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The issue of POV
black shirt, Giane
brit_columbia
One issue I finally realized that I have as a writer is that I'm a POV-hopper. Betas have gently tried to point this out to me in the past, but it never really sank in before. I guess I didn't think it was a bad thing. I tend to jump back and forth between Dee and Ryo's POV many times during a scene. Sometimes I'll go several pages or paragraphs in one viewpoint before switching and other times I'll switch after only one paragraph. I also occasionally go into one of the minor character's heads so that we can learn about something that's going on in the story that Ryo and Dee wouldn't have access to, or to show a scene or a person from another angle. For example, it's fun for me to go into Bikky's or Detective Greenspan's head and have them think thoughts about Dee and Ryo that would surprise our boys or make them uncomfortable! But mostly I stay with Dee and Ryo's POV.

Personally, I still enjoy doing this, even though I have recently been trying to mend my ways. I love having Dee say something as I reveal his feelings in a separate sentence or two and then having Ryo respond while I reveal his feelings. I've re-read chapters and short stories I've written to examine my POV habits, and in my own personal opinion, the multiple Dee/Ryo viewpoint switches don't detract from the story.  But as I said, that's my opinion about my work. I think most writers are biased either positively or negatively about their own work. For all I know, my readers gnash their teeth and roll their eyes every time I jump out of Dee's head and into Ryo's!

From now on in my FAKE fics, I'm going to make an effort to stay in one character's POV longer than I usually do. I mostly succeeded with  . I wrote part one in Dee's POV and part two in Ryo's with a switch back to Dee's at the very end. I did exactly the same thing a long time ago in  , but at that time, I was just doing it as an exercise. It hadn't yet occurred to me that frequent POV-hopping might be annoying!

When I'm reading and not writing, my all-time favorite POV is first person. I would have to say that 80% of the books that have had the most impact on me in my life, books that I still remember and think about even though it has been years or decades since I last read them, were written in first person POV. I wrote one Fake story in first person:  . It was my first Fake fic. I didn't do it again, however, because so many people out there online rant about how much they hate first person! No one actually complained about my use of first person, but I thought complaints might start pouring in if I continued, so I gave up on using that POV. After all, I wanted people to like my fics and enjoy reading them, not run away screaming!

I don't understand why so many people hate first person. I mean, I can understand if a POV style is out of fashion and is currently not being encouraged by publishers, but I don't understand the rants and the strong feelings of readers. Is first person somehow more irritating when done badly than third person is when done equally badly? To me, bad is bad and good is good, no matter the POV.

I've been reading about third person limited and omniscient POV. I actually wrote one FAKE story in omniscient POV, but I haven't yet published it. It was a totally different writing style for me. It's the POV where the writer is actually more of a narrator who is in everyone's head and knows everyone's thoughts, feelings and opinions, but remains distinct from them and keeps a distance. This style also creates more of a distance between the characters and the reader, too. It's not really my style to create distance, though. I like to bring the reader (and myself, of course) right into the room with the characters, or even better-- right onto the edge of the bed!

Because the stories in my FAKE First Year Together series tend to be huge, sprawling epics with multiple plot threads, I need to use multiple third person in a subjective rather than objective style, which is different from omniscient POV.

What are your feelings about POV in general? And have you been annoyed or jolted by my POV hopping? It's okay to tell me if you have! As I have said many times before, I am sincerely interested in getting better as a writer. It's only been recently that I have actually given any thought to my shortcomings in the area of POV.

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I like your stories, I've got them bookmarked and I remember your name (trust me, that's major). I'm 'okay' with point of view switches if there's just something that lets me know its switched. I hate reading several sentences than suddenly realizing its not who I think it is.

And I'm one of those who hate first person to the point of sometimes refusing to read a story if it starts off with "I....". However, I've always figured that was my personal quirk, not one to apply to everyone. Afterall, if we weren't all different, we'd ll write the same stories.

Thank you! It gives me a really good feeling to know you like my stories and remember my name.

I also hate reading several sentences and then realizing I'm picturing the wrong person. I never thought about it from a POV aspect, though. I thought it was as issue of the author not being able to make the characters' voices distinct enough, which can be a challenge when two or more characters are similar to each other. Now that I'm finally thinking about POV, I'm going to pay much more attention to it whenever I'm reading any kind of fiction.

Why exactly do you hate first person POV? Do you feel the same whether it's well-written or badly-written? Does it take you out of the story in some way? Is it too intimate?

For me, and speaking as a reader, first person takes me more deeply into the story than other POV styles. Even if the main character is a totally different person from me, I somehow take on that identity and become the person who's telling the story.

