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Frustrating POV problem

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I've written a novel that contains two main characters. It's about the growing love between a teenager and his newly aquired foster father. No, it's not an intergenerational physical love, but rather family love between a father and son. The teenager then falls romantically for a boy he meets at school, but his love for him is unrequited. The family relationship between the foster father and the boy is too important to the story, so I've started from the father's POV for a dreamatic entrance of the boy.

My protagonist's coming of age is too complex to leave it completely to dialog, so I seem to be forced into two points of view.

Iv'e seen how Mark Roader handles multiple points of view, but his way seems to be a cope out. It doesn't provide his stories with the continuity that I'd like to see.

I'm sure you've all been faced with this, and I'm looking for some insight of how you've solved this.

BTW, this is my first novel. I'm an engineer by profession, so my time is somewhat limited for my writing. I wrote the story in 2 months, but it's taken me 12 years to finally get around to editing it. After going through it, I realized that I was in trouble with my POV's.

Any suggestions?

Richard Norway

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If you really don't want two points of view, and I can appreciate that, you're sort of left with writing it in thrird person. I just recently had to convert a first person chapter to third, and it was a trial, but a great learning experience, too. You probably should consider that.

Many books are written in limited thrid person with the thoughts of only one of the characters specified. But many are in universal third, also, and you could try that. Or, you could extend the limited third POV from one person to two.

You might try making that change for a few pages and see what it looks like.


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There are lots of ways to handle your problem. I too find that switching points of view can be disruptive, especially if the sequences are short.

Without having read your story, I suggest you consider a "restricted" third-person narrator. By restricted, I mean that you retain the inner thoughts of your characters along with their limited information on the rest of the world. For example: 1) The first thing he saw was an ugly scar on his step-father's shoulder. "Where did you get that?" XYZ asked; or 2) What an ugly scar, XYZ thought. "What happened to your shoulder?" he asked.

In short, with some reworking, you can attain some of the advantages of first-person POV without its limitations.

There are techniques for differentiating dialogue from inner thoughts including the use of single-quotes or italics.

By the way, you may not find all the POV inconsistencies until an editor gets his/her hands on it. When editing Skin or Sky's the Limit, I don't remember which, I found a number of first-person POV references that didn't get caught by the author.

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VWL, Thank you for your comments, especially about an editor finding what I can't. Cole Parker was gratious enough to read the opening pages of what I had written, and he hit the proverbial nail on the head with a 10 ton jack hammer. I NEED an editor! Thank you Cole.

I am having an internal struggle with using third person expressing two POV's. I think it'll work though.

Again thank you.


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I'm no expert but from what you've told us I know I want to read this story! Sounds right up my street.

Personally I stick rigidly to a single Point of View if I'm writing in the first person. Whenever I come across a first person story that switches POV I find myself wondering about the story - is the author just showing off? The change of POV interrupts the flow of the story and except in those few cases where the story structure begs for that treatment (different witness accounts of the same crime, for instance) it just hampers the reader's involvement with the story. Most readers become involved with a story from one point of view and if you switch away from it they feel disengaged.

So my advice would be to avoid switching point of view at all costs in a first person story. There's always another way of doing it if you think hard enough, for instance writing in the third person lets you write from a variety of points of view and is often most suited to longer, more complex stories because you can tell parts of the story that your main protagonist is not party to.

My first stories were written in first person, and it was a wrench to write one in third person - it felt 'impersonal'. But I think readers happily adjust to third person narration and feel no less involved with the story for it.


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Depending on how much material you have, you could write two novels--one from each point of view. Lawrence Durell did that with The Alexandria Quartet--in Justine, Balthazar, Mount Olive and Clea--where each book represented a different take on the central events.

I did that with Jake's Side, which followed Jake's Hand, my novels that are hosted at Gay Authors under my pen name REC. I had thought Jake's Hand complete in and of itself, but some reader comments pointed me to other aspects of Jake's personality that I decided to explore--in a parallel time period. In Jake's Hand, I used the character Robbie's point of view. In Jake's Side, as the title indicates, I switched to Jake and supplemented the events of Jake's Hand.

You might find it interesting to explore the possibility of two novels with a large component being the intersection of their two lives, but with one or both characters also having their own key events.


aka rec

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I agree with Bruin. Though in one of my latest stories there are three separate points of view. They go: one - two - three - two - one. I hated this story (which I wrote for my Writing Short Fiction course). My professor said it was the best work I'd written for the course. Cole told me he likes it. Arrrrggghhhhhh!

What I have done is write a lengthy second POV as "narrative dialogue" and that seems to work for me. My story Family Matters has exactly that kind of POV interjection.

Colin :rolleyes:

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Just proves that you artists don't know how to evaluate your own work.

Art is subjective. People see and appreciate things the creators were often unaware of or that were unintended.

Just be happy you wrote something that pleased others. That's a very worthwhile accomlishment.


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OMG. This is my first time on AD, posting anything. I'm really surprised, but also so greatful. Thank you all for giving me your insight. You've all made my decision.

I've decided what to do. I do not like Roader's approach, and I don't want to do a series from different POVs. This is going to be difficult for me, I know, but I have to try to get across the story in a way that the reader understands the characters and how they progress during during Act II. I still cry when I read the final scene of Act III, and I have to get them there. Cole told me abotut his passion he has for his charecters, and that's what I have. I live and breath them. This is truly a character strudy as they progress through their relationships. To keep it personal, I've limited my narrative, and concentrated on their dialoge.

So, therefore I need two points of view, and will do this in third person, delving into both minds. I have three main sharcaters, but for the third characterf, I will leave out his POV, allowing his thoughts to appear through his dialog. That works well for this story.

Again, thank you all for what you've said. As a newbie, it's obnvious by my question that I need your help. This is new to me. My passion isn't.


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So, therefore I need two points of view, and will do this in third person, delving into both minds. I have three main sharcaters, but for the third characterf, I will leave out his POV, allowing his thoughts to appear through his dialog.

Hello, Richard, and welcome. I think you've got some good advice above, and I agree with the comments to stick with 3rd person omniscient. VWL's comments are right-on in that you have to be very careful which character's thoughts are presented in a given scene; don't try to switch back and forth. The reader should be able to figure out the other character's thoughts just by his or her gestures, attitude, and emphasis.

For example, a physical action works: "she asked him where he was, and his jaw dropped." Or: "Joe kept his eyes averted, as if he was trying to hide something."

There's a million ways to pull this off. Read the references in the Writing Gay Fiction piece elsewhere. The key is to avoid the cliches, which we've argued ad nauseum in past discussions.

BTW, I like Mark Roeder and I consider him a casual friend, but he and I have disagreed about the back-and-forth 1st person POV switch. I think it's showy and obvious, and doesn't work. Third person is much more subtle and "invisible," once you learn a few tricks.

Lastly: I don't agree that it's necessarily important to concentrate mainly on the dialog. I think the whole package -- structure, description, character, plot, dialog, etc. -- all have to work. And one important rule to note is, all-dialog scenes tend to play very long. You can shorten scenes quickly if you throw out all the dialog and just describe the action. This is very helpful with repetitive scenes, or scenes of mundane activity, like breakfast, walking to work (or school), and so on.

I also think it's less tiring for the reader to break up the story into dialog scenes and description scenes, and also to set up scenes with description. I like the idea of engaging all the senses -- taste, touch, smell, sight, sound, and time -- to make the story real. Dialog-only scenes are tough to take, especially when they go on for more than half a dozen pages.

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