Author Topic: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?  (Read 901 times)  

Offline BillyDeCarlo

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Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« on: April 16, 2018, 04:49:27 AM »
Is it okay for a chapter to contain scenes with different point-of-view scenes, as long as it's limited to say two scenes with two different POVs? Both scenes are related to the same situation, which is why I want to put them in the same chapter, and both scenes are around 600 words, so a bit short for a chapter on their own. This is sci-fi.


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Offline EB

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2018, 04:58:03 AM »
Is it okay for a chapter to contain scenes with different point-of-view scenes, as long as it's limited to say two scenes with two different POVs? Both scenes are related to the same situation, which is why I want to put them in the same chapter, and both scenes are around 600 words, so a bit short for a chapter on their own. This is sci-fi.

I've read novels where the POV switches scene to scene, but I feel like it often ends up reading like head hopping. Personally, I always make it a new chapter when I switch. I think if you make a clear distinction of the new POV, it wouldn't be too awkward to use a scene break within a chapter, but it certainly depends on how it's done. I think as long as the transition is not jarring to the reader, you'll be okay. And of course, like everything in the creative process, it's ultimately up to you to tell the story in the way you see fit.

Offline BillyDeCarlo

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2018, 05:10:12 AM »
Thanks. There are two chapters where I'm considering this. I do use scene break markers to delineate the scenes, there are two scenes in each of these chapters, and it's pretty clear that the POV is changing as the second scene starts.


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Online CathleenT

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2018, 05:15:30 AM »
The genre doesn't matter so much as the POV you maintain for the entire book. I read a trade pubbed book by an author I liked, written in third limited, but two-thirds of the way through, she shifted to an alternate POV that she hadn't used before in this book (or the one previous--we spent the entire read in the protag's POV), and it was very jarring.

I don't throw books, but if I did, this one would have hit the wall. And I never bought another book in that series. C'mon. Just because you've got a name, that's no excuse for being sloppy. Actually, I haven't bought any book by her again, although I may get over that. Might not. Still, it was a cautionary experience for me as a writer.

You can write omni and use all the focus characters you want, since that's an accepted convention of that POV. I used that solution for one book since I knew I'd have a problem that only omni could fix going in. But it would require an entire re-write, since you would then need to use omni (or snippets that make it apparent that you are) throughout the book.

I'm going to assume you're writing third limited. If you're writing first, a POV switch like this would be jarring. I wouldn't try it.

In third limited, it's considered acceptable to have multiple POVS in the same chapter IF you separate them by scene breaks. That's the bare bones of that POV. But it's not advisable, IMO, unless you use that style throughout the book. If only one or two chapters have alternate POVs besides your protagonist, I still find it very jarring, and I know others do, too. Some people won't mind, but some people don't mind incorrect comma usage either, and we still try to get them right.

Anyway, I hope something here helps.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 06:09:44 AM by CathleenT »

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2018, 06:04:33 AM »
As long as it's obvious that there is a POV shift, like with a scene break, changing POV in a single chapter is no big deal, as long as the multiple POVs is something that the book or series has already done.

An example where I personally use it is this:
Character1 is doing something, internal monologue, making fun of the boss, whatever. Then a knock on the door. Character1 answers door and interacts with character2. The narrative follows character2, but since character1 stayed behind, it's necessary to switch to character2's POV. Throw in those scene break asterisks, and continue the story with character2.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 06:16:49 AM by Mark Gardner »

Offline BillyDeCarlo

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2018, 06:13:25 AM »
Thanks for the great feedback. This is 3rd limited, and chapters do alternate different character POVs based on the main four characters.


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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2018, 06:28:35 AM »
Yeah, as long as there's a scene break marker, it's fine. I do this as my regular course of action. Each scene, I write it from whoever's POV makes the most sense, and sometimes I switch POVs (with a scene break marker) during the same scene, if it's long.

Offline Scrapper78

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2018, 06:44:54 AM »
I'm a big fan of the "baton" method.

I try to provide a clear, easy-to-see hand-off (baton) within the scene to gently move the reader to the other POV. For example:

***

Bill stared at John from across the table. John was his oldest friend, a man he had known his whole life. How he could do such a thing was a complete mystery, and the churning in his guts mirrored the frenetic pace of his thoughts.  In that moment, Bill could not decide if his sadness was greater than his rage, or if his anger was behind the wheel unopposed.
     From his vantage point, John could see the warring emotions plainly on his friend's face [[Baton hand off!]]. How could he make Bill understand? John knew that Bill would have done the same thing in his place, but there was no point trying to reason with a man in such a state. Bill needed to work that part out on his own, and all John could do was weather the storm until he did. John's shame and remorse consumed him, but he could not bring himself to the point of self-recrimination. He had done what needed doing.