I'm not sure why I don't like first person POV but I think its because I find it limited. I like to know everything that is happening and with first person you only know what they know. I don't have a problem getting close to the character in the stories. Not only do I tend to "movie" it in my mind, even stupid regency romances can make me cry. I identify WAY too much with the hero in the story unless they are bad or too useless.

I like first person when the character voice is very clear. When he or she-- for lack of another word-- has personality. My favorite series are in first person. Adrien English, Sookie Stackhouse from Southern Vampire series, and Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files. I like the mystery element of it. I don't know what the other characters are thinking and I get to guess by the author's description.

If there is a dramatic or romantic scene, I like guessing about what the other characters are thinking based on their words and body language. Since that's what we all do in real life, it makes the story feel more real to me. In romance stories, I prefer to stay in the main protagonist's head for a good chunk of the story while he's working toward falling for other guy. If I know right away the other guy is crazy about the protagonist, it is less compelling. I'd rather the author show me how the other guy is falling for the protagonist rather than jump in his head and hear his thoughts.

I think there is more leeway in an established relationship fic. Dee and Ryo are already on equally footing. We know how they feel about each other. Creative writing books will tell you one POV per chapter, but I don't see a problem with one POV per scene and always remembering there exceptions to every rule. A short minor character POV moment can be great for bringing in humor or needed information. I can think of several you have done that I really enjoyed in this series. :)

Edited at 2010-08-22 11:08 pm (UTC)

I like guessing about what the other characters are thinking based on their words and body language. Since that's what we all do in real life, it makes the story feel more real to me.

Well, I think you just explained to me exactly why I like first person so much. I didn't really know why until I read this!

And yes, very good point about the leeway in established relationships. We already know the two characters are crazy about each other, so there's no need to be coy.

From now on I'm going to try (and I may not always be successful) to keep to one POV per scene. A chapter is too long, especially my insanely long chapters. Hmm. Long chapters are another little problem I ought to address.

Thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it.

I don't mind POV-hopping, when it's clear who's POV you're in. Generally, because you're using third person, I can easily tell which one you're focusing on. Plus, I enjoy your stories very much, and I'm capable of very easily switching from one mindset to another. When I read a story that hops POV, I adapt to it easily, until it's just another part of the story.

I write fics of my own (mostly one-shots lately, though, 'cause I don't have time for anything longer), and sometimes I'll switch POV. It doesn't seem to bother the people who read my stories, but occasionally, I find that I do have to make some sort of effort to remain in a single POV during a scene.

So, to answer the question, POV-hopping isn't something that I really pay attention to unless it gets confusing on who's who. You stories are easy to tell apart, so it's fine the way it is. ^__^

Thanks for the feedback. POV-hopping doesn't bother me either, which is probably why I've been doing it for so many years and never really 'got' what the problem was when other people talked about it. But apparently it's a real no-no in the publishing industry, so if I expect to ever publish something original, I'd better get the POV thing under control.

Thanks for enjoying my stories! I'm really so grateful that people enjoy them, since I'm more or less driven to write them.

I've been chided for it before, though I see absolutely nothing wrong with it when it serves the purpose of walking several characters through long, complex plot - just like A New Day. Without the crisscrossing plotlines and gaps in each character's knowledge, you wouldn't have a story!

That's what's suitable for your story, though, and for others it may not be so appropriate. An extremely internal conflict is usually best addressed through first-person, or at least limited third-person. They're the best windows into the soul of our protagonist, but you're assuming a liability that you can't break away to explain the action in some other scene. Rowling wrote all the Potter books strictly from his POV, minus the first chapter of each book, which was really quite impressive considering all that went on in her plots.

On no less than two occasions, I've written stories in which the protagonist didn't know the names of the other important characters around him and never did learn them, and in a situation like that first-person is pretty much a must. Funny to think that people out there hate it. It's never occurred to me to prefer a POV style. Like you said, good is good. In the world of fanfic, one can't be picky.

The only thing I'll frown on is headhopping right in the middle of a scene. It's distracting. I'll be reading along and nodding as characters X and Y interact, and suddenly I'm reading things that X should have never known or certainly didn't have the personality to be describing as such, and then I'm all "huh?", and I have to backtrack and figure out that we're in Y's head now and that's why things felt strangely out of character. So, a line break and a definite transition from one character to another is appreciated. And once you've moved, stay moved. No banging back and forth like a ping-pong ball.

