Different chapters for different POVs?

Help Please! New Cover and Description for The Panopticon Experiment

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SarahC

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Jan 31, 2021
Ireland
Quick question on the perceived wisdom on this one:

Is it better to have different chapters for different POVs? Or are scene changes enough as long as it's clear early on whose head we are in?
 
Quick question on the perceived wisdom on this one:

Is it better to have different chapters for different POVs? Or are scene changes enough as long as it's clear early on whose head we are in?
My personal opinion is that it doesn't really matter as long as it's clear.

Terry Pratchett jumps all over the place with his POV, sometimes switching mid paragraph, but I'm never confused. I always know whose head I'm in at any given moment because it is clearly written.
 
That's what I tend to think when I'm reading. I can normally figure it out. Dune was another one for that. My partner gave up on Wolf Hall because he never had a clue whose POV he was reading (too many Thomases!), but I never find that bothers me.

I'm keeping my switches to whole scenes, was just contemplating there whether to chapter them or not.
 
That's what I tend to think when I'm reading. I can normally figure it out. Dune was another one for that. My partner gave up on Wolf Hall because he never had a clue whose POV he was reading (too many Thomases!), but I never find that bothers me.

I'm keeping my switches to whole scenes, was just contemplating there whether to chapter them or not.
I think, as long as the whole book is like that readers will adapt.

If you're writing with one POV then suddenly start jumping around mid-novel that'll probably get confusing. But if you set the expectation early that it's multi-POV and set the rules it's probably fine.

Personally, i never get lost with POV if it's written well.
 
That's what I tend to think when I'm reading. I can normally figure it out. Dune was another one for that. My partner gave up on Wolf Hall because he never had a clue whose POV he was reading (too many Thomases!), but I never find that bothers me.

I'm keeping my switches to whole scenes, was just contemplating there whether to chapter them or not.
I've never had a problem with a POV change in a scene change as long as the change of scene is clear.
 
Not sure this following is helpfull. I once did a POV change mid chapter in a way I thought was a smooth operation. At the beginning of said chapter, the POV was with character A. A made a phone call to character B. They talked. B said "bye gotta dash" and hung up the phone and from then on the POV continued with her. Some beta readers liked it. Others screamed in terror.
 
I tend to subscribe to the view that if it’s handled correctly then I don’t have an issue with it.

It’s another one of those pearls of wisdom handed down by the ‘Rules Police’.

To them I say, ‘read some classics’.

Adherence to dogmatic rules will see us all write in a uniform fashion with little or no individual authorial voice or style.
 
I agree with everyone here that the only rule is whether it works.
On the other hand, as a reader I enjoy POVs by chapter as it gives me a chance to really get inside a character's head. But that really depends on the style of your story and how close you are writing your POVs.
And one other bit of received wisdom: scenes are far more important than chapters. So unless something internal is urging you to restructure, I'd say leave it. For what it's worth!
 
I'm still studying the mystery of why this works when it works and why it fails when it doesnt. I picked up the 4th book in the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series. Written by I suppose a literal ghost writer since the author died after the 3rd. It was awful. The guy chosen to continue the franchise had credentials, even won prizes but I only plowed my way through his book to try and figure out what made this one so wrong. Both writers change POV constantly. One works. One doesn't. The original author could be long-winded, bog down in detail-he was a real investigative journalist and it showed in the first 3 books, but I plowed thru to get to the story. His voice held me. Damn if AI figures out how to create voice -then I'm worried.
 
Having a distinct change of scene mid chapter (gap, plus ***) means it isn't much of a jolt to switch POV.

Alternate paragraph head-hopping, however, is awful to read.

I was advised by my very first alpha reader of Dogs of London, (who read along chapter by chapter as I wrote the story), that I should only write chapters from CJ's POV if Ross, my main character, isn't with him. So I did that, and the POV only switched to CJ for two chapters in the final quarter of the story. (This alpha reader, by the way, is a successful full-time trad published writer.) Beta readers on here hated that and felt that they needed to experience CJ's POV much sooner, so I brought him in in an early chapter. I perfer the story as it is now.

I do subscribe to a rule of no more than five POV per story - ideally no more than three. Whenever I've mentioned this to a writer with lots of secondary characters having the POV and they have re-written to limit the number to under five main characters, it has always vastly improved the story.
 
As pretty much everyone else has said, I'm happy to read multiple POVs as long as it's clear whose head I'm in, which usually means a scene shift or chapter shift between POVs. Interestingly, I can read older works, where the omniscient POV means you're in everyone's head all the time, and it doesn't bother me. But I'm reading a book right now that is written in first person, yet we also occasionally get intimate details of people's thoughts and history that the POV character shouldn't know. I'm sure a non-writer wouldn't notice the issue, because the writing style is quite 'classic' literary and the forays into what should be unknown to the POV character fit the style, but I find it grating.
 
Taking account of Rachel's comments (immediately preceding), I'd say, only go for a new chapter if it seems like a reasonable place to have one anyway. Like the end of an incident/section, a natural break.

But if we're talking about a chunk of three paragraphs or so, for example, I'd go for a line space before the new POV.
 
Concur with everyone. If you can write it well and it works then I don't see why not. Joe Abercrombie is known for jumping within chapters (but diff sections), and as Jake said Terry Pratchett was notorious was jumping all over the place. Is genre a consideration? I feel like head hopping is very common and accepted in Fantasy, but perhaps less so in others?
 
Concur with everyone. If you can write it well and it works then I don't see why not. Joe Abercrombie is known for jumping within chapters (but diff sections), and as Jake said Terry Pratchett was notorious was jumping all over the place. Is genre a consideration? I feel like head hopping is very common and accepted in Fantasy, but perhaps less so in others?
Head hopping isn't that well accepted in fantasy either unless it's done brilliantly. Few can pull off what Terry Pratchett did. It was all part of his unique style.
 
Have you read The One by John Marrs? He has about 4 POVs (don't ask how many exactly. I'm getting old) one MC per chapter and in oder. It works well and fine (it's sort of 4 separate but related stories in one book) and felt polished and confident. But I found myself scan-reading the chapters whose POV I wasn't so hooked on. I had two fave POVs and wasn't so botherd about the others esp since skipping them didn't affect the overall story. Having said that, I can't see how he could have done all those POVs differently other than one per chapter.
 
Have you read The One by John Marrs? He has about 4 POVs (don't ask how many exactly. I'm getting old) one MC per chapter and in oder. It works well and fine (it's sort of 4 separate but related stories in one book) and felt polished and confident. But I found myself scan-reading the chapters whose POV I wasn't so hooked on. I had two fave POVs and wasn't so botherd about the others esp since skipping them didn't affect the overall story. Having said that, I can't see how he could have done all those POVs differently other than one per chapter.
I haven't read that one, but I read a couple of Game of Thrones books pretty much only reading the four or five characters I was interested in and skipping the rest (sorry to any diehard fans!) :D
 
I've found the tricky one to write is a character who is not what he/she seems: talking in one way with most other characters, and more freely and more genuinely – revealing a totally different personality and intentions – with only one, or possibly two, close associates. (Just to reveal the scale of the deception. Think of Iago in Othello.)

I think that needs other prompts – perhaps facial expression, body language, etc, references – to reinforce the dialogue changes, which can be relatively subtle. And also to keep the reader aware of what's going on, without bashing them over the head with it.
 
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