Writing Wednesday: Multiple Points of View and Head-hopping

A year ago I wrote a post about the restrictions on first person point of view, and the experiment I did on my science fiction novel Flight of the Kestrel: Intruders

To help me get more emotion into my novel, I changed the first few chapters from third person (narrator) to first person (the Captain). The experiment worked, but I hit lots of problems, particularly how to tell the parts of the story where the Captain was not there. Having got to grips with the emotion, I changed it back again.

Fast-forward six months and I realised that the novel had been patched so much that it didn’t flow, so I used last November’s NaNoWriMo to rewrite it from scratch. I decided to overcome the point of view problems by using three different points of view.

The story begins with Tabitha Enns, a trainee roped in to the Kestrel crew due to crew shortage. Because she is new, her viewpoint is a good way to get over all the basic information the existing crew wouldn’t talk about, and her impressions of the various characters.

The Captain is the second point of view, telling the main story and thinking about the important decisions he has to make.

The narrator comes in occasionally to fill in any gaps.

The important thing is to make it quite clear which point of view each section of the story is from. The sections have to be clearly delineated to avoid confusing the reader. But when you are writing, it is SO easy to hop heads without even noticing. Here’s an example – can you spot where the point of view shifts away from Darrow, the Captain?

Darrow took a deep breath and crossed the corridor to the mess hall. The four representatives were there and all began talking at once.
“Excuse me gentlemen, can I have silence please?” he began in a quiet voice. They all sat down in silence and looked at him.
“I understand your concern, believe me, and I do not make this decision lightly. If we do not take this opportunity, we may never have the chance again. You are here to represent your governments, and I have welcomed your input and your expertise. But I am in command of this ship and this mission, and I will not change my mind. Thank you.”
Darrow turned and left. The representatives looked at each other in stunned silence. Then Ehu burst out laughing.

Did you spot it? How does Darrow know that Ehu burst out laughing when he had already left? It’s a shame, because I like that line. Ho hum.

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About Ann Marie Thomas

Married since 1974, Christian since 1986, 4 children, 4 grand children, disabled with fibromyalgia but was working almost full time until a stroke in May 2010 changed my life completely. Writing poetry and making up stories since I was a child, I only started to write seriously when my children were grown. My main ambition is to write science fiction, but along the way I got distracted by local history and poetry about my stroke. Taking early retirement gave me the chance to concentrate on my writing. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, was published in print and ebook at Easter 2012. The success of Alina led to the publication of Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John in September 2013, and The Magna Carta Story at Easter 2015. I am still writing science fiction - a series of novels called Flight of the Kestrel. For all my author news, see me author blog at www.annmariethomas.me.uk
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3 Responses to Writing Wednesday: Multiple Points of View and Head-hopping

  1. suesj says:

    Do you think it may work if you shifted the paragraph a little?
    eg.
    “But I am in command of this ship and this mission, and I will not change my mind.Thank you.”Darrow turned and left.
    The representatives looked at each other in stunned silence. Then Ehu burst out laughing.

    Like

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, but it’s still not advisable to switch POV within a scene. Ideally you should have the same POV for a whole chapter, but I swap at a scene break. I’ll see what my editor says.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Writing Wednesday: 2014 Writing Roundup | Ann Marie Thinking Out Loud

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