Hi Peacewish! Thanks for weighing in. When I started writing, I didn't know a damn thing about POV, or even writing, really. All I knew about writing was from what I had experienced as a reader. I didn't pay attention to specific techniques. I think I had written at least ten chapters of A New Day, plus assorted one-shots before I ever picked up a how-to book on the subject of writing. I remember feeling pleased that I was already instinctively doing most of the things the book said to do. I didn't even read the book. I just skimmed through it and then left it in the library. In fact, to date, the only book on writing that I have ever read all the way through was Josh Lanyon's helpful Man Oh Man-- How to write M/M Fiction For Kinks & Cash.

So I'm somewhat belatedly considering writing techniques and wondering why some things work and others don't. I find that love scenes between two people of the same sex flow much better in first person because you don't have to deal with the overuse of first names or the potential confusion from having to use exactly the same pronouns to refer to both people. But I suppose first-person haters would disagree with me!

I have definitely been guilty of head hopping multiple times within a single scene! I used to think it was okay if I withdrew to a 'neutral' POV between visits to people's heads, but sometimes I didn't do even that.

I think this is a fixable problem, even though I feel restricted by not being able to head-hop to my heart's content anymore. Sometimes I have a really funny or poignant line that I want to share, but it's Ryo's thought and I'm in Dee's POV. This is just something I'm going to have to get used to.

Thanks again.

I have to say I've enjoyed your stories, I think exactly because of the POV-hopping. Of course it can be confusing to hop from one person's view in first line to anothers in the next, so perhaps it could be best to stay in one POV for an entire chapter. I'll read your new chapter than think about it. :=) I just came to "thank" you for posting my f-list full of stories when I opened my laptop just to work.. (well, who exactly opens her lj if she wants to work??) thanks!

Hiya Twiyah! I had to laugh when I read your last line. I'm speaking as a person who should be studying right now. Even though I had an exam yesterday, my new module opened today. But who checks her LJ if she wants to study?

Thank you for your feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed the POV hopping of my stories since there are so many of them in existence and it's too late to change them all now!

All I can do is try to be better from now on. In the FAKE First Year Together series, I'm going to have to stay in multiple third person because I have so many characters all interacting together, but I think I can at least slow down my head-hopping and not do it quite so frequently. I don't think I can stay on one POV per chapter unless I start writing dramatically shorter chapters! For now I'm going to see if I can stick to one POV per scene.

Ugh, obviously I meant "then", not than. Why is writing english so much more difficult than speaking it, anyway?

Again, I should, should definitely, be writing this paper (in english), and here we go again.. :D

Sometimes when you switch perspectives very often I think about you, how you were writing the scene. :D But that's not distracting in a bad way.
I also hope oftentimes that the POV will change soon, because I necessarily need to know what Ryo or Dee think in precisely this moment.
Because I equally love Dee and Ryo I always want to know what they're both thinking. And the little inserts of the side-charakters thoughts are making the story more varied (or funny, in Bikkys case).
If you leave more space between the changes of POV, it increases the suspense about what the other person is thinking. You did that very well in the doughnut-story, for example. But if you ask me, just continue writing the way you're doing now. :) The POV-hopping is still something I especially like at your stories.

About First Person: I think many people don't like it, because the author always puts a little bit of him- or herself in the story, I guess it's impossible not to do it. That's why a little distance is necessary.
Imagine a 14-years old teenage girl that puts her pubertal problems into the thoughts of a grown up gay man. That's worse than if it was written third person. The difference is, when written in first person, the author claims to know what exactly the characters are thinking. But this is impossible because we can never really know the way people are thinking, that have a different gender, grew up under different conditions etc. It just can't reach perfection, even if done very well, like you do.

Third person, even if the author stands very close behind his characters, is like he's knowing them very well and therefore has the right to tell the readers what they are thinking. If the characters are well-thought-out, they are authentic and the readers will most likely enjoy the stories. But if there is something that doesn't fit, if it's unrealistic or even if there's just one little detail that doesn't match the readers own ideas of something, there's still the possibility that the author has guessed the thoughts of his charakters wrong without touching the characters themself. Like a cushion.

I'd also enjoy a first person story from you, but I'd still like it better in the way you usually write. In Keep It Down I was a little distracted by the thought that Ryo would never write down a sex scene in his diary so detailed and using bad words. :)

I wonder if this was too much criticism. You know that I really, really love all of your stories, don't you? :)

Please don't worry about me and criticsm. I'm not upset at all; in fact, I'm flattered that you cared enough to write me such a detailed comment. I'm actually pretty confident, rightly or wrongly, about my writing. I feel I can do the main thing, which is to use my imagination to tell a story, and all the other things are really just techniques which can be acquired.

You said this: But if there is something that doesn't fit, if it's unrealistic or even if there's just one little detail that doesn't match the readers own ideas of something, there's still the possibility that the author has guessed the thoughts of his charakters wrong without touching the characters themself. Like a cushion. I thought that was an excellent and very apt description of why people seem to prefer third person to first person. It's the cushion, the margin for error that is allowed! I never would have figured that own on my own, not in a million years.

