The POV Shift

Lately I’ve been fiddling with an idea for my wip that has me rather second guessing things.  I had always intended the work to be relatively dramatic and intense, being faithful to the heroine’s point of view through out while being rich in narrative that explains and describes the world she lives in.  And then I had ANOTHER idea!  You guessed it – a point of view shift.  The shift was not planned, but is flowing pretty well and gives, in my opinion, a very necessary depth to the world and how it came to be.

Sure, this doesn’t seem like a problem, anything but, except for one thing: The point of view is that of a bad guy – the same bad guy who is now in charge of torturing the heroine.  His entire point of view will not be in merely brutal actions, but also in the choices he makes with his power and ideology.  My concern is that readers will be annoyed by this shift, that they’ll want to know how the heroine is dealing with her situation and how this might affect information she is protecting. Since there is interaction to be had they will of course find out all of these things as the story continues to move forward still…  Would something like this annoy you?  Tell me honestly.  If you’re invested in a character would you take the point of view shift hard?  Would you toss the book aside never to look at it again?

Not one to ever stick with one problem I find myself walking in the abysmal land called doubt.  It is not that I don’t believe in the work, I simply am deeply afraid of screwing it up and having to do a massive rewrite.  One question of the work leads to another, then another, until I am finally stuck on the treadmill of paralyzing fear that the work is going to be utter crap which leads me to being afraid of putting words on the page, which makes me feel as though I’m not accomplishing anything, which makes me think I need to accomplish something, but then I worry about quality and so I stop thinking I need to have quality over quantity….  and on, and on it goes.

So, how on Earth do you combat such a malevolent stream of thoughts?  Believe you me, I want to know.  😉


24 responses to “The POV Shift

  • sara

    I do enjoy switching points of view as long as it’s clear that that is what’s happening.

    There are authors who do this repeatedly and well – sometimes within a single work, and sometimes over the course of a series. Maeve Binchy does it in a single novel, and though sometimes I do want to know more about the person whose pov I am leaving, I do enjoy the fresh perspective of each new chapter.

    On a whole other intellectual level, Wendell Berry does it through his novels and stories about Port William. I love this multi-generational weaving. This writing is so smart I don’t even feel adequate to talk much about it except to say that it moves me.

    The point of view of a bad guy is kinda different though, huh? I’m thinking of Lolita. I was young when I read that book and it drove me a little crazy before I realized that the point of view was that of a pedophile. I think before I understood that device I was under the mistaken impression that the narrator or the main pov character held the main truth. I was disgusted by trying to sympathize with Humbert Humbert, and was disturbed by the level to which I could, in fact, understand him. That’s good writing I think, though as a general rule I tend not to be drawn to “dark” reading.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I think you’re dead right about what makes good writing. The bad guy pov in this story takes away from the present experience of the heroine and so I’m concerned that people won’t necessarily care for that. Truth is the question just might be what is more important to continue with or what structure would suit all the needs of the story best. You’ve got me thinking of some very good and important questions, Sara. Thanks!

  • Anna C. Bowling

    I say if that’s the way the story is going, go with it. I like doing bad guy POV. Makes perfect sense to me, especially in a dystopic tale.

    • kimberlyloomis

      In order to avoid preaching I have to use the bad guy POV so it doesn’t make me too twitchy – although writing it is kind of freaking me out. A different mindset, one that takes me away from the principled heroine/hero and into the bully’s makes me quite frightened. Can’t really explain it. You’ve certainly got me thinking of some good questions too, Anna. 🙂

  • Hart

    I don’t tend to like books ONLY from the bad guy PoV, but including it as ONE of the PoVs is a good way to give him some depth, if you do it well. Bad guys can seem so two-dimensional, and getting in his head is the only way (aside from the villian monologue *snort*) to do this. I say go for it. I would, though, either do it as a separate chapter or section, and make a pattern of it –it doesn’t have to be half him, half her, but it shouldn’t come out of the blue mid-book. The only time you can get away with a separate PoV only occuring once is VERY first (JK Rowling does this a couple times) or in an epilogue.

