* * *
centered on the page with a blank line above them (before which the first p.o.v. character holds sway, and another blank line below (after which you can switch to a different character's p.o.v.)
The main reason not to change p.o.v. without a break is clarity of story. You don't want to confuse readers by jumping from inside one character's head to inside another's in the same paragraph or flow of paragraphs. And, mushing more than one point of view into a thought-thread can take the reader out of the story and make them take a few moments to figure out which character was thinking what. You really don't want that, because then you've committed the cardinal sin of inserting your authorial voice into the narrative, thereby interfering with the story.
(We're not talking about dialogue, here, btw, which is correctly used to show an exchange of points of view between characters on a page. We're talking about the characters' thoughts being shown as thoughts, not dialogue.)
Below is a paragraph that demonstrates the problem of changing p.o.v. in a paragraph.
"Two hours and half a dozen stops later, Bennett pronounced himself satisfied that Anna was properly equipped. For him, it had been an unexpected pleasure to see the transformation from tough girl to elegant woman. Even for Anna, who declared loudly and often that she hated shopping, it had been good to feel a man's obvious interest and—despite Bennett's facetious way of expressing it—admiration. Unlike Poe, whose flattery had always been delivered word perfect, as though he had memorized lines from the roués phrase book, Bennett's compliments had an unrehearsed, engaging warmth about them, as there was about him generally. At least, whenever he allowed it to show through." (p. 131, Anything Considered by Peter Mayle)
The paragraphs before this one are from Bennett's p.o.v. Does it bother you that both p.o.v.'s are in this paragraph? Before I started writing, it probably would not have bothered me. The writing is good. Mayle's autobiographical novels, A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence, are among my favorites, but I couldn't help noticing that, in this one, there were lots of p.o.v. changes within paragraphs.
I read differently now than I used to.
I've heard it said that great writers can pull off a p.o.v. change without a break. The example usually given is from Lady Chatterly's Lover, when the gardener (the lover) enters the lady's home carrying a basket of apricots. The scene is in his point of view at that point, and as his thoughts are expressed he hands the basket to Lady Chatterly, at which time the p.o.v. changes to hers. Seamlessly.
Where do you stand on this issue?
I really feel closer to the characters when it's told from one POV in a chapter and then alternate the POV in the next chapter. When I see something like your example I feel like I'm more in 3rd person omniscient and don't feel as close to the charactersReplyDelete
Exactly, Natialie. You're experiencing the author's voice in that feeling that it's 3rd-person omniscient. Being closer than that to the characters is what we want as readers.Delete
Linda, it drives me crazy when I'm in one POV and all of the sudden we know what another person is thinking. How do they know what the other person feels or thinks?ReplyDelete
Perhaps is the entire story was that way... I might not have a problem. I can usually keep track. But I think sometimes writers get lazy, and or forget who they're writing about. Do they think we won't notice? Hmmmm
I think THEY don't notice. They're so into the scene in their own heads and so close to the characters that it comes out on the page in a flow of p.o.v.s But we don't know the characters and story so intimately and need to be shown who's thinking what more clearly . . . editing makes such a diff with this sort of thing!Delete
I'm going to agree with Natalie here. MY YA novel is written from two POVs and separated by chapters.ReplyDelete
I love that device of changing pov with chapters, Sheri . . . it's a cool way to show each character intimately, and then bring them together over time or show how their lives intersect or fail to. Congrats on your YA novel!Delete
As a reader and publisher, I prefer authors to switch with a different chapter, or a chapter break (if done right). Switching POV's within the same page and pulling it off is an extremely advanced technique and unless the author has the confidence and ability of say Frank Herbert (Dune) then they shouldn't do it.ReplyDelete
So true, Heather . . . it is an advanced technique!Delete
I think it depends on the story and writing. Sometimes switching POVs doesn't bother me; at other times, I don't like it.ReplyDelete
Makes sense, Lydia. Goes to skill, like just about everything in writing.Delete
I don't like head hopping, I get confused... although it doesn't take much to confuse me :)ReplyDelete
Some authors pull it off, but when reading, I prefer dedicated chapters to voices.
So interesting, Charmaine--several commenters have stated a preference for dedicated chapters. I like that, too, although I usually have no problem with breaks within a chapter to change pov, But, yes, we're confused enough without head hopping to add to it! :)Delete
We are more rigourous now in what we accept. Some writers in decades past would switch mid-paragraph.ReplyDelete
Good point. We're getting stricter in some ways. Kind of too bad in a way, as the point sometimes seems to be to make the reader think lessDelete
Interesting topic, thank you for sharing. I hear this a lot, that readers want to have alternating POV chapters, and don't like the head hopping however as a reader myself, I prefer either just one POV (and not first person, usually, and with omni narrator there as well) or am happy for the jumping around as I like to read from afar and feel like I have an overview of what's happening to everyone (this has to be balanced, though, against the problems of 'over-population'). I also tend to write this way, as if I am hovering above my characters, not inhabiting them. Some see this as a weakness or a problem but I see it as the way I like to write and if it doesn't work, then I'll try harder to make it work this way without resorting to what I see as something easier. I see the one chapter in Joe's voice, the next chapter in Jess's as contrived and basic but I think it works better in certain genres than say literary.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Melba. I agree that it differs by genre, and also think by writer. How a person writes overall has an impact on whether we can or want to follow multiple pov's on the same page.Delete