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MattyK

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This is something into which I fall all too easily myself: "he heard", "she saw", etc. (It's something I found I added when trying to remove implied head hopping, as if by adding the "he saw", etc. I was making it clearer; whereas if I'd written it properly in the first place, it wouldn't needed to be pointed out. And pointing it out changes the relationship between the reader and the POV, if only for a phrase or sentence.)
It's discussions like this that remind how very new I still am to all this writing malarkey! I find myself currently writing with the aforementioned "she saw", "he assumed", "she seemed to..." to avoid the shift in POV in a chapter which I'm finding awkward enough. Any chance you can jot down an example or two of writing it properly as I don't know what you mean at the moment!

Also, I assume there's no set in stone rule regarding the switching of POV. but I know there are limitations. At the moment I'm sticking to the same POV for a whole chapter (I've not needed to change yet, anyway). Is it feasible to switch POV after using a break in the chapter and does it get confusing if you switch after one break, switch back again after the next and keep going like that?
 

Ursa major

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Any chance you can jot down an example or two of writing it properly as I don't know what you mean at the moment!
Chance would be a fine thing.

What I meant was that if I had lived the scene with the POV character as I wrote it - as opposed to muddling it up in my head - it wouldn't need repairing (at least for this problem).


Also, I assume there's no set in stone rule regarding the switching of POV. but I know there are limitations. At the moment I'm sticking to the same POV for a whole chapter (I've not needed to change yet, anyway). Is it feasible to switch POV after using a break in the chapter and does it get confusing if you switch after one break, switch back again after the next and keep going like that?
I have to admit that while I stick (or should stick) to a single POV within a scene, I don not necessarily do so within a chapter. (I suppose it comes from watching too much drama on TV.) Whether this is commercial in SF - as opposed to other genres - I don't know. I have to hope it is. I do try to keep the number of POVs down to a manageable number (for the reader); how successfully, it's not my place to say.
 

ctg

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If I can say from the experience and what I have read, is that, you can slide the POV from the close perspective to the omniscient narrator and back again. If you do it well, and don't rush with the slide, you'll enhance the story beyond the level most writers achieve. Do it badly and you can guess what happens.

Then again, when master that, you can start experimenting with the POV switches within the chapter. Again, like Terasa pointed in the another thread, you should do it by using the omniscient narrator slide.



MattyK, your question is one that Orson Scott Card describes as an parallel storyline.

He says that the most common method to switch back and forth between the main characters is by devoting one chapter per perspective. But there is a danger: if you do it badly, you'll confuse the reader. They might even read only the perspectives they like and completely skip the others. Therefore, when you do the switch, you try to write it so that the perspectives keep close and the story propels forward without becoming stagnated.

Good example on how to do is by reading GRRM latest books, but you shouldn't necessarily adopt his style of whacking the characters at the point when they become interesting.

The other way is to do like the Grand Master Tolkien did it in the LOTR. You again devote whole chapter (or three) to one POV. But in time-line wise you have to be careful to match weather and events to match the other POV's. For example like Uncle Orson says you should take a look on how Tolkien switches between Frodo and Aragorn in the Two Towers.
 
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Granfalloon

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If I can say from the experience and what I have read, is that, you can slide the POV from the close perspective to the omniscient narrator and back again. If you do it well, and don't rush with the slide, you'll enhance the story beyond the level most writers achieve. Do it badly and you can guess what happens.

Then again, when master that, you can start experimenting with the POV switches within the chapter. Again, like Terasa pointed in the another thread, you should do it by using the omniscient narrator slide.



MattyK, your question is one that Orson Scott Card describes as an parallel storyline.

He says that the most common method to switch back and forth between the main characters is by devoting one chapter per perspective. But there is a danger: if you do it badly, you'll confuse the reader. They might even read only the perspectives they like and completely skip the others. Therefore, when you do the switch, you try to write it so that the perspectives keep close and the story propels forward without becoming stagnated.

Good example on how to do is by reading GRRM latest books, but you shouldn't necessarily adopt his style of whacking the characters at the point when they become interesting.