    As for the doubt–I think it comes and goes with all of us. It just means you are growing.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Hart- And that’s what I’ve been wrestling with – EXACTLY. I have 70 pages written from the heroine’s pov and then I enter into a new section with the bad guy. The sections would be pretty equal in length, however, so this won’t be merely an interlude, all information contained therein is integral and substantial to the plot. However, I’m thinking about weaving the two together (different chapter for each as I go) with a different sort of time-line in order to buffer this, but am unsure if that’s the way I want to do it.

  • Hart

    Ha! Just read Sara’s comment about Lolita, and that stands as one of my VERY FEW exceptions to not liking a whole book from the bad guy PoV–and I would concur–what saves it is the brilliance of the writing. Books like Crime & Punishment (though Dostoyevsky is no writing slouch) and A Separate Peace both disgusted me–I need to really GET the MC, even if they are horrible. I GOT Humbert Humbert because Nabakov so carefully wove his thinking (delusions/urges) into the tale.

  • Lua

    Ah the lovely a point of view shifts…
    I love the first person POV- both when reading & writing. It’s personal, I feel closer to the character and in my opinion- more fun to read then third person.
    That said, the story I’m working on requires more than a single perspective to tell the story. It brings depth and more layers and sometimes you have to be able to show what other characters are thinking and feeling in order to do your story justice.
    In your case, the POV of the bad guy? I think it’ll be great. It’s always interesting to read about the bad guy, try and understand his reason of doing those bad things and (even if we don’t like to admit it) try to sympathies with him. Because we all know nobody is pure evil and we desperately seek to find the good in him… This is why we love hearing bad guys talk! 🙂
    Honestly, I’d love to know the bad guy’s side of the story!

    • kimberlyloomis

      First person is devilishly tricky in my opinion. I’ve read brilliant works written from this perspective and others… well, they kinda fell flat. When it’s done well, however, I can honestly say I adore it. I commend anyone who can tackle it as it’s not something I can do well. At all. 😉

      Your words have me excited about writing more about this guy’s point of view, Lua. Thanks!

  • Laura Marcella

    I haven’t figured out to steer away from such thoughts, either. Supposedly it happens to all writers, no matter what stage of the writing process they’re in, or how many novels they have published. So my advice is to acknowledge the doubts, then squash them flat! Say, “Okay, I hear you, but I don’t believe you! Now leave me alone so I can get back to my story!” It works for me!

  • Jemi Fraser

    I like seeing the stories from two viewpoints – as long as it’s clear who’s pov we are in. I prefer the pov switches to each have their own scene or chapter. I enjoy writing from the villain’s pov – lots of fun! To really separate it, you can put his whole sections in italics – that way it’s obvious there’s a switch.

  • Carol Kilgore

    I enjoy reading novels with multiple points of view, as long as the points of view are clearly delineated.

  • jan

    I say follow your gut. The time you spend worrying is wasted energy. When the muse says try this, try it. You may surprise yourself. Even if you decide at the end that it is not for your story, you will have had the experience of working with your muse. It is a beautiful thing!

  • Joy

    I’d find it interesting to know what the bad guy’s thinking. I write my romance novels from both the perspective of male and female simply because most are written from the pov of the female. In your care, I wouldn’t want to be too invested in the baddie, but at the same time I’d find it an intriguing look inside his head. If what you’ve written is convincing enough for you to continue, then I’d say go for it.

  • Belle

    I think having sections where the POV is that of the villain helps to add depth to the character. I’m currently playing around with a story that I’ve been hesitant to start because I feel like I need to go between a first person POV of one MC to the third person POV of the other MC – I’ve never done anything like that before, so the doubts are surfacing!

  • Stephen Tremp

    I recently went through grueling four months of a re-edit concerning a POV shift from Omniscient to Third Person with my editor. But when the dust settled and the sun set t the end of the day, the stroy is so much better. I’m glad I did it.

    Stephen Tremp

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