You also made a very telling point about Keep It Down and Ryo writing about sex with Dee in pornographic detail in his journal! I actually agree with you that Ryo would never write such a thing in his diary where it might be read by others. I haven't read that story for a really long time. It was the first FAKE fic I wrote, and, newbie that I was, I wrote it in my favorite first person POV.

I haven't given up on writing first person POV FAKE fics altogether, though. I actually wrote one in Dee's POV on a plane trip to Turkey in 2006, but I wrote it in pencil in a notebook that I haven't seen for a while. Someday I'll find it and type it into my computer and publish it.

But you're right, it definitely doesn't fit Ryo's character to have him writing about sex. If I ever write first person from Ryo's POV again, it will have to be a totally lemonless story!

Thank you so much for giving me your thoughts and opinions. I truly appreciate your honesty and feedback.

Honestly, I enjoy your POV-hopping. I've never particularly noticed it as jarring or confusing, and I think it tells a more complete story than we would get from looking through just one or two character's eyes. It works for you because you can keep your characters' voices distinct from each other, but I've read fanfics (and even published novels!) where the author just runs everything together, making it impossible to tell who's eyes we're looking through, and that annoys the holy living shit out of me. Especially when it's a published author, because they should freakin' know better.

I think that people get so riled up about first person because we all have a fixed idea in our heads about what a character would "sound" like, and when that idea isn't met, then people start ranting about "poor characterization" and "not being true to [fill in the blank]." First person is a very intimate style of storytelling, and, especially in bigger fandoms, it's more or less impossible to please everyone.

I don't see much of a problem, so long as the story is good.
(Good story is good regardless. Bad isn't worth the imagination spent thinking it up, let alone writing it down.)

While it could be a bit confusing in some cases (namely, when we're firmly entrenched in a characters head, and don't expect to be yanked out all of a sudden without the slightest warning, thank you very much!) with large complex plots involving multiple characters out doing separate and VERY important things, it is rather a necessity, and thus isn't too hard to delineate the switching povs.

I'll read the chapters later once I'm better... rested, not at work, and not ready to break something over the head of the next person who nags.

I think that frequent POV-switching can be done smoothly or jarringly. Even though it's apparently a no-no, I think it occasionally works out. I'm still considering this whole issue and wondering what I can get away with!

I'm sorry you have to work with persons who nag.

Probably a fair lot, by your readers consent- you know we love you.

And nagging is a given- I work for the tech department at a private school. Start of term is coming up, students are trickling in for preseason stuff and demand their computers be configured for the network.
If it gets really horrible I'm going to tell them to go to Helen Waite. ;D



I enjoy reading different POVs as long as I don't get lost and start to wonder who is saying what? I never noticed, or at least I never thought of it as an issue, with rotating POVs.

The only thing that annoys me occasionally is when the character POV gets too wordy with their 'thoughts' in addition to their dialogue. Do you know what I mean? Perhaps I should say 'asides' rather than thoughts. I like to know what characters are thinking. I also LOVE to feel what a character is feeling.

I recently read a post about telling vs. showing. I'm not even sure what that means but it was a problem for one particular reader.

I probably will have more comments after processing your post a bit more thoroughly.

Thanks, Brit!

*hugs*

I never noticed rotating POVs until now, either! I absolutely never thought about it. Even when betas were trying to get me to think about it. It took an embarrassingly long time for their hints to sink in.

I agree about a character getting too wordy with their thoughts. I have occasionally been known to do that myself, but not too often. I think I did it about three times in A New Day when Ryo was exploring his feelings at length.

I once read a book by Guy Gavriel Kaye called A Song For Arbonne. He created a wonderful alternative-history medieval world, full of amazing characters, but he had a really bad habit of doing that whole lengthy inner monologue thing with the characters' inner thoughts. He interrupted all the exciting action at a jousting contest not once, but TWICE to take me, the annoyed reader, off on a long wandering ramble into the character's thoughts and memories. I could have smacked him over the head with that big heavy book of his! He's still writing and still getting published and may still be doing that, for all I know. He irritated me so much with A Song For Arbonne that I decided never to give him the opportunity to do it again.

I don't mind POV switching as long as I can keep up with who the viewpoint character is without much thought.

First person is okay too as long as it's not paired with present tense. Some of the best Noir is done first person.

The problems with it are that if you are writing fanfic you have to absolutely nail the characterizations or it really shows up and if it's an original fic you have to have a compelling character who can hold the reader's interest.

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