The other way is to do like the Grand Master Tolkien did it in the LOTR. You again devote whole chapter (or three) to one POV. But in time-line wise you have to be careful to match weather and events to match the other POV's. For example like Uncle Orson says you should take a look on how Tolkien switches between Frodo and Aragorn in the Two Towers.
This is a fairly lucid and illuminating take on the whole POV vs. "show don't tell", and omniscient perspectives. It also reminds me of another "guideline: If it doesn't move the story along, leave it out. Thank you CTG.

I hope it will not be construed as making folks work too hard, and thereby taking all of the fun out of it, but I must reveal one of my main sources for this kind of information: John Gardner - "The Art of Fiction". He gets to the "nitty-gritty" in a chapter called "common errors". IMHO he does a marvelous job of describing all of this, and he adds a dimension that I believe Teresa was trying to explain about "closeness" to a character. In the link CTG referred to the discussion used film making as an analogy, and I think along the lines of that analogy some better terms would be "panning", and "zooming" (rather than "sliding") since that's what the camera does. Here are some examples of relative "distance" to a character:
1. It was November of 2993 and a large man stepped out of the teleporter.
2. Jennan Whimsisky never cared much for teleporter travel.
3. Jennan hated teleporter travel.
4. Man! Did he ever hate those frikkin' teleporters.
5. The buzzing, the strange howl accompanied by the lightheadedness afterward, an utterly miserable experience, all resulting in the final stumbling out of the teleporter.

You might see, hopefully here the relationship between character distance, narrative voice, and finally "show don't tell".
 

Peter Graham

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Hi All,

Whose opinion is it that the results are "horrible"? Or that Mrs. Graham's stride is "purposeful"? Who has decided what the dog's look implied? Are these Peter's opinions? Or is it the opinion of the imp sitting on his shoulder? It's possible that the imp is finding humor in this situation that is entirely lost on Peter himself.
This is the rub. It's Third Person Omniscient because the comments on the situation - the observations that the contents of Peter's nose are horrible and that Mrs Graham is striding porposefully - are both comments dropped in by our narrating imp rather than by Peter. Our imp is choosing to comment on what he or she sees, thereby adding texture and drama to the scene.

To be Third Person Limited, any comments or observations would need to have been made by, or at least attributable to, Peter. The narrator does not comment but simply reports - like TPS's example. My example is perhaps not all that good, because it can be read both ways. But this is how I'd do the same passage in (very obvious for the sake of the example) Third Person Limited:-

"Peter accidentally sneezed. The resulting large gobbet of snot was more horrible than most that Peter had seen before. He tried to wipe it on the underside of the kitchen table, but at that moment Mrs Graham entered the room He had no time to make good his escape before she had marched over and whacked him over the head with a roasting tray.

As he clutched his head, he saw that the dog was looking at him as though to say 'So it's not just us that can't learn new tricks.'"

Regards,

Peter
 

Ursa major

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Thanks, Peter. (I think that could be described fairly as a blow-by-blow account.)



And thanks, Granfallon, for that run through the different distances to the POV character.
 

Michael01

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The is such an informative thread. Thank you all for contributing! I wonder if I might add a little something here? I'd like to talk about:

Split Inifinitives

I see this often, even in published works, and I've had to take somes pains editing them out of my own work. When it's in dialogue it's perfectly acceptable, because people often speak this way (which may be what leads them to believe they can write this way too).

The "inifinitive" of the verb form apears like this: to be. It is grammatically incorrect to "split" the infinitive of the verb like this: "to just be." The correct way to write this would be either "just to be" or "to be just."
 

Peter Graham

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The "inifinitive" of the verb form apears like this: to be. It is grammatically incorrect to "split" the infinitive of the verb like this: "to just be." The correct way to write this would be either "just to be" or "to be just."
In many ways, this is an excellent example. "To just be" has a sort of Descartian ring to it - "I just am". However, it is a split infinitive. Unfortunately, the sentence "to be just" when taken in isolation means something very different - "just" would almost certainly be taken in its legal sense. It's a good example of the importance not only of clear sentence structure, but also of the need for robust word choice.