***

I move the POV across the table to John with one clear cut. This has always worked well with me, but it must be used sparingly. I try not shift POV within a chapter at all, but if I must (It can make for some great emotional tension)  then I limit it to one time per chapter. If I follow those rules, it comes off as pretty smooth.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2018, 07:29:58 AM by Scrapper78 »


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Offline notjohn

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2018, 08:03:19 AM »
Is it okay for a chapter to contain scenes with different point-of-view scenes, as long as it's limited to say two scenes with two different POVs?

Not only are two okay, but so are three, four, maybe more.

It all depends on the talent of the writer. I'll bet John Irving as a young man could have handled five!
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Offline Neil Carstairs

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2018, 12:46:55 PM »
As others have said, as long as there are clear scene breaks to indicate the change in POV it's fine. I do it all the time so my readers are used to it. I might even be up to double figures for POVs in one chapter.


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Offline Deacon Blues

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2018, 03:58:43 AM »
Agreed with the consensus so far - so long as the transitions are clear, either visually or stylistically, it's fine.

You can also try writing in a more omniscient, "removed" voice so that it doesn't necessarily matter whose POV it is, but if that's not your style then don't force it.

Offline jb1111

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2018, 04:15:36 AM »
This sort of thing seems to be very popular in some genres -- many of them that sell well.

If you can make it work, and it helps the story in some way, I'd say go for it.

Whether it works or not will be plain enough in the reading/editing phase anyway.

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2018, 06:01:35 AM »
I'm a big fan of the "baton" method.

I try to provide a clear, easy-to-see hand-off (baton) within the scene to gently move the reader to the other POV. For example:

***

Bill stared at John from across the table. John was his oldest friend, a man he had known his whole life. How he could do such a thing was a complete mystery, and the churning in his guts mirrored the frenetic pace of his thoughts.  In that moment, Bill could not decide if his sadness was greater than his rage, or if his anger was behind the wheel unopposed.
     From his vantage point, John could see the warring emotions plainly on his friend's face [[Baton hand off!]]. How could he make Bill understand? John knew that Bill would have done the same thing in his place, but there was no point trying to reason with a man in such a state. Bill needed to work that part out on his own, and all John could do was weather the storm until he did. John's shame and remorse consumed him, but he could not bring himself to the point of self-recrimination. He had done what needed doing.

***

I move the POV across the table to John with one clear cut. This has always worked well with me, but it must be used sparingly. I try not shift POV within a chapter at all, but if I must (It can make for some great emotional tension)  then I limit it to one time per chapter. If I follow those rules, it comes off as pretty smooth.

As a reader, I find any in-scene POV shifts (without at least a full scene break) to be jarring and displeasing. I can only think of one book (series) that I love where the author uses omnicient third person to do what some might call head-hopping and makes it work. Most of the time, personally, I don't like it.

Offline Lina Vine

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2018, 06:06:40 AM »
Not okay from my editor's perspective (she's a professional editor, formerly with a big mag). She said it's too jarring... 

Offline C. Gold

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2018, 06:25:29 AM »
As a reader, I find any in-scene POV shifts (without at least a full scene break) to be jarring and displeasing. I can only think of one book (series) that I love where the author uses omnicient third person to do what some might call head-hopping and makes it work. Most of the time, personally, I don't like it.
I despise head hopping. Most authors do a poor job of it and you are left wondering which character that paragraph is supposed to be about. But I really don't like it because I much prefer the mystery of not knowing what's really going on in the other peoples' heads unless they are up front and center. That way you can feel the POV character's uncertainty as they try to guess how others are feeling or why they are reacting the way they are.

You can always have a shorter chapter if you need to change POV. If you absolutely must swap POV in the middle of a chapter, then a scene break is good to make that transition clear.

Offline jb1111

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2018, 06:49:28 AM »
In my own writing, I have only done the POV swapping thing as a joke -- a satire, as it were. But that's just me.

I always keep my POV aligned with the main character, with other characters' inner dialogue sometimes delineated. I try to keep that to a minimum because although I want the reader to understand where other characters are coming from, I'd prefer them to 'see' things from the main character's perspective.

But everybody's got their own way of doing things. I've seen the POV swapping done before, and although it wasn't my cup of tea, it works in a lot of books.


