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POV Switches in Writing
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POV Switches in Writing:

So, I'm currently working on a novel that involves a lot of Switching P.O.V., so I was wondering something. How do you guys incorporate it in your writings?

edited 7th Oct '11 7:00:11 PM by SavvyAngel

Shadowed Philosopher
I do a lot of this myself. Usually I try to keep one scene from the perspective of one character, and swap around between scenes. Since I do third-limited, the only real way to tell who's narrating is whose head you can see into at the time. I also sometimes fall into this during fight scenes, occasionally to the point of full third-omniscient, but I'm trying to stop that. tongue
Shinigan (Naruto fanfic)
 3 Marker Mage, Fri, 7th Oct '11 6:54:31 PM from My own little world
World Ends Oct 21, 2011
Since how I'm currently handling POV switches wouldn't work so well outside of the internet, I'll give you some ideas that I thought of and remember seeing elsewhere.

1. Have switches occur between chapters. I remember this being used in some Xanth novels that I've read. You can also have the POV change between pages or even paragraphs instead, but chapters are a division that is more recognized by readers, and so they can accept things like POV switching, time skips, and the like happening between chapters more readily.
2. After the POV switch, describe the events before the switch again, but from the new POV. This helps the reader realize that a POV switch has occurred instead of a time skip. I've also seen this used in the Xanth novels.
3. If you can manage it, a change in font can provide a subtle clue to a difference in narrator, whether the change be the color, style, use of bold, or use of italics. This would work best with a small number of points of view so that the reader can learn to associate each variety with a particular view.\
Thinking of ideas to use with a literary work that is meant to be WikiWalked through.
 4 Ronka 87, Fri, 7th Oct '11 8:13:49 PM from the mouth of madness.
Maid of Win
I wouldn't use 3 personally— it seems a bit gimmicky. I've seen it done, though, so it's up to you.

Some other ways:

Narrative voice— The personality of the narrator. Easiest to show with a 1rst person POV, but other narrators can have personality. The narrator's language and outlook can indicate who's speaking.

Situational clues— Hints in the text that point to who's speaking. If the last chapter ended with Freddy falling down a well, and the next chapter starts with someone bored at a tea party, we can deduce it's probably not Freddy. If the same scene is playing out from two POVs, you can use stuff from the previous POV to establish who the new POV is. (Doing the same scene from two POVs seems kind pointless, though— you'd just end up repeating information.)

Plainly telling the reader— You can start chapters with "Molly's Diary, " or "Sam, " or some other device (year, place, etc.), and most of the time, people will just get the info and move on. It's cheap, but simple and effective.

When I switch POV, I always use a break— either chapter or section breaks. (As ^ said, chapters work better because they're a natural switching point.) One thing to avoid is using multiple POVs in one scene. It's confusing and cheap— don't do it.

edited 7th Oct '11 8:15:08 PM by Ronka87

Thanks for the all fish!
Shadowed Philosopher
I haven't actually written this bit yet, but I'm thinking of having a future piece of Shinigan be written in sections that cut back and forth between two groups of characters, with wildly different narrative style for each (basically, one is usual writing, other is bare dialogue). Yet to see if it'll work.
Shinigan (Naruto fanfic)
 6 Teraus, Fri, 7th Oct '11 9:33:18 PM from The Origin of Dreams
Awesome Lightning Mantra
I also only switch POVs in new chapters (though I believe there's exactly one exception). I try to change the vocabulary slightly and add certain quirks. For example, one of the narrators tends to ask a lot of questions to herself.

edited 7th Oct '11 9:33:35 PM by Teraus

"You cannot judge a system if your judgement is determined by the system."
 7 Night, Sat, 8th Oct '11 12:56:57 PM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
I used to divide by chapters.

Now I deal with third-person limited instead and simply switch focus character.
"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
Ecce Homo Superior
I switch between scenes (or chapters), never in the middle of a scene. It kind of depends on the story, though. In one of my novels I had only two viewpoint characters, and gave each of them whole chapters.
(it's David Bowie)
 9 feotakahari, Sat, 8th Oct '11 3:40:58 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Some of this depends on the nature of the switch—for instance, the only good use I've seen of font-switches to designate POV switches has been in scrapbook stories (to show different "handwriting.")

I'd also like to say that I have seen multiple POV-switches in a single scene done well. In particular, I remember a love story where, when the lovers consummated their relationship, the viewpoint switched back and forth faster and faster.

edited 8th Oct '11 3:43:29 PM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
I only write first-person, and I simply indicate a change in narrator by putting their name in parentheses at the head of the chapter. Techniques like making different characters narrate in different styles are excellent, but not sufficient — you normally can't spot that it's a new narrator immediately (unless she refers to the previous narrator by name, but you don't always have reason to do this) and it's annoying for the reader to get a couple of paragraphs into a new chapter and only then realise it's a different person narrating. And why would you want to annoy your reader?

 11 Noir Grimoir, Sun, 16th Oct '11 6:13:05 PM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
I personally hate with a deep-seeded passion when writers do multiple first person narratives in a story. Honestly, to me, it feels really lazy and weird and defeats the entire point of writing in first person to begin with. And changing narrators is awkward always, there's no smooth way to do it, the best you can hope for is consistency. The only instance where multiple first person views makes any sense is if the story is made up of various text entries, like letters, diary entries or similar things of that nature, rather than a linear story.

