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EmmaSohan
June 16th, 2018, 10:33 PM
I was writing in first person present, like I usually do, yet I decided to write a scene from the POV of a different character. It was magical, and perhaps an underused idea.


None of the usual reasons applied. One typical reason for shifting POV is the main character not being in the scene. But she was. The other typical reason is having more than one primary character. But I shifted POV to a throwaway character (appearing only in that scene).

Why was this magical? Her job on the mission was to distract a guard for 30 seconds by being sexy. His thoughts (why he was distracted, being distracted) were a lot more interesting to the story.

So it worked really well. So I wrote more. The magical part is showing how other people view my MC. I must stress, my MC is still the main focus of every scene she does not narrate. And I am selective, for example choosing another character's point of view when the "awesome moment" doesn't occur from her perspective.

So, for example, if you were writing a detective novel, instead of following the detective the whole book, you could shift perspective to someone being interviewed by the detective, simply to get another perspective on the detective. And that could carry over to the rest of the book -- the reader would have a better understanding of what the detective was doing.

Jack of all trades
June 16th, 2018, 10:43 PM
So, for example, if you were writing a detective novel, instead of following the detective the whole book, you could shift perspective to someone being interviewed by the detective, simply to get another perspective on the detective. And that could carry over to the rest of the book -- the reader would have a better understanding of what the detective was doing.

Please explain how the most likely erroneous opinions of what the detective is doing, and why he is doing it, is going to give the reader a better understanding of the detective than the detective's own thoughts?

EmmaSohan
June 16th, 2018, 11:08 PM
Thanks for your good question.

In the book, the reader reads about, say, 20 people being questioned by the detective. To understand what is happening, the reader kind of needs to know the detective's effects on these people and why they answer (or do not answer) his questions. Each detective will have a different style and different strengths and weaknesses.

The detective's own thoughts are not necessarily accurate or complete. Using this technique, you could have a detective with flaws the detective is not aware of. Without it, you are forced (almost) to give the detective a complete understanding of his effects.

This is a new discovery of mine, I can suggest it only as something to try. I'm still exploring it; I don't know how useful it would be. It would not be useful if the whole point was plot, which is fine.

I will note that it is considered good technique to have already thought out the scene from the perspective of the person being interviewed, whether or not writers actually do that. So if you try this, at worst it doesn't work but you did what you were supposed to do anyway.

Jack of all trades
June 16th, 2018, 11:25 PM
I don't deny that giving insight into the thoughts of those being interviewed can be an interesting pursuit. What I'm struggling with is how it gives any insight into the character of the detective, specifically.

Let's use Columbo. The story is always shown from the killer's perspective. And it's interesting to figure out the moment Columbo zeroes in on the killer. But it doesn't give much insight into Columbo, at least not very often. Occasionally something is learned. But more is learned about the killer, in my opinion.

Actually Colombo is not always from the killer's perspective. The opening is. The detective work is sometimes from Columbo's and sometimes from the killer's.

Ralph Rotten
June 17th, 2018, 05:20 AM
I've spoken of this type of writing before. I like to cal it 'illustrating a character through the eyes of another.'
How one character views or perceives another tells you about both characters, and the relationship between them.
Yep, writing from many different POVs is fun and keeps things fresh. The trick is making it feel like you are in someone else's head, not just the same narrative voice in a new shell. If you are seeing things from Alex's POV then the thoughts should be his, even if they are wrong or unpopular.

Jack of all trades
June 17th, 2018, 02:13 PM
I agree you can learn about the relationship, but not the other character. At least not in a reliable way. The flaws of the character color the view of the other one.

Theglasshouse
June 17th, 2018, 05:09 PM
Here´s the thing. As much as I like the reasoning of effects and flaws of the characters. I still think a character should have a positive motivation. That is good reasons to gain something. Whether to protect someone, hide information. To save someone´s life. Good versus good struggles are more powerful than evil. Evil is something else. It is shallow characterization and plotting bundled in one and is less compelling. I have read some guides and I am thinking this is the right way to think on this. Good positive motivation leads to action usually since both motives are noble.

The reason she could have done the sex stuff could be noble. That usually moves the plot forward and creates more powerful motives.

JustRob
June 17th, 2018, 07:44 PM
I'm okay with shifting the perspective away from the main character; in fact I have portrayed exactly the same scene from two different perspectives, another character to start with and then the main character after the reader has got to know him well. The perspectives were of course different and it was a boy-girl encounter under peculiar circumstances where what each knew was distinctly different, so it added to the story. I had to take care to make the two scenes consistent and ensure that the dialogue matched of course, even though its perceived meaning was different in each case, which was fun.

