Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Switching POV

I'm currently reading The Year of the Flood: A Novel by Margaret Atwood.

First - I love the book. I downloaded the first chapter, for free, on my Kindle, and only made it part way through before I decided to buy the complete book. The only other book I ever read by her is A Handmaid's Tale - excellent read, if you haven't already read the book.

The book takes place from two perspectives so far. Fine. Dandy. Good.

The book takes place from two different points of view: first person and third person.

WTH!

Okay, this is jarring for me. I don't know why, it just is. So, my question: do you switch from different points of views in your projects?

If yes - why??

If no - why??

I know, I'm not making it easy on my followers and lurkers this close to Christmas, or whatever holiday they might celebrate.

Personally, I don't think this switch in points of view takes anything away from the novel. It's still good, gripping, and makes me want to keep reading. The switch just always makes me pause and go huh before I start reading again.

I'm just wondering why an author would do the multiple point of view thingy, especially since the transition is always a bit bumpy. Any thoughts?

S

14 comments:

Robyn Campbell said...

Scott my friend, I hear where you are coming from. This has to be done right. I have never switched pov. I do have two perspectives in my MG novel, because it has to be told that way.

But switching POV must be done with the utmost precision. It seems to me, if it jars you, then it is not done with care. And it is hard to do.

When I first began writing, I did it all the time. :) Not on purpose though.

Does the story need to be written this way? Could it have been told in third person or first person exclusively?

The only thing I can think of as to why she would write it this way, is she felt like it HAD to be told like that. Like it could NOT be read any other way. And I hope she pulled it off. I wonder though. I'll have to read it and see. :)

Tess said...

It takes some talent to pull of rule breaking things and she clearly has that

but I don't.

No way I could pull something like that off, so I don't even try. I'd confuse myself too much, let alone any potential reader ;)

btw, loved Handmaidens Tale

Jody Hedlund said...

Wow! I've never heard of that being done! I think it would be totally jarring. I personally think we need to keep our readers in our stories and that we need to smooth out anything that bumps them out of it. Just MHO.

Michelle said...

That's such a tough question. I stick to one POV unless I'm in an early draft. I'll often try different POV's to see what is working best. But I think MG usually needs a single POV to keep the readers from becoming confused.

I read a book that was in the MC's POV for about 150 pages and then switched between all the different characters. Sometimes it switched from one paragraph to another, not just at chapter breaks. I found it jarring. I was like, "Hey, how did we suddenly get in her boyfriend's head?"

If the POV changes are consistent throughout the book, they can work when done well.

Charlie said...

First, I'll never board the Kindle Bus because reading on a screen makes my eyes bleed.

I haven't written in multiple POV's yet. (At least, not intentionally - lol) Most of my writing has an omniscient POV, if you remember. Keeping all that straight is the hardest part for me.

ElanaJ said...

I've never done it, but I've read books that have. It didn't bother me. It was chapter by chapter switch, and the two stories took place hundreds of years apart. It actually helped me keep the two stories and the two characters separate. The book? Skin Hunger. Fabulous read.

Scott said...

Robyn - I'm not sure if the story needs to be written this way or not. It's just kind of confusing to go from 'she' to 'I' all the time when shifting from one chapter to the next. The book is excellent, don't get me wrong, it's just that the switch always makes me pause. : )

Jody - I'm with you on keeping the readers in our stories. Margaret Atwood is an accomplished author, and I don't remember her doing this in 'A Handmaid's Tale'. Perhaps she was just experimenting. : )

Tess - Margaret Atwood definitely has talent, and after the initial jarring effect, the reading (i.e. the writing) is great. Perhaps I won't notice the shift as I get further into the book. Perhaps . . .

Michelle - I think the transition from third person to first person is jarring and a bit confusing at times. I really have no idea why she wrote the book in this format. Again, the book is an excellent read, I'd definitely recommend it, I'm just sort of confused with the first/third person thingy, and why she didn't pick just one. : )

Charlie - the Kindle screen is really like reading a paperback - the color, and everything. It's definitely not like reading on a computer screen. : )

Elana - the two perspectives (one in first, the other in third) take place at the same time - just in different parts of the same city. The chapters always begin with the present day and then are broken apart into sections that flashback as many as 10, if not more, years. After reading 20 or so pages in third person, I get to the next chapter and its in first person. So 'she' for the one character suddenly becomes 'I' for the other character. For whatever reason, this trips me up for just a bit and then I'm fine . . . well, as fine as someone with my warped personality can ever be!

S

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

I've read books that do this really, really well...but I sure couldn't!

"Flipped" is a great book, told from two pov's and it's very well done. "The Way He Lived" is told from six pov's and it, also, is fantastic. I'd say, since this bothers you so much, maybe it's not done very well?

I did love The Handmaid's Tale.

Scott said...

Amy - the book is very well written. The POV shifts, at least for me, are jarring and a bit confusing. I've read books with multiple perspectives - as many as 10 or more - and that's fine and dandy because all three perspectives were told from the same POV: third person. I think the switch from third to first is what is bothering me . . . though it might not bother others. : )

Davin Malasarn said...

I've tried stuff like this, but it just never works for me. Although, I've seen it done well. Even if I don't understand WHY an author is doing it, I'm okay with the decision as long as it doesn't bug me. But, it's interesting. William Faulkner does it in Light In August. At first, I didn't get it at all, but later I realized that it made the story feel more grand because it resulted in a sort of combined point of view that worked for the story.

SJDuvall said...

I read a trilogy that went from 1st of one character to 3rd of another. It worked well, but I agree that it has to be done properly.

I'm still trying to master different perspectives within one POV. Guess some writers have it and some don't?

Scott said...

Davin - I don't think I'm brave enough (yet) to try something so daring as different POVs in a story. I can deal with multiple perspectives, but not POVs! : )

S.J. - I think if you limit the # of perspectives it's much easier. I don't think I could do a George R. R. Martin and have 10 or more perspectives within a novel. In a few projects, I've done three perspecs, but I'm gearing down toward just using one any more. It's a lot easier to do just one, though I wouldn't change the multiple perspec format in the projects waiting for revision. :)

Bethany Wiggins said...

I have never read a book that switches from first person to third, nor do ever think I could write one (my own personal weakness, sadly). But if the writer can pull it off, that is an incredible idea! Hope the book is awesome!

Carla Gade said...

Multiple POV is a place I would be never delve. Just keeping track normally is difficult enough for me.