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Alternating POV - Can you change the pattern? (2 Viewers)

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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
My novel is Corporate Thriller genre, and the story is told through three close third-person POVs, all women who get involved in a crime indirectly. I've been alternating the POV and keeping events in consecutive order and so far that has worked. However, there is one big charity event at 80% completion, that they end up at where stuff goes down. They all overhear various conversations that are the impetus for the crime. For the day of the event, I have been writing all three chapters at once, and keeping in pattern each with their own chapter. But, this is the first time I have had to overlap time. So for each, I wrote the morning when they are getting ready to leave and then the period of time when they arrive and describe their separate journeys and accommodations.

Now I'm sort of stuck on the event itself. Since the women will be experiencing it simultaneously, and I want to have them hear various aspects of these conversations, it seems odd to go back in time for each one. I don't need to describe the same conversation in different POVs, they all hear different parts, but I feel like I want to have a chapter where I head hop. I can separate it out with different conversations, about 200 words, and a separator. But...would this be odd?
 
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MooreMom523

Senior Member
I think your best bet might just be to do short chapters during this section - especially if a change of chapter is how the reader is used to transitioning to a new character perspective. You wouldn't have to re-hash the conversation from the start each time. A reader can follow a flow of events as long as they know the perspective has changed. Also remember there is no hard and fast rule that a book have numbered chapters - you could always just switch characters with a page break and then a heading indicating which character we are reading from.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I think your best bet might just be to do short chapters during this section - especially if a change of chapter is how the reader is used to transitioning to a new character perspective. You wouldn't have to re-hash the conversation from the start each time. A reader can follow a flow of events as long as they know the perspective has changed. Also remember there is no hard and fast rule that a book have numbered chapters - you could always just switch characters with a page break and then a heading indicating which character we are reading from.
So are you saying break the POVs by a page break and not a chapter? I haven't been heading the chapters with names so far. Would it be odd to now have the names appear on the top of the page?
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
That can be a tough one.
Spreading out the action over several scenes can slow the pace of your story - if this is a climax, that's not what you want to do.
You might write from a single character's POV, but give the other characters in the scene ticks that your POV character, or even just the reader interprets.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
So are you saying break the POVs by a page break and not a chapter? I haven't been heading the chapters with names so far. Would it be odd to now have the names appear on the top of the page?
When you format, controlling page breaks can be tricky. Maybe separate scenes would work.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
That can be a tough one.
Spreading out the action over several scenes can slow the pace of your story - if this is a climax, that's not what you want to do.
You might write from a single character's POV, but give the other characters in the scene ticks that your POV character, or even just the reader interprets.
By ticks do you mean, facial expressions, body language, etc.? What else? Also, if I do that, it may throw off my sequence, because I will have to give one character an extra chapter. Is it ok to break a pattern once you have established one?
 

indianroads

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Global Moderator
By ticks you mean, facial expressions, body language etc. What else? Also, if I do that, it may throw off my sequence, because I will have to give one character an extra chapter. Is it ok to break a pattern once you have established one?
I've noticed that women tend to communicate on many more levels than men do. Years ago, I got into serious trouble with: "Do you mind if I go to this karate tournament?" Her: "Do what you want, that's fine."

My advice is to keep to a single POV through that scene, and use mannerisms, expressions, speech tones, and your POV character's internal dialogue to communicate what the other women are thinking / feeling. It can be a challenge as a writer to do that, but you're up for it.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I've noticed that women tend to communicate on many more levels than men do. Years ago, I got into serious trouble with: "Do you mind if I go to this karate tournament?" Her: "Do what you want, that's fine."
Haha...I guess you learned that the hard way!
My advice is to keep to a single POV through that scene, and use mannerisms, expressions, speech tones, and your POV character's internal dialogue to communicate what the other women are thinking / feeling. It can be a challenge as a writer to do that, but you're up for it.
The only problem I have with one POV is that I don't want one person to hear all of the conversations. They each hear something different. So the reader has more information than any of them do. And this is when the reader starts to put it together and suspect certain people, but if one of the characters has all of this information, it won't be as intriguing. I have always imagined in this scene that each POV has only one piece of the puzzle, but the reader has all.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Haha...I guess you learned that the hard way!

The only problem I have with one POV is that I don't want one person to hear all of the conversations. They each hear something different. So the reader has more information than any of them do. And this is when the reader starts to put it together and suspect certain people, but if one of the characters has all of this information, it won't be as intriguing. I have always imagined in this scene that each POV has only one piece of the puzzle, but the reader has all.
I would separate their POV's by scene then. Yes, you're breaking the pattern of each chapter having a single POV character - but you're the writer... aka the god of their universe, and can do as you please. If you keep the scenes on the short side the pace would be quick, which is kinda what you want for the climax.

ETA: separating by chapter also gives the reader permission to set your book aside, which halts your momentum.
 

Steve_Rivers

Senior Member
I think @indianroads is right in that, if this is the big finale to your book, then doing the same scene 3 times over from a different PoV is definitely not the way to go. Without having read it, to me it screams out slow pace, repetitive information (which readers really hate,) and it will do the worst thing of all - potentially have readers skipping bits they think they already know, despite you are inserting a new clue in there.

I think its tricky for us to give advice too, because this sounds very much a beta-reader preference level thing. You might find we suggest one thing, but beta readers when reading it might prefer another.

For instance, my personal preference, would be for you to write down ALL three PoVs in their entirety, identify the key element or clues and where they are, then create the chapter by selecting a chronological selection of the 1st viewpoint with an important clue, break, 2nd viewpoint important clue, break, 3rd etc. And if there were 6 say, then you go through each character twice before the final revelation. (again, hard to judge pace that way though)

That way, you could do an entire chronological order of clues so time effectively never stops throughout the chapter, but we're seeing different viewpoints for a clue as the culmination of watching these three people individually since the start of the book.

