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POV - point of view

 
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limagal



Joined: 17 Jul 2010
Posts: 94
Location: lima, peru

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:04 pm    Post subject: POV - point of view Reply with quote

In a recent writing contest that I entered, I was criticized for POV changes in a scene- a criticism which I have heard before. Although I mainly like to show the heroine's POV, I also like to show what the hero is thinking at times. Suggestions are to show this in a later scene, but I find it hard to do this. I recently read something where this was done and the next chapter started off with what he had been thinking and essentially was a recanting of what had happened. I found it awkward. Many of the books I have read do have both POV changes and frankly, it has never bothered me. It is said that you should not head hop, as you confuse the readers who do not know whose head they are in, but I never seem to have that problem as the "he said" or "Maria said" etc. keep that clear enough. I have more probelms with short sentenes of dialogue- maybe 5 or 6 lines long where the speakers are changing with no indication of who is speaking. Often, I must read back and ennumerate to figure out what is not always clear.
My question is, "How do you feel about this POV issue and what would you recommend?
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 798

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find this a really interesting topic.
“Head-hopping” is not the equivalent of original sin, despite the way some people think of it. It is only a real problem if it confuses the reader. And sometimes it does. I have read things where the POV changes so frequently that I have no idea what’s going on. Is it the hero who realizes that they are in danger or is it the heroine? Is it the heroine who distrusts the lady in red or is it the hero?
Some people are also confused about what head-hopping is, and seem to be under the impression that “omniscient narrator” is the same thing. It isn’t. The omniscient narrator knows what everyone is thinking and can tell as much or as little as he chooses. This was the norm in most 19th century novels.
Head-hopping has nothing to do with who is speaking. It has to do with who is thinking and who is observing. If you imagine the scene being narrated in first person, you can see what I mean. You have to keep the detail to the kind of thing the narrator would notice. If the heroine pops the hood of the car and looks inside, is she someone who will immediately spot what’s wrong, or is she someone who will see nothing but a lot of black, gunky shapes? If she’s the second type, you’ll have to bring on someone else to tell her what the problem is.
This does not mean that head-hopping is something that is always bad. Nora Roberts does it frequently in sex scenes, and I think it works very well there.
The simplest way to make clear that you are changing POV is to put in an extra line space. This doesn’t mean a change of scene necessarily. It just means that she was seeing the scene before and now he is seeing it. Or vice versa.
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library addict



Joined: 06 Dec 2008
Posts: 1514

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So long as it isn't too frequent and is clearly delineated, I don't mind changing POV's within a scene.
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 667
Location: Rural England

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

library addict wrote:
So long as it isn't too frequent and is clearly delineated, I don't mind changing POV's within a scene.


I agree. Personally I like getting inside the head of the hero and can think of many books where his POV played an important part and which I enjoyed: Carla Kelly's books, in particular, spring to mind. Handled right I think it adds depth to the story.
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Ashlyn Macnamara



Joined: 12 Jul 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Montreal

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

POV runs in trends, if you will. Back in the 80s head-hopping and omniscient POV were acceptable and even the norm. These days the trend in most published books is to deep POV with very few changes, if any.

Now Nora changes POV within scenes, but she started writing in the 80s when that was standard. That, and she's Nora.

Can you change POV today? Yes, of course. Many published books change POV mid-scene. Some don't. I have heard of editors who will make an author stick to one POV per scene. Mine doesn't. I let my gut tell me when I need to be in a given character's POV.

Here's the thing about writing contests. Those who judge them aren't necessarily published. They don't necessarily have some special insider knowledge about what editors and agents are looking for. Thus they tend to judge by these unwritten rules of what you can and can't do. The taboo against changing POV mid-scene is one of these.

If you can shift POV well, and the rest of your story is great, there's no reason POV shifts should keep you from being published, and isn't that your ultimate goal if you're entering writing contests?
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Eggletina



Joined: 06 Jul 2010
Posts: 429

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great question, Limagal.

I often cringe when I read head-hopping criticisms. It's now become a buzzword that's been popularized across the internet and that people like to trot out and use indiscriminately, much like the old criticism that you should never end a sentence with a preposition (but, of course, we can all think of cases where it is perfectly okay to end a sentence this way). I think Jane hit the nail on the head when she pointed out:
Quote:
Some people are also confused about what head-hopping is, and seem to be under the impression that “omniscient narrator” is the same thing. It isn’t. The omniscient narrator knows what everyone is thinking and can tell as much or as little as he chooses. This was the norm in most 19th century novels.


I also agree with Ashlynn about trends, both with writing techniques and the corresponding criticism of them. Present tense is another example of a narrative technique that is trendy right now, but I know several critics who hate it and will categorically reject any book written in that style.

Personally, I've always been fairly open to experimental techniques. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. I don't mind head-hopping as long as I can follow the PoV.

Limagal, I sometimes have that same issue with dialogue. It can get confusing when there is a pause or change to a new paragraph and you don't know if the speaker is resuming or another character is speaking. I sometimes have to re-read those scenes to figure it out.
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Hopeless_Romantic



Joined: 21 Jan 2010
Posts: 122
Location: U.S.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love to hear what the hero is thinking, but the change of POV shouldn't be every few sentences, that gets confusing.

I don't enjoy the entire scene repeated from the other perspective, because I can follow the story regardless of whose inner voice is speaking, but there exceptions for me: it's fun to hear both of their first impressions in meet scenes and I love to see the heroes realization that he's in love, especially if it's a shock to him. Wink

I like vintage Harlequins (60s, 70s and early 80s) and I miss the male point of view in those. I would love to find a book that is entirely the male 'voice'. Laughing
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think less is more when it comes to head hopping, frequent switching back and forth jerks me out of the story. I've come to prefer a first person POV, for me it flows better. Also, there's nothing more frustrating than starting a new paragraph or chapter and being unsure of which character's head you are in.

