troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Switching P.O.V.
A switching Point of View is closely related to, but distinct from, Rotating Protagonist. Rather than an omniscient third-person narrator showing us Jack, then Sally, then Pauline, as we would with a Rotating Protagonist, we see the story from Jack's perspective, then Sally's, then Pauline's. Can be very useful if the POV is third-person limited or first-person, as this can give us information we otherwise wouldn't have—for instance, we could find out that Pauline's motivations are genuinely good or she really did kill that guy, something neither Jack nor Sally would know.

The most obvious way to do this is to switch from Jack being "I" to Sally being "I," since even if they're both in the scene, it's clear who the focus is on. But a book can also pull this off with third-person limited (you see both as "s/he", but you're only inside one's head at a time). Primarily a literature trope, but a duet or film can also work. You just need narration of some sort.

Switching from first person (I) to second (you) or third (s/he) would also work. Obviously, this is quite useful if one character falls unconscious or ill, or is simply not where the author needs the story to be.

Sister Trope to "Rashomon"-Style, but the accounts do not need to disagree or even overlap, and also Rotating Protagonist, but rather than simply seeing different characters, we get their perspectives. Super Trope to Scrapbook Story. See also Twisted Echo Cut. When all main characters get their POV represented except one, it's a Non P.O.V. Protagonist. Not to be confused with Camera Perspective Switch.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • In the light novels of High School D×D, after Issei defeats Raiser, the light novels show that Lord Gremory and Lord Phenex discuss about how the engagement party ended, and that Lord Gremory cannot believe that her daughter was able to get the Welsh Dragon as her servant. In the anime, it shows the same events but from Sirzechs and Grayfia's point of view about why lent Issei the griffon as a last resort and his thoughts on the Welsh Dragon joining. Grayfia then notes that Sirzechs seems to be enjoying it, probably reminding him and Grayfia's circumstances back then. And in the main storyline, usually either Kiba or Azazel get to be the focus of the narration whenever Issei isn't around.
  • While there are several moments in Sangatsu no Lion where focus moves away from the protagonist and narrator Rei in order to listen in on conversations between other characters, Hina and Hayashida both hold the special distinction of momentarily taking over the role of narrator at least once, particularly when their thoughts are focused on Rei's life.

    Comic Books 
  • Vertigo Comics series Faker has each of its chapters narrated by another member of the core group.

    Fan Fiction 
  • My Immortal, although the issue is confused by bad writing. The POV character is usually Ebony, but one chapter starts with a note that this chapter is from "Darko"'s point of view. This rule is followed for a bit, but then one line starts with "Draco, Ebory and I", and after that it's back to Ebony's point of view.
  • Deserving, in which you're lucky if any given paragraph ends in the same POV as it began and it often switches mid-sentence, is another bad example.
  • Fuck The Jesus Beam, beginning in chapter nine.
  • Kyon Big Damn Hero, where the breaks are usually followed by a change of narrator.
  • Luminosity's narrators to date have been Bella, Elspeth, and Addy when Elspeth is asleep/unconscious during an important part.
  • Love Takes Flight changes points of view between Chance Furlong and Jake Clawson during their first sexual encounter. What is unique about this switching is that the sentences at changing points overlap, sharing a word (or group of words).
    • eg. Chance's POV: If that wasn't love then.... Jake's POV: What was it Chance saw in him? In this case Chance's full thought is "If that wasn't love then what was?"
  • A Dark Knight Over Sin City alternates between Batman's narration or the POVs of various Sin City characters every chapter.
  • Winter War switches between about thirty POV characters (third person limited throughout). Most chapters stick with one person's POV, but several "ensemble" chapters juggle several. This allows many, many Ascended Extras a chance to shine.
    • Worth noting that in Hisagi's sections, his narration becomes increasingly vague and Kazeshini's interjections more frequent, which eventually leads to the zanpakuto spirit (briefly) possessing his wielder's body so that both of them can survive. At which point, Kazeshini is the narrator with Shuuhei not heard from for a chapter or so.
  • Xanatos does this a few times, in third person from Light's point of view, and later with L's, and even having Matt narrate a couple of chapters.
  • Used throughout With Strings Attached. The four get more or less equal time from their individual viewpoints, but there are also a few sections where other points of view are employed:
    • The short passage about the Brothers of Doom preparing to be attacked (and then getting attacked—in a totally unexpected way).
    It was a pity they'd never heard of the Maginot Line.
    • Several scenes with Bayanis.
    • A scene from the POV of the two guards confronting George outside the building where John is being kept in magical sleep.
    • The collective POV of the skahs who have finished off the monsters in Ehndris and are wondering what to do next.
  • The stories in the Elemental Chess Trilogy have this, with the point of view changing in each chapter. The more central characters receive multiple chapters from their perspectives, but many of the supporting cast also each get a chapter.
  • In Rotten Luck, the narration is in first-person from the perspective of the protagonist on the odd-numbered chapters while it becomes third-person on the even-numbered ones.
  • Almost every character in The Movement narrates at least one chapter.
  • Every fic in Lilo & Stitch: The Series fanfic series The Starlight Series features this, except for Alpha and Omega, which is told from the first-person perspective of Experiment 419.
  • The Mike, Lu & Og fanfic When Mike Met Mike is told from a few different points of view.
  • In Utopia Unmade, the focus switches between Tsubomi, Erika, Hibiki, Kanade, Love, and Eas every chapter.
  • In Diaries of a Madman, Discord occasionally takes over the narration from Navarone. Rarity also briefly narrates during a "Freaky Friday" Flip.
  • In Pottertalia fic Snakeskins the POV regularly switched between England and Italy, with the odd other POV (e.g. Draco Malfoy or Romano) added in on certain situations.