A lot of people write in first person because they find it easier for them, or they think they are wittier when writing first person, (here's a hint, they probably aren't). If you want to do multiple viewpoints of different characters, just do third person. Seriously. There is nothing that multiple first-person can do that third-person can't. There isn't even anything first person can do that third person can't, it just makes a little more sense for long introspective narrations to be in first person, we tend to pay more attention to them that way. First person is also really good for Magical Realism and Mind Screw type stuff where we aren't supposed to know if something is real or not (Unreliable Narrator and whatnot). And of course introducing another narrator in those situations would ruin this effect entirely.

edited 16th Oct '11 6:14:20 PM by NoirGrimoir

SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
Okay, I'm going to pick apart the above post piece by piece, and I hope you understand it's not because I'm angry you disagreed with me, it's because I want to carefully explain why I think you're wrong.

You don't say what you think "the entire point of writing in first person" actually is. For me, it's the deep-seated (not "seeded") immersion in a character, making yourself see the world as she sees it and tell it as she would tell it. This is a difficult skill, one of the hardest (but ultimately most rewarding) parts of writing. So it's a little hurtful to see using multiple first-person narrators described as "lazy" — because if done properly, if you create each narrator's voice and truly get inside their perspective, then making yourself do this multiple times within a story is giving yourself a lot more work to do.

I would guess that you meant "lazy" in plot-structural terms: a first-person narrator can only relate scenes they witnessed, so switching narrators is a "cheap" way to let the reader know about important events without having to restructure your plot to make sure the narrator witnesses everything. While true, I'd say again that the interest of getting to see things from a different character's perspective and getting to know that character from the inside, if written well, should outweigh this. Ultimately, it's the characters, not the plot, that make a story.

There is, of course, the problem with the "device" — how you justify multiple first-person narratives existing within a single text. You could have an epilogue explaining that the "primary" narrator (if there is one — in my works there always is) has compiled texts written by the other characters. However, I hold that since first-person narrative is an artificial device anyway (no-one actually remembers action, let alone conversation, in the level of detail required for a narrative) there's no reason multiple narrators should be any less acceptable than a single one. You, the author, are pretending your characters are talking. The reader knows this. What more is to be said?

I agree that switching narrators is never smooth, which is why I always do it over a chapter break, where you have a discontinuity anyway.

As for your last point, it's true that there is nothing first-person can do that third-person can't... but the converse is true as well, so that's hardly a valid reason to choose between them. Ultimately it's an aesthetic choice (well, novel-writing is an art form, so is that a surprise?). I prefer first-person because it gives me that sense of immersion and strong focus on a particular character. (Of course a third-person narrative can also focus on one character, but not quite to the same extent; even in something like Harry Potter, the use of third-person gives you the sense that the world is what we're mainly interested in and Harry's character is primarily there to give us a viewpoint on it.) In a first-person narrative, the main character has to be interesting, likable and complex enough to "carry" the story, but if she is, then that automatically gives me a reason to be interested and involved.

 13 JHM, Mon, 17th Oct '11 9:54:54 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Like Night, I have a fondness for third-person limited. It gets the job done rather nicely, methinks, when it comes to this sort of thing.

How I actually go about switching is a bit different, though.

edited 17th Oct '11 9:55:42 AM by JHM

Pro-Freedom Fanatic
Divide by chapters. Switching POV from paragraph to paragraph without clear indication is jarring and obnoxious.

edited 17th Oct '11 3:55:24 PM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 15 chihuahua 0, Mon, 17th Oct '11 6:47:39 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
I'm actually thinking of doing two 1st person views for a sequel of a book, since having the new narrator in 3rd person doesn't do her any justice (it would end up being a not-so-omniscient narrator who makes up words and frequently dip in and out the character's thoughts), and making the original narrator 3rd person would be...strange. And both are needed to convey the entire story without using a ton of second-hand.

But one reason I want two narrators so they can bounce off each other. They pass the POV like a ball, sniping at each other. One's snarky, and one's energetic yet outspoken, which should be a little fun to write. Oh, I'll probably make the switches easier by having the narrator echo the previous narrator's words. ("It's not like anything could happen." "Something happened.")

But it's far in the future, so I have time to decide.


Hmm...I heard there are authors who can switch POV by paragraph very craftily. I wonder who does that and gets critical proclaim for it?

edited 17th Oct '11 6:48:33 PM by chihuahua0

Ecce Homo Superior
I can see multiple first persons working well when used for some sort of specific purpose; otherwise, I'd advise against it. Multiple first person is so rare that I don̈́'t know if I've ever read it, though, done well or otherwise.
(it's David Bowie)
I've scene it done well a handul of times. Tom Perrotta's Election did a great job of it. And then there was Will Grayson Will Grayson, which worked, too.

Multiple first-person is doable, so long as the author knows how to make several distinctive, believable voices.

Honestly, to me, it feels really lazy and weird and defeats the entire point of writing in first person to begin with.
Weird? Sure. But it's hard as hell to do well. I don't think switching POV defeats the purpose of first person narration, unless the reader still doesn't have a clear grasp of what is going on through the character's mind as the narration continues. Hell, first person POV that constantly switches around can provide for a very insightful, and sometimes confusing read.

I rarely do it, but when I do, I make it clear that it's going to happen, and give the two viewpoints wildly different methods of speech.

Grin and bear it
I always use one P.O.V. per chapter. No reason to bounce it around between scenes or within a chapter; that's just garbles things way too much.
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Total posts: 19
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