 2013 07:40AM) (new)

Kelly (sisimka) Sometimes a POV, particularly that of a second character, feels unnecessary. I don't know if the author included it because they couldn't think of another way to show that part of the story, or if they were simply indulging the whim to dip into that head for a while. Explore some thoughts that interested them.

I have actually skipped chapters of certain POVs in books, which usually means they added little to nothing to the story. Or I just found them less interesting than the others.


message 5: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 470 comments Well, you can get away with switching to a new POV in the epilogue, so very late indeed. 0:)

More to the point, the problem is not so much switching late in the game as it is surprising us by switching. If you give other secondary characters' POV earlier, it establishes a pattern. Even if it's necessary to invent stuff that is better from their POV, providing insights and dramatic irony that you couldn't get elsewhere -- as long as the reader can't tell what was manufactured to supply excuses, you're golden. (In my experience, I can't tell what was invented to support what after a couple of draft.)


message 6: by Kelly (new)

Kelly (sisimka) Mary wrote: "If you give other secondary characters' POV earlier, it establishes a pattern."

Yes, and I like patterns. It's always jarring when we get one slice of a secondary POV, at some odd point in the book, and never hear from them again. I find that annoying.


message 7: by John (last edited Nov 27, 2013 11:13AM) (new)

John (johnred) Murakami's 1Q84 is a 920 page book, and he introduces a new POV character around page 700. (Or rather, he's not a new character, but he had been a minor character up until then, the book switches at that point to his POV in third-person).

It's definitely an odd thing to do, but it actually works really well in bringing a fresh perspective to the events.


message 8: by Shel, Moderator (new)

Shel (shel99) | 2240 comments Mod
I agree with Kelly and Mary. I don't mind head-hopping as long as it's somewhat consistent throughout the book. What irritates me (and this is personal preference, I know not everyone agrees) are when the narration takes a sudden turn from omniscient third person into second person and starts talking to the reader (i.e. "You have to admit..."). Joe Abercrombie does this a lot in his First Law trilogy (haven't read any of his other books so I don't know if it's a thing with all of his writing) and it annoyed me. I don't mind if it's first person - you know who's talking to you - but coming from an omniscient POV it jolts me out of the story to wonder just who the narrator is.


message 9: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 470 comments It's the sudden turn in that that's the problem. Talky omni narrators are an old tradition and they have their uses, even if they are out of fashion. But it can be very annoying if the narrator isn't as charming as he thinks he is.

For one thing, we read for the story. And narrator's reflections ain't story.


message 10: by Antonis (new)

Antonis (antonakis) | 43 comments I think I personally like POVs if it's not overdone. I find it a very neat and clever way to make the reader connect on a deeper and personal level with more characters than the protagonist(-s). However, it can become very confusing and jarring for the reader if apart from the POV change, the local and temporal changes are not clarified and explained properly. I had that problem when reading No Return by Zachary Jernigan earlier this year. Also, related to POVs, that book had a very strict 5-POV turn order that felt forced and rather stiff.


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