    Literature 
  • Victorian mystery novelist Wilkie Collins did this more than once, most notably in his classics The Moonstone and The Woman in White. Each novel was divided up into several different first-person narratives, with occasional other sources like "The Narrative of the Tombstone".
  • The Silver Kiss, by Annette Curtis Klause, switches between Zoë and Simon. The switch is between third-person limited to one or the other, and their respective chapters are named after the proper protagonist.
  • Done so well by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Shaara in his novel The Killer Angels (the basis for the 1993 film Gettysburg) that his son Jeff Shaara has copied the technique in every one of his own novels.
  • Each chapter in The Innkeeper's Song by Peter S. Beagle is told from a different character's perspective.
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen switches between romantic leads, and even the back cover takes this. One of them is upside-down, but which is a little bit up to the reader.
  • The Poisonwood Bible switches between the four daughters' points of view, with their mother's point of view appearing at the beginning and in retrospect of each section of the book.
  • Charles Dickens's Bleak House alternates chapters between the first-person perspective of Esther Summerson and the third-person perspective of an omniscient narrator.
  • Jodi Picoult does this in pretty much all her novels, sometimes in first and sometimes third person.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible: Alternates between Dr. Impossible and Fatale.
  • Some William Faulkner novels alternate chapters among the first-person perspective of several narrators, often relating the same events. It switched narrators within the same sentence at least once. His books that follow this include:
  • The Lover (Ha-Me'ahev), by Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua, which bears the influence of Faulkner's works, switches between the first-person perspectives of members of a Jewish family and an Arab teenager who works for and comes to live with them, each chapter.
  • Lord of the Rings starts to do this in The Two Towers. The first half of the book is split between Aragorn's party and the Merry and Pippen hobbit duo. Second half of the book is Frodo, Sam, and Sméagol. Return of the King does a similar mid-way switch, with the two halves of each story taking place concurrently.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Fey novels, where the viewpoint switches to a new character with each new chapter.
  • Mrs. Dalloway alternates between following the title character and Shell-Shocked Veteran Septimus.
  • In Treasure Island, the point of view switches from Jim to the doctor while the former is unconscious.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes switches back and forth between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance and their two protagonists, Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wenli. Reinhard and his Empire is the more important side, however, making Yang Wenli the deuteragonist.
  • George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The viewpoint character changes every chapter and there have been 31 viewpoint characters through the first five books.
  • We always follow Harry Potter's point of view throughout the series, with the exception of the opening chapters of Philosopher's Stone, Goblet of Fire, Half-Blood Prince (first two chapters), and Deathly Hallows, which have important establishing events that Harry's not present for (although in the case of Goblet of Fire, he sees them in a dream).
    • There is one other exception: during Harry's first Quidditch match in Philosopher's Stone, we are told what Hermione and Ron are doing and saying, even though Harry is not paying special attention to them and would not be able to hear them.
    • There is also, somewhat bizarrely, a couple of sentences from Ron's point of view as he knocks out the troll in Philosopher's Stone. Overall, point of view seems a little more flexible in book 1 than it is later in the series.
  • The Everworld books rotate among the five main characters the role of the narrator.
  • Animorphs, another series by the same author as Everworld, does the same thing.
  • The Babysitters Club books feature rotating first-person protagonists.
  • The Deep Water Black books were each written from the viewpoint of a new character.
  • Emily Rodda's Teen Power Inc.. series rotates the role of narrator among the six members of the core cast.
  • Anthony Price's thriller novels all feature the same group of intelligence officers, but each features a different member of the group as the key player and point-of-view character.
  • Terry Pratchett likes to switch to the point-of-view of someone about to meet a tragic end.
    • He's nowhere near the only one. This is particularly common in murder mysteries, where the first segment is from the victim's point of view, with enough detail to be interesting but not enough to act as a spoiler. (For no particular reason, Emily Brightwell's Mrs. Jeffries series comes to mind.)
  • Terry Goodkind does this a lot in Swordof Truth, especially noteworthy though is in the first book where the POV has been on the male main character most of the book (except one small part when he is unconscious) until around half of the book where the POV changes to the female main character. This is done to put more info on her personality and her secret and also to show that she also feels an attraction to him.
  • Several of Kelley Armstrong's books (Haunted and Personal Demon, for example) switch between several narrators, with each chapter being told by a different one.
  • The Wheel of Time regularly switches POV between around 10 main characters. The books will also regularly include POV chapters of side characters depending on how Robert Jordan wished to show extra information. Or hide it.
  • The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis is narrated by several characters; all of the more important ones narrate at least one chapter.
  • Pretty much everything ever written by Harry Turtledove runs on this trope. Most of his series have a minimum of 5 or 6 POV characters per volume, allowing him to describe various aspects of a large-scale event (like a war on multiple fronts, as seen by generals, soldiers, and civilians).
  • The Man In The Brown Suit by Agatha Christie switches between the protagonist's narration and excerpts from a different character's journal, both in first person.