Linda
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1555

PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda in sw va wrote:
I think less is more when it comes to head hopping, frequent switching back and forth jerks me out of the story. [] Also, there's nothing more frustrating than starting a new paragraph or chapter and being unsure of which character's head you are in.


I agree -- even when it's not confusing, it just feels awkward and wrong to me. I like seeing more than one POV, but I need some transition.

I especially hate Roberts' trick of suddenly throwing in the POV of some random observer. Why on earth would I want to know what the garbageman is thinking at this moment? It's very jarring.
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sanalayla



Joined: 21 Jan 2008
Posts: 284

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that there is a difference between "head hopping" (which is usually what the criticism is about) vs. just using multiple POVs. I enjoy the latter but cannot stand the former.

The difference, for me, is how often the POV shifts. Does it happen every other sentence? In one scene (about 2-3 pages worth of text, I guess, or one conversation) I feel that I should not know what both characters are thinking at all time. For example, I shouldn't know that Susan thinks her hair looks horrible and then, in the next sentence, find out that Tom thinks that her hair is gorgeous. I feel like I shouldn't know both sides of the story at all times.

I also think it's highly possible to accomplish this without needing to recant the story later. There are ways around it - if it's imperative that the reader somehow know that Tom thinks Susan hair is gorgeous then have Tom SAY that to Susan. Or Susan could think something like, "I thought my hair was looking horrible, but from the way Tom was looking at me, it was clear he thought it was gorgeous." So the IDEA still get across, but it's still coming from Susan's POV.

Hope that helps! I've been writing short stories for the past decade and am working on a book now and I've spent a LOT of time practicing how to strike the right balance. It's not easy, let me tell you and there's no one way to do it right.
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LFL



Joined: 05 May 2007
Posts: 706

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm one of those who prefer one POV per scene. I don't mind a lot of POV characters in a book if the change in POV is clearly delineated with a scene break. The reason why is that even when it's clear the POV is shifting, if it happens within the same scene it can be jarring. I feel like I'm abruptly yanked from Mary's head into Tom's, or vice versa. I'm not mentally prepared for it.

A scene break is a clear signal that location, time or character POV, if not more than one of these, is now about to change. A chapter break is another good way to handle it. Letters, emails, journal entries and of course, dialogue from one character to another are all good ways to get across the other character's thoughts -- and facial expressions, gestures, actions, etc., can also be used to reveal thoughts (implicitly rather than explicitly). It's all part of the craft of writing, which can be challenging at times, but also rewarding.

Having said that, I'll add that there are authors who have been known to change viewpoints in the same scene that I still read. Not because I don't find it disruptive, but because their other talents are so strong that I'm willing to put up with the same-scene POV shifting because I know I'll get a good story.
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Charlotte McClain



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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I stick to one POV per scene and like to read books written that way. For me it creates tension. If you're reading a scene about Susan and Tom and Susan's hair and Susan is looking at Tom thinking her hair looks terrible, but he thinks she looks great, you lose a moment of tension. If I am talking to a man thinking my hair looks terrible and I want him to be impressed, I'm going to be studying his face. Does he think I look casual or messy? Is it a good thing that I look casual and or messy? Or is he thinking maybe I'm easy or that I'm not invested in this meeting going well so I didn't bother with my appearance? Dammit, can't he see I put make-up on for this? That way, when you change POV in the next scene to Tom and he's walking away from the meeting he can be thinking, gosh was a pretty, funny woman, but she kept playing with her hair like she was nervous. Was she nervous because she wanted me to like her or because she wished she never let her friend talk her into this blind date? You don't have to repeat the while scene from the other angle, just let the other character run through the highlights.

Five or 6 lines without any indication who's talking is confusing. You don't have to stick a dialogue tag on every line, but you should have something about every third line so the reader can keep track of who's talking. Ideally you use action tags, otherwise you have talking heads. What are your characters doing while they are talking? Folding sheets? Jingling keys? Picking out cookies at the grocery store? Studying the other person's reaction?

Keep trying. Practice makes better. I'm not sure there's such a thing as perfect in prose.
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MissRubyJones



Joined: 22 Apr 2008
Posts: 87

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charlotte McClain wrote:
I stick to one POV per scene and like to read books written that way. For me it creates tension. If you're reading a scene about Susan and Tom and Susan's hair and Susan is looking at Tom thinking her hair looks terrible, but he thinks she looks great, you lose a moment of tension. If I am talking to a man thinking my hair looks terrible and I want him to be impressed, I'm going to be studying his face. Does he think I look casual or messy? Is it a good thing that I look casual and or messy? Or is he thinking maybe I'm easy or that I'm not invested in this meeting going well so I didn't bother with my appearance? Dammit, can't he see I put make-up on for this? That way, when you change POV in the next scene to Tom and he's walking away from the meeting he can be thinking, gosh was a pretty, funny woman, but she kept playing with her hair like she was nervous. Was she nervous because she wanted me to like her or because she wished she never let her friend talk her into this blind date? You don't have to repeat the while scene from the other angle, just let the other character run through the highlights.

Five or 6 lines without any indication who's talking is confusing. You don't have to stick a dialogue tag on every line, but you should have something about every third line so the reader can keep track of who's talking. Ideally you use action tags, otherwise you have talking heads. What are your characters doing while they are talking? Folding sheets? Jingling keys? Picking out cookies at the grocery store? Studying the other person's reaction?

Keep trying. Practice makes better. I'm not sure there's such a thing as perfect in prose.


What great advice. I'm never surprised by the things I learn on the AAR boards, but always thrilled by them.
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