But again, even now typing it here, this is sounding so much like a beta reader majority preference thing that is why I suggest you write out the three viewpoints in their entirety separately, first. Because then you have a whole wealth of material to alter according to the beta readers when you chop it up into smaller pieces.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I think @indianroads is right in that, if this is the big finale to your book, then doing the same scene 3 times over from a different PoV is definitely not the way to go. Without having read it, to me it screams out slow pace, repetitive information (which readers really hate,) and it will do the worst thing of all - potentially have readers skipping bits they think they already know, despite you are inserting a new clue in there.

I think its tricky for us to give advice too, because this sounds very much a beta-reader preference level thing. You might find we suggest one thing, but beta readers when reading it might prefer another.

For instance, my personal preference, would be for you to write down ALL three PoVs in their entirety, identify the key element or clues and where they are, then create the chapter by selecting a chronological selection of the 1st viewpoint with an important clue, break, 2nd viewpoint important clue, break, 3rd etc. And if there were 6 say, then you go through each character twice before the final revelation. (again, hard to judge pace that way though)

That way, you could do an entire chronological order of clues so time effectively never stops throughout the chapter, but we're seeing different viewpoints for a clue as the culmination of watching these three people individually since the start of the book.

But again, even now typing it here, this is sounding so much like a beta reader majority preference thing that is why I suggest you write out the three viewpoints in their entirely separately, first. Because then you have a whole wealth of material to alter according to the beta readers.
Great advice! That's a very good approach to write out all three POVs in their entirety and then select the key elements.

I like the idea of six short conversations and staying in chronological order, each a new piece of the puzzle. And that works well with what I had planned, because one guest advises another, and that guest then shares the advice with a different guest but misconstrues it to serve a nefarious purpose. So the third guest is trusting of the advice because of whom it came from. This is when the reader starts to suspect the perils coming. Then the second round of later parts of the same conversations can add more intrigue. I'm starting to see the chapter come together as a layering of clues, but only for the reader. What eventually unfolds as a result of this advice is the climax and a shock to the POVs. It affects them all and they all learn and grow from it.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I like it, Taylor. Yes, there are some cautions, but a writer can make anything slow or anything interesting, and I have occasionally seen similar technique. I think scene breaks would be a good tool here. A fun aspect could be that when they witness the same things, you describe it somewhat differently, as people do. So if they all witness a conversation that provides a clue, suddenly you have one clue and two red herrings. :) Then if you have them coming together later to compare notes, you can have a nice argument about what they really saw. LOL

ETA - And yes, short hard hitting scenes covering the event sounds good.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I would separate their POV's by scene then. Yes, you're breaking the pattern of each chapter having a single POV character - but you're the writer... aka the god of their universe, and can do as you please. If you keep the scenes on the short side the pace would be quick, which is kinda what you want for the climax.

ETA: separating by chapter also gives the reader permission to set your book aside, which halts your momentum.

Such a good point about momentum! I think that's why I was so stuck when I imagined dragging it out over three chapters.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I like it, Taylor. Yes, there are some cautions, but a writer can make anything slow or anything interesting, and I have occasionally seen similar technique. I think scene breaks would be a good tool here. A fun aspect could be that when they witness the same things, you describe it somewhat differently, as people do. So if they all witness a conversation that provides a clue, suddenly you have one clue and two red herrings. :) Then if you have them coming together later to compare notes, you can have a nice argument about what they really saw. LOL

ETA - And yes, short hard hitting scenes covering the event sounds good.

That is exactly the type of thing that I was imagining. I'm glad you have seen it used. I'm sure I have as well, I just couldn't pull one up in my head. I never thought of an argument. That would work well. So far the ladies have gotten along pretty well but once the s**t hits the fan, things will change. LOL

Thanks for the idea...that helps a lot! :)
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
That is exactly the type of thing that I was imagining. I'm glad you have seen it used. I'm sure I have as well, I just couldn't pull one up in my head. I never thought of an argument. That would work well. So far the ladies have gotten along pretty well but once the s**t hits the fan, things will change. LOL

Thanks for the idea...that helps a lot! :)
After I wrote that I thought of a way to use it in my mystery, too. I'll have my MC and his brother have an animated conversation with three or four of the suspects at one time, then later they realize one of the suspects said something that's a clue, but they argue over which suspect said it. I can leave off dialogue tags and my normal action cues so the reader doesn't know, either. :)
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Media Manager
This format you describe is exactly how I wrote Calizona...except that I used many more POVs to tell the story.
Yes you can do it, but you need to give each character their own voice. People use different cadence, phrases, and focus.

However, when I did it in Calizona, each scene was equipped with a scene header/timestamp, so you knew who was talking and how much time had passed since the last scene. Dunno how you'd do that in your novel.

But I did have a few scenes that switched between characters so that the other side of the story could be told...or just because it was funnier for someone else to tell you what was happening to Alex. Using multiple POVs is a great form of character illustration because it allows the reader to see the hero from other perspectives...often unflattering perspectives. See, you start out with the hero, telling you all about how great he is. Then you hear from his wife who says he is so-so, then you hear from an enemy that he is a jerk. Now you know the character much better. And along the way, the wife and enemy also illustrated themselves (how they view a known quantity tells you a lot about a character.)



PS: In Calizona I also used different media formats for each character. Alex liked to type so he would write lengthy diatribes. His best friend Mickey hated typing and used video logs so I could add his mannerisms and personal humor. Cat recorded everything on her phone because she was a millennial. Each format let me bring out different characteristics of THAT character.
 
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