  • Every book in the Wicked Lovely series switches between (usually three, although Fragile Eternity has four and stopping time has only two) different third person POVs.
  • Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting and its sequel, Porno, switch between characters (each with their own personal verbal tics and dialects) in each chapter.
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson evenly alternates chapters between the two titular characters. One is written by John Green, the other by David Levithan.
  • How NOT to Write a Novel has several examples of what can go wrong when a Switching P.O.V. is poorly executed or unintentional.
  • The Knight and Rogue Series alternates between Michael and Fisk's perspective with each chapter.
  • Starting from The New Prophecy, Warrior Cats have multiple protagonists, switching POV between them every few chapters.
  • The chapters in Ibi Kaslik's The Angel Riots switch between a limited third-person narration centred on Rize, the titular rock band's drug-addled trombonist, and first-person narration by Jim, a violinist touring with the Riots.
  • All the books in Jo Walton's Alternate History Small Change trilogy. Each of the novels is structured with alternating chapters from the point of view of Inspector Carmichael (3rd person), and a young woman writing in the 1st person: Lucy Kahn in Farthing, Viola Larkin in Ha'Penny, and Elvira Royston in Half a Crown.
  • Each book in the Havemercy series by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett rotates first-person perspective through four protagonists.
  • The books in The Heroes of Olympus series switch between the formulaic Two Guys and a Girl in first-person from chapter-to-chapter.
  • Each volume of Dirge for Prester John contains three books, and the frame narrative of Hiob, or his assistance Alaric.
  • The two published volumes of Charles Stross' Halting State series do this. The narrative alternates between the perspectives of three people involved in the case (with the occasional interlude), all written in the second person.
  • Brave New World begins with an Intro Dump courtesy of Thomas, the Director, and periodically switches to Bernard a few times before settling on the latter. After John's introduction about halfway through the book, Bernard is phased out in favor of him, at which point Thomas disappears completely after a startling revelation.
  • The story of The Pillars of the Earth is told from the POV of 5 characters, one of them a villain.
  • In Tunnel in the Sky, Caroline takes over for Rod as the POV character, via her diary, while he's scouting for a new colony site.
  • Good Omens has point of view switch between many different characters, including, but not limited to, Crowley, Aziraphale, Newt Pulsifer, and Anathema Device.
  • Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series loves this trope. For the first couple of books, our four points of view are Tavi, Amara, Fidelias, and Isana, although other characters will sometimes get sections in the prologue. Fidelias disappears for most of book 3, and Ehren takes his place as a point of view character. Fidelias (as Marcus) comes back for book 4, and the rest of the series mainly rotates POV between the five of them, with occasional diversions.
  • Robert Silverberg's The Book of Skulls has 4 PoVs, all first person. He's said that he found getting the voices right and distinct quite difficult. And it wasn't like he was new in the field at the time!
  • The Kane Chronicles do this, switching between Carter and Sadie. As they're both written in first person, they also switch between English dialects - American for Carter, British for Sadie.
  • Robert A. Heinlein does this in The Number of the Beast, with narration switching among the four principal characters (Lazarus Long also gets to narrate a chapter). The epilogue is told in the usual third person.
  • Robin Hobb does this both in The LiveShip Traders and The Rain Wild Chronicles series.
  • Of Fear and Faith is a first-person example of this, with all eight of the main characters getting a chance to be the viewpoint character, occasionally all in the same chapter.
  • In World War pretty much every chapter is a different character from either a different country or from the invading Race itself.
  • In Star Carrier, the chapters switch between the Admiral in charge of the fleet, one of the Starhawk pilots, as well as the aliens humanity is at war with.
  • Elisabet Nemert and Simona Ahrnstedt are two Swedish writers, who will use this all the time.
    • Elisabet Nemert will have a female protagonist, and the novel will be the story of her life. But over the course of the book, we also get to see the perspective of her family members, her friends, her future love interest and even her antagonists.
    • Simona Ahrnstedt will have two protagonists: A woman and a man, who are the central love couple. But just like Elisabet Nemert, Simona will show us the perspective of different family members, friends and even antagonists.
  • First Light: Peter and Thea get alternating chapters.
  • Young Wizards: Nita's POV is in every book, but in the third book, Dairine gets to share some POV. Kit gets to share POV starting in book five. In books seven and eight, the three share PO Vs. In the ninth book, it goes back to just Nita and Kit.
  • The Demonata switches between the three main characters. Grubbs narrates the most books by far though.
  • Edenborn has chapter breaks for Pandora, Haji, Penny, Halloween, and Deuce. The author also uses different writing styles for each.
  • Clocks that Don't Tick is written from the alternating perspectives of Gary, Martha, and Charlemagne. Gary's is the most casual and plebeian, featuring an abundance of contractions, and often times merely implying the subject of a sentence rather than writing it out (ie: Decided to approach him rather than I decided to approach him). Martha's perspective is a little better, though she tends to go on tangents, crazily talk to her imaginary friends, and features occasional grammatical mishaps such as Me and my three friends rather than My three friends and I. Charlemagne's perspective is written the most intelligently, using few contractions and having minimal grammatical errors.
  • Stephen King's Christine. Book I is Dennis: Teenage Car-Songs, told from Dennis Guilder's First-Person Perspective. In Book II, Arnie: Teenage Love-Songs, King switches to an omniscient narrator. Book III, Christine: Teenage Death-Songs, switches back to Dennis's first-person P.O.V.