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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2018, 06:49:55 AM »
This is one of those questions that get authors and editors frothing at the mouth.  The gunfight at the OK Corral had fewer bullets flying than this perennial argument. To add yet another metaphor, this is a line that many draw in concrete because they don't believe anybody should be playing in the sand.

IMO, the only time it's wrong is if you confuse the reader, spoil their immersion in the story, even for a second, and weaken the power of the story you're trying to tell. If it helps us understand what's happening and how the characters are reacting and why, if it enriches the story and the reader's experience of it, then do it. But you gotta do it right.

It doesn't work for every story. It doesn't work for every scene. It doesn't work in every genre (thrillers, for example ETA, except when it does!). A lot of writers can't do it at all. Some of them can't even manage an effective change from scene to scene or chapter to chapter, let alone within a scene.

But for me, as a reader, there are books that I found far more emotionally satisfying and engaging precisely because the writer drew me right into the middle of what was happening and what the characters were feeling. And, conversely, there are books I've read that were never as satisfying as they might have been because the author artificially jerked me out of one character's head and into another's by changing the scene or chapter rather than drawing me deeper into the story.

POV is a storytelling tool just like language, grammar, chapters, dialog vs description, action vs introspection, whatever. Some writers can use some tools more effectively than others. Some tools are harder to master than others. It doesn't mean they're not worth using.

The question to ask is not, "is this right or wrong?" but "how does this help me tell a more compelling story?" and "how do I do it right?"

« Last Edit: April 18, 2018, 06:53:22 AM by My Dog's Servant »

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2018, 06:56:23 AM »
There is no okay or not okay. There is only the strength of the story and your skill as a writer.  If both exist in sufficient quantities, the "rules" are yours to break as you see fit.


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Online My Dog's Servant

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #18 on: April 18, 2018, 06:58:40 AM »
***

Bill stared at John from across the table. John was his oldest friend, a man he had known his whole life. How he could do such a thing was a complete mystery, and the churning in his guts mirrored the frenetic pace of his thoughts.  In that moment, Bill could not decide if his sadness was greater than his rage, or if his anger was behind the wheel unopposed.
     From his vantage point, John could see the warring emotions plainly on his friend's face [[Baton hand off!]]. How could he make Bill understand? John knew that Bill would have done the same thing in his place, but there was no point trying to reason with a man in such a state. Bill needed to work that part out on his own, and all John could do was weather the storm until he did. John's shame and remorse consumed him, but he could not bring himself to the point of self-recrimination. He had done what needed doing.


That's a good example of what works, even in the tricky middle of a scene. Right for emotions of the scene. Right for the POV used. Right because the transition (your baton) makes sure the reader doesn't get lost with the move.

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2018, 07:01:26 AM »
Yes! Of course you can. Write your story how you see fit. :) Just make sure you split up the povs. I do this all the time and I use *** to make clear a new perspective is coming.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2018, 07:03:08 AM by Rosie A. »

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #20 on: April 18, 2018, 02:21:39 PM »
The only rule of writing that I'm aware of is that you can do anything so long as you do it well enough that it works.

I write fairly long chapters with anywhere from six to ten scenes in each and change POV between scenes often; I've never had a problem with it, nor have I ever had anyone call me out on it. I do use a clearly defined scene break, and I do also indicate the new POV character within the first paragraph (usually the first sentence) of the new scene. The one thing I don't do is the "baton-passing" technique because I find the chance of reader confusion is too high for the potential reward.

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Offline P.J. Post

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2018, 05:40:10 PM »
Laws, yes! M-O-O-N spells The Stand.

Offline kspen

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #22 on: April 18, 2018, 06:30:02 PM »
This is common in books I've read. On occasion there's even a switch in the middle of a scene (with a double line break). It's a little weird when that happens for the first time, but it doesn't bother me.

Offline Al Stevens

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #23 on: April 19, 2018, 08:49:53 AM »
Ian Fleming would switch POVs in the middle of a paragraph. Leon Uris went from third to first in Battle Cry. The publisher wanted him to "fix" that and he refused. The result: a classic.

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules.

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Re: Chapter Containing Different POV Scenes OK?
« Reply #24 on: April 19, 2018, 12:05:18 PM »
This is absolutely fine. As far as I'm concerned, chapters and scenes are as long as they need to be, and so are POV sections. It's whatever the story you're telling needs. The only golden rule is: don't confuse the reader! That baton-passing technique is (IMO) potentially confusing, so I don't do that. If I need to switch POV or start a new scene, I put in some marker to delineate that. It is far, far better to switch POV mid-chapter than to try to artificially keep to one chapter, one POV. Trust me, I've tried it. :D
 

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