Perspective Changes: How Many is too Many? - Page 2


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Thread: Perspective Changes: How Many is too Many?

  1. #11
    I don't think there's a formula. Maybe the best way is to write what you have in mind and see how it's working; experiment a little, then maybe get an opinion or two.

  2. #12
    As a reader, I hate head-hopping. The most I'll tolerate is POV changes with a new chapter.

  3. #13
    Think of it like a movie director getting a number of different camera angles. If it's done well it can add much to the story. Done poorly it disrupts the flow. Try it and rewrite as needed. Trust your inner reader.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


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  4. #14
    The movie analogy works where the story is written in third person -- as a movie usually is.

    For example:

    Darla was pleased to find it was Tim at the door. Her face flushed a little as he entered, taking off his sodden hat. "Good evening, Mr. Smith," she said, her heart quickening just a little.

    "Good evening," Tim nodded, smiling back politely. He had never much cared for the old widow. Her flirtations seemed nothing short of desperate. Besides that, she always had the smell of old onions about her.
    ^This works OK. The reader's stance is omniscient and the POV switch between Darla and Tim can be as frequent as needed between these two characters in a 'camera switch' manner. May start to break down if exceeding 2-3 characters, but it works for now.

    We can see the same scene does NOT work as well if the story is in first person, or a story where we are led to rely on more intimate, monogamous POV. Those tend to need a scene or chapter break to avoid jarring.

    Seeing Tim there, I felt my face begin to flush as I watched him enter, his handsome fingers removing the wet hat from his handsome head. "Good evening," I whispered, "Mr. Smith."

    "Good evening," I said, trying to smile at her. I never liked her much. An amiable old widow, to be sure, but desperate and fawning. Besides that, she stank. Like old onions, or something
    The first-person example is a definite form of head hop which reads as confusing even though there's nothing obviously 'wrong' with it. It is confusing because it happens too suddenly, with no sense of change.

    First person POV leads us to become invested in a single interpretation. While that can be changed within a story, if it happens frequently within a single scene we are being pulled out of one person's head and expected to immediately invest in another.

  5. #15
    It is strange to change POVs in my opinion. I had seen a lot of strange POV changes in short stories for some fanfiction romance stories (just a nice way of saying sappy fanfiction made by hopeful - or hopeless - teenagers who may or may not be keeping to the canon of canon characters). Some first person POV changes will happen several times within the same story in the same chapter. It will change every paragraph, sometimes rephrasing the actions that had happened in the other POV just to catch up.

    I would much prefer to see any POV change in third person between a small group. It is a lot easier to read when the POV change is in third person and if it happens in quick succession within a small group, just to introduce the reader to everyone in a quick sort of way before moving on with the plot. If it happens too many times, it feels dizzying to read, and if it doesn't happen all that much, that's fine. The reader will be forced to look at the perspective of the protagonist though, and they won't know much about other characters that aren't being seen through the film of the protagonist's eyes/mind.

    But if it happens every 1,000 words, that is fine. That is a lot better than what I have seen in my cringy past.

  6. #16
    I've been trying to shy away from direct italicized internal monologue, although it can make scenes very tense if we stick to one character the whole time. This is the kind of thing I've been doing lately to fix my head-hoping problems.

    "The labrador whined up at the sparrow, hoping to find a new friend. But the bird squawked, afraid of being devoured."

    That's in my opinion a lot better than:

    "The labrador whined up at the sparrow. Why doesn't that bird want a new friend? But the bird squawked. What a horrible, dangerous beast."

    etc.

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    "The labrador whined up at the sparrow. Why doesn't that bird want a new friend? But the bird squawked. What a horrible, dangerous beast."
    I have been guilty of doing this. Head hopping is confusing to everyone else but the writer who wrote it (other times, it is confusing to everyone, including the writer). I have done this in an attempt to make fantasy romance with OP characters when I was 12. I am not sure how I feel about the story now. I'm pretty sure I burned it.

  8. #18
    I'm of the (completely unscientific, purely subjective) opinion that the ideal number of perspectives is either one or two, and any more than that will begin to tax the story (and possibly the reader).

    I'm also of the (again, entirely subjective) opinion that POV shifts work best when there are scene or chapter breaks between them.

    Though, there are always exceptions! Nora Roberts is notorious for head-hopping at will, and it doesn't seem to have hurt her at all.

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    I'm of the (completely unscientific, purely subjective) opinion that the ideal number of perspectives is either one or two, and any more than that will begin to tax the story (and possibly the reader).

    I'm also of the (again, entirely subjective) opinion that POV shifts work best when there are scene or chapter breaks between them.

    Though, there are always exceptions! Nora Roberts is notorious for head-hopping at will, and it doesn't seem to have hurt her at all.
    What would you say then about Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" where the story is told by something like 15 POVs?

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by TL Murphy View Post
    What would you say then about Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" where the story is told by something like 15 POVs?
    My (unqualified, completely subjective) opinion: descriptive, but lacking focus. Reads like a seasoned writer who pantsed his way through the entire story, discovering the plot as he wrote it, then did little, afterward, to alter things, other than to polish the prose. Also reads like he jumped into a new POV whenever he got bored with the current strand.

    Would've been stronger had it been narrowed down to two POVs. (*ducks objects thrown by Faulkner fans*)

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