    Live-Action Television 
  • In the TV series The Event, flashbacks are told from various POVs.
  • Over a longer period, Babylon 5 would do this, with various episodes or story arcs being done primarily from a particular character's point of view, oftentimes nowhere near the titular space station.
  • The My Name Is Earl DVD Bonus Content episode "Bad Karma" (allegedly the first Pilot for the series) starts from Earl's POV, but after Earl dies, it becomes My name is Randy.
    • In one episode of the series proper, there's a sequence telling what happened to some stolen silverware, from the POV of Randy, Joy, Crab Man, and the librarian, each of whom get a "My name is X" line.
  • Boomtown existed for this trope - we would see a crime happen from the perspectives of a number of different people ranging from police officers to victims, suspects and bystanders.

    Visual Novels 
  • Narration (or rather, Blick Winkel's point of view) switches between Takeshi and the Kid in Ever17's prologue, before settling on one of them for the rest of the game. It starts switching again in Coco's route, and in Coco's epilogue it "visits" every character before changing to Blick Winkel's own narration.
  • In Swan Song, the main characters take turns providing first-person narration. It's used to both provide different perspectives and focus on different cast constellations.

    Web Comics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court is predominately shown from Antimony's perspective, but for one particularly Mind Screwy chapter, it switched to Zimmy's perspective without any warning—just as Zimmy was in the middle of a bout of Identity Amnesia. In other words, Zimmy thought she was someone else, so the comic portrayed her as that other person.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, POV switches frequently between characters and Cast Herds, sometimes between dimensions.

    Web Original 
  • Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog focuses on Dr. Horrible/Billy, but "My Eyes" switches between Dr. Horrible narrating how he can't believe how horrible everything is turning, and Penny narrating how everything can get better.
  • Oktober: each chapter is presented through each of the 4 characters' journals in turn.
  • In Unlikely Eden, the two protagonists take turns at narration.
  • And We Slipped Away, which is written from the point of view of a man and his murderer during the few seconds before he dies. The two inner monologues run together mid-sentence to form a continuous narrative.
  • The titular character in Dragomirs Diary usually serves as the narrator, since it's, y'know, his diary. But he'll periodically be incapacitated or kidnapped or otherwise distracted from his writing, and someone else will have to take up the quill for a while. Past narrators have included Dragomir's wife, Dragomir's brother, the prince of Dragomir's home, the queen, a rat, a tarantula, and the diary itself.
  • At the end of series 2 of Phaeton we switch perspectives to Teliha's, Word of God states we will see this happening more in series 3.
  • While Worm's main story is told from Taylor's first-person point of view, the interlude chapters/arcs and the epilogue are told from different characters' perspectives in third-person, giving backstory or filling in parts of the main story that Taylor wasn't present for.


The StorytellerNarrator TropesUndead Author
Super TeamEnsemblesSword and Sorcerer
Stop TrickCut to the IndexTwisted Echo Cut
Story ArcSeries TropesTone Shift
Swiss Army AppendageCharacterization TropesSympathetic Murderer

alternative title(s): Rotating Narrator
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
53043
22