Complete novice—help with POV

(18 Posts)
Dobble Fri 16-May-14 14:46:19

All I know about books is by reading them, so I've got lots of questions. Can I ask one about POV in a children's book please?

I understand that you should write from one character's POV consistently. How does that work if you need to tell parts of the story where he/she isn't there? For example in a Famous Five type book without one particular central character who's in every scene. I suppose said scene could be written when the incident is mentioned to the central character, but that could get tedious in a full book. Even in the Harry Potter books, said to be from Harry's POV, there are scenes with Voldemort and his gang etc that Harry wasn't privy to. So I don't really understand the rule.

kungfupannda Fri 16-May-14 15:52:01

There's something called psychic distance which is how deep in a character's head you are.

With 1st person, you will always be as deep as you can be, but with third person, there are different depths at which you can be.

Deep third person is when you're inside the viewpoint character's head deeply enough to be aware of his every thoughts and feeling. You can also be less deeply in the viewpoint, and get only a glimpse of his thoughts. You can also pan in and out to some extent.

In Harry Potter, you effectively have an omniscient narrator (someone outside the main character, looking in on everything that's going on, like a gods-eye view) creeping in, for the scenes with Voldemort, although aren't they all shown through Harry's psychic link with Voldemort? So effectively an extension of the viewpoint character's POV?

Omniscient narrator is rather out of fashion at the moment. Most single viewpoint books will only show what the main character experiences himself.

Dobble Sat 17-May-14 16:19:48

Thank you. I didn't know these term so I've been googling a lot.

The Famous Five is a good example of multiple points of view. The narrative POV switches continually between the five central characters, including the dog. However, you're always seeing the action from someone's perspective - you never get the view of someone outside the narrative.

Thinking about it, this is also true of Harry Potter - you're always seeing the story from the perspective of someone in it, but that perspective changes often.

So based on two of the most successful children's authors of all time, I'd say multiple viewpoints is fine, but omniscient narrators probably not so much. smile

schmalex Sun 18-May-14 00:24:02

Multiple viewpoints are fine, the key thing is to make sure you are consistent within a scene or chapter. So, no 'headhopping' within a scene. Make sure you are always clear whose POV you're writing from at any particular time.

Dobble Mon 19-May-14 10:07:57

Thank you. Very useful to know as I cannot do it with just one view.

KimSlazinger Mon 19-May-14 11:28:56

F Scott Fitzgerald hops around different heads all the time. Within chapters and everything. Okay that was a long time ago but I personally think it works fine.

schmalex Mon 19-May-14 19:00:20

That's true Kim, but that style is a bit out of fashion these days.

ImperialBlether Thu 29-May-14 18:59:16

Dobble, could you head each chapter with a character's name and tell that part of the story from his/her point of view? That makes it clear to the child who's talking at that point.

Dobble Sat 31-May-14 14:03:24

Imperial - It is not easy to do that in my story, and I don't want to write in the first person. Also, my target age group is 7 to 11 and I don't think that kind of thing is done there. I was reading this and feel confused about point 9. How can every story be told from just the POV of one character?

I think I'll go with what previous posters have said and jump viewpoints when strictly needed. Otherwise there's too much "tell" going on.

ImperialBlether Sat 31-May-14 15:16:03

It wouldn't have to be first person though, just from that person's POV.

I remember what irritated me most as a child when reading was when it was in one person's POV and then just one little thing would be in another POV. I think there should be some sort of consistency.

ImperialBlether Sat 31-May-14 15:20:01

About that article (which I thought was OK, actually) - he's got a point. I like to read a book and know who's POV it is. I'm happy if that changes every chapter or section.

In your story, who is affected most by the action? Whose story is it?

Dobble Sat 31-May-14 17:41:22

The Famous Five example is the nearest I can think of. I have started writing it from one person's viewpoint, but there are a couple of places later on where one or two of the other characters are on their own and the story need to be told then rather than it being related by them after.

kungfupannda Sat 31-May-14 18:36:18

The thing is, every story has to be a journey of discovery of some sort. Your main character really should grow and change, or discover something about themselves in the course of the book.

And you want the reader along for that journey. If the reader knows something that the man character doesn't, and which explains something that the MC doesn't yet understand, the reader is a step or two ahead, and that can weaken the bond between reader and character.

Is there no way for your MC to learn about these other things that are going on? That's probably more satisfying for the reader.

Are the Harry Potter books really from more than one viewpoint? I just flicked through a couple of them, and I can't see anything that doesn't come via Harry - he sees memories, dreams, visions etc, but I can't see anything that is shown to the reader, but not to Harry.

The films head-hop, but I'm not sure the books do.

I suppose the exception to all this is if you want the reader to be aware of some danger that your main character is blundering into, but I think one viewpoint is generally the way to go.

Guilianna Sat 31-May-14 20:23:33

Imo the best way to solve these dilemmas is by writing the book and tackling them as you go.

ImperialBlether Sun 01-Jun-14 15:52:33

The thing is that if something happens to us (which is basically how we want someone to read a story) then we don't know what's ahead of us. If we walk into the haunted house, we don't know what's ahead. If our friend is kidnapped, we don't know what's happened to her. In no situation in life do we know what's happening when we're not there, unless the other person's on the phone to us at the time (and even then we don't know whether they are telling the truth/interpreting the situation correctly.)

A reader up to 11 is old enough to cope with that and to want to not know, too.

HP is generally from Harry's POV, but as the series progresses we do occasionally see other people's viewpoints (the scene where the Prime Minister meets Fudge, for example, or quite a lot of scenes in the sub-plot about Draco's secret mission).

There are also quite a lot of scenes where Harry is effectively remote-viewing the scene via the Pensieve or via his connection with Voldemort.

Jo Rowling has said several times in interviews that she would like to go back and do a "Director's Cut" of the later HP books, and I've often wondered if this is one of the things she'd like to find a way to improve.

Dobble Sat 14-Jun-14 10:21:11

Ok I get what people are saying about being with the MC through his/her journey. Like I said, I have no experience so learning along the way. Thank you.

I like what Guilianna says, about just getting on with the writing and solving things along the way.

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