My concern here is that initially you said that you were writing in the first person and I'm not clear how well a shift in both POV character and person works, or did you mean that all the POVs are in the first person, which is a technique used in multi-character approaches, but only for relatively long segments of a story? The thread wandered away from the first person aspect and lost me along the way.

EmmaSohan
June 18th, 2018, 02:29 PM
I agree you can learn about the relationship, but not the other character. At least not in a reliable way. The flaws of the character color the view of the other one.

I am glad you repeated this point.

Take Colombo coming back to ask one more question, which annoys the murderer. If you told this story from the perspective of the murderer, the reader wouldn't know why Colombo was coming back. Is that just his natural behavior, or was he intentionally trying to be annoying? If you tell the story from Colombo's perspective, the reader easily knows.

However, if you told the story from Colombo's perspective, for him interviewing 5 people, and all the time he did it on purpose, it would boring to say this for the sixth time. Meanwhile, it might be interesting to show the same thing from the person's perspective.

We think of annoying as being something in Colombo, but he can't be annoying in an empty room, And really, when he is annoying, that something happening in someone else's head. And now your point twists around -- it would be easier to present that annoyingness from the murderer's perspective.

EmmaSohan
June 18th, 2018, 03:25 PM
I agree you can learn about the relationship, but not the other character. At least not in a reliable way. The flaws of the character color the view of the other one.

Yes, but there are some huge exceptions. In the book I am reading (first person past), we get a one-paragraph description of each character as the character enters the story. There is no corresponding description of the main character. That's kind of a standard problem -- people come to WF asking how to describe the POV character, not the other characters in the story.

I don't like descriptions in general, and I don't care that much what people look like, but I mention this as an exception.


If you poured out your life to a psychotherapist, the psychotherapist should be able to tell you things about yourself that you don't know. And even your friends might be able to tell you things about yourself. That made it into the book I was reading -- one character just happened to attend the trial and see the MC, a lawyer, in action, and for nothing to do with the plot, told the lawyer (really us) his impression.

(My guess is that shifting POV to his girlfriend watching the trial would have raised this book a whole level.)

Or, if you helped your wife give birth to your first child, you would know what you did and thought. But the nurse might have see this 100 times and be able to compare you to other fathers.

That too is not an insurmountable problem. In a book, there could be a nurse telling the main character how he compared to other fathers. And the author could make that conversation happen even if its occurrence wasn't that plausible.

And it would be a way of handling a problem that could be more easily handled by taking the nurse's POV, without the cost of switching POV's.

Jack of all trades
June 18th, 2018, 05:07 PM
Take Colombo coming back to ask one more question, which annoys the murderer. If you told this story from the perspective of the murderer, the reader wouldn't know why Colombo was coming back. Is that just his natural behavior, or was he intentionally trying to be annoying? If you tell the story from Colombo's perspective, the reader easily knows.


This supports my point. Thank you.

EmmaSohan
June 19th, 2018, 11:59 PM
This supports my point. Thank you.

Yes, I wish I had started my original post with that, and again I am glad you stuck with that point. Writing from the perspective of my main character gives me the power to show her thoughts and feelings, which has to be useful in bringing her to life.

So the amazing part was that when I wrote the scene from the perspective of a throwaway character, it helped bring my main character to life. But that made sense once I had to list the advantages.

bulmabriefs144
July 6th, 2018, 03:01 PM
This was my entire idea for my book that I am currently working on.

Sometimes I have trouble, since first person shifting POV has issues where you can't simply show atmospheric stuff like how the town looks, they basically are describing what they see, which can lead to infodump exposition (my current problem).

But when it works, it works great. I do chapters without a number, instead just typing the name, so we had one chapter where the chapter before was talking all about a male character ummm showing off their physique, and the next chapter was one word. It worked.

The key to good POV is emphasizing misunderstanding. You don't repeat a chapter from two angles if both characters see essentially the same thing. But if one character thinks the other hates them, and the next chapter you learn that they're just awkward, and pick fights because they can't express themselves well, and probably are in love with the first, then you get a good sense of the scene.

EmmaSohan
July 7th, 2018, 05:08 PM
The key to good POV is emphasizing misunderstanding. You don't repeat a chapter from two angles if both characters see essentially the same thing. But if one character thinks the other hates them, and the next chapter you learn that they're just awkward, and pick fights because they can't express themselves well, and probably are in love with the first, then you get a good sense of the scene.

Yes! I love this. But . . . isn't there always misunderstanding? I mean in real life and a book.