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Characters' viewpoints in scenes.

edited October 2016 in - Writing Problems
Not sure how this works. Going through my chapters, have noticed that sometimes I am 'thinking' from one character's thoughts, and then from another's. Is that acceptable? Think I read somewhere you are only supposed to write from one character's perspective in each scene, but that this could be altered to another's viewpoint in another scene. Correct or not, please?


  • It can be done but it's easy to confuse readers if not done well. Run it past a few people to see if they can follow easily enough.
  • There is nothing wrong with having two different viewpoints in a chapter as long as they're not at the same time- no head-hopping allowed. :)

    A scene can be a little more tricky, unless there's a point within it that changing viewpoint is best and doesn't disrupt everything completely, but I always add another line between one viewpoint ending and the new viewpoint character starting.

    I find I instinctively write from the viewpoint needed for the scene and what's in it. If it should be the wrong vp I quickly realise it.

    How do other TBs handle this?
  • I've seen head hopping done well but I think it has to be used effectively rather than because it's convenient :)
  • Ive seen head hopping done badly and itcan be confusing if not done properly
  • It can remove suspense and tension if readers know what the two characters are thinking. Ditto the comments: if it can't be done well it should be left alone.
  • That's what I was thinking. I don't have the training to do that technique well. So if I just stick to one character's viewpoint, and sometimes alter this to another's in a different scene, would that be acceptable.
  • Baggy, I can see that keeping to the one viewpoint in a crime novel would probably be essential.
  • Does he love me?
    I love her.

    It could be quite fun to write a short story and swap it around.

    Maybe try that, Lydia. See how it works.
  • Thanks, Baggy Books, but I think I'll stick with my book tale. If I stick with one character's POV, in each scene, I shouldn't lose myself in that...
  • sometimes I am 'thinking' from one character's thoughts, and then from another's. I
    There is also a thin dividing line between describing what a character is doing, and the character's viewpoint taking over. The longer you stay with their own actions, the more it seems to start becoming their viewpoint, and not just by what they are thinking, but by what they are seeing as well. When I note this happening, I backtrack to see when we seem to have left a previous viewpoint, and I indent a new paragraph right there. I do this ad infinitum, for the entire text. I also 'meld' the narrator's 'viewpoint' with, say, a character's, and even separate from it again, back to narrator's. New para each and every time. Complex, yes, and pitfalls abound, I know, but it's a similar process to ever-changing camera angles in filming, i.m.o., and it all reads so convincingly when you are getting It right. Worth practicing, definitely.
  • That's quite a grand scenario of writing techniques that I have never been taught, so I am having difficulties understanding the concept. All I can do is continue as I have been writing and offer it up to an evaluator to see what would need improvements, and hopefully get some tips on how to do this if it proves necessary...
  • I also like to re-read after, say, several days, and see whether I can follow where we are and who's viewpoint this is. If I'm unsure, then I didn't do it right, so I correct it with a minor rewrite. All this is my own idea, I'm mostly self-taught, although we did study character's viewpoint and narrator's, at the OU.

    Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to keep to one viewpoint, as suits you. Probably clearer than my methods, and plenty of authors like it, e.g. Charlotte Brontes' central character, Jane Eyre, comes to mind.
  • Yeah, I rthink I would prefer to keep to one character's viewpoint. That way I won't get confused. Should keep the plot tighter that way. Not sure if this is something that would be deemed usual in a book? I tend to just take in the storyline of a novel rather than notice its structure, so haven't noticed the current trends...
  • Yeah, it's pretty standard :)
  • Great news. That makes my writing saleable should I discover the recipe for success..
  • Good writing is the key. Follow the rules, break the rules, make up your own...it doesn't matter as long as the writing is good. As proven by many different authors and genres :)
  • That gives me some hope, but cautiously is how to proceed, as has been recommended by members on this forum..
  • HI Lydia

    I tend to write mainly in the first person but I also use third person for scenes that the main character can't see but the reader needs to know about. It can be a little complicated as you need to make sure you don't accidentally endow the first person protagonist with knowledge they shouldn't have.
  • You've obviously mastered this technique so are able to actioned it skillfully. For someone like me, who has had no real instructions on writing techniques, just developed my creativity through lots of writing, I would suspect I'd lose my thread if I tried that method, so have tended to stick with the one I feel most comfortable with. Think it works, but won't know till I get that important assessment on the draft...
  • ...just developed my creativity through lots of writing...
    That's what we all did :)
  • The one million words that you are supposed to write before you discover your own voice, they say...
  • Going through my chapters, have noticed that sometimes I am 'thinking' from one character's thoughts, and then from another's.
    A couple of years ago, I read how one established British author had written a novel divided into several parts, and each part told the same story, but from a different character's viewpoint every time.

  • Some people have the skill and imagination for that. At this stage of my writing I prefer to stick to the tried and tested formula. Am able to cope with that better..
  • One million words or 10 years of writing, and that kind of shows how long you need to be going to have a chance of getting anywhere.
  • I think I'm well over a million by now. It's an intuitive thing I think, you learn what works for you and what doesn't over time. The biggest change I've noticed as I've written more and more is that I don't stress any more when something isn't working I just move onto another bit and then come back to the sticky bit late. Of course it doesn't mean any of it is any good, writing is very subjective! !
  • I've done amateur writing for almost 30 years now so have done more than one million words. Picking up hints from various people and places along the way. It's a case of 'It's now or never...'. If I am ever going to have a chance of publishing a book and selling it, this is the moment. Carpe Diem.
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