"To boldly go" is the most famous split infinitive (and, in my view, the only interesting thing about Star Trek). I suspect that split infinitives are now much less of a "no no" than once they were. A piece which is grammatically correct and well written would almost certainly be excused a split infinitive or two, but in a sloppily written or badly executed piece, they would just be taken as further evidence of poor writing skills.

Regards,

Peter
 

Peter Graham

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I have dusted this one off from a previous thread.....


Deus Ex Machina and Coincidence


A 'deus ex machina' is a hideously contrived plot twist in which a powerful but hitherto unknown third party is introduced to shoehorn in a particular outcome (or to achieve something which the characters can't achieve themselves because the writer has carelessly painted them into a corner).

"Deus ex machina" as a phrase comes from the ancient Greek playwrights, who every now and again would physically lower a character suitably doled up as Zeus or whoever onto the stage. As gods had to come down from Mount Olympus, the character might be lowered onto the stage by a crane (one possible translation of the word "machina").

Once in situ, the god would then use his or her divine powers to direct the outcome of the plot, effectively riding roughshod over the previous twists and turns of the action. By way of a modern(ish) example, the "Sinbad" and "Jason of the Argonauts" films of the 1970's used a lot of deus ex machina as the gods played out the human action like a game of chess. But it works in that context, as divine intervention is actually all part of the mythos and the backdrop.

A 21st century equivalent might be the old schoolboy fudge of "a big black dog came and ate them all up", but more subtle versions might include The Sudden Discovery Of A Phenomenally Powerful Artifact Which Gets Us Out of That Scrape But Is Then Forgotten About or the Sudden Arrival Of A Mysterious Patron Who Gets Us Out of That Scrape And Then Goes Home Again.

Deus ex machina situations are frequently presented in literature as particularly fortuitous coincidences. Coincidences (including particularly fortuitous ones) are a feature of the real world, but even where they do not amount to deus ex machina, should be used very sparingly in good fiction. Coincidence frequently equates to cop-out. That said, in burlesque or comedy writing, coincidence can be used to great effect - Henry Fielding does it time and again in Tom Jones - but the more serious the subject matter, the less it wil be forgiven.

Of course, this does not apply to what one might call the Plot Trigger coincidence - the unexpected event that sets the whole novel in motion. Cases of mistaken identity (such as in North by North West) or the chance encounter with a stranger (such as in the Thirty Nine Steps) are designed to shove the hero into the adventure. But once the ball is rolling, outcomes should be triggered by actions rather than by chance.

Regards,

Peter
 

HareBrain

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I've never understood the fuss about splitting infinitives. I quote from the excellent "Mother Tongue" by Bill Bryson

English grammar is so complex and confusing for the one very simple reason that its rules and terminology are based on Latin -- a language with which it has precious little in common. In Latin, to take one example, it is not possible to split an infinitive. So in English, the early authorities decided, it should not be possible to split an infinitive either. But there is no reason why we shouldn't, any more than we should forsake instant coffee and air travel because they weren't available to the Romans.
 

The Judge

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The rule of never splitting an infinitive may well have arrived via a mistaken - or indeed, snobbish - premise. But it was a rule for a considerable period of time, even if it is now more honoured in the breach than the observance. As a result, to refuse resolutely to split an infinitive gives one's writing at least the illusion of grammatical correctness, which can be invaluable. Of course, it can also make you sound like a pompous old **** which is less appealing.

The answer is - know the rule and know when you are obeying it and why, and when you are disobeying it and why. Don't obey rules blindly, but don't ignore them either. Think about what you are writing.

J
 

Michael01

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The answer is - know the rule and know when you are obeying it and why, and when you are disobeying it and why. Don't obey rules blindly, but don't ignore them either. Think about what you are writing.

J
Absolutely. An occasional split infinitive, like many other artistic "breaches," isn't really something to fuss over. It only looks sloppy when it's done often.

I had to weed out many of them from my manuscript because I'd used them way too often and without thinking about how I'd used them. Also, I just read a self-published book recently, which I actually enjoyed anyway (enough that I ordered the sequel), where the writer did it far too often and maybe should have cleaned it up a little before publishing. Having said that, I really have no room to talk!

My example of "to just be" may have been more clear had I used it in a complete sentence, though. "To be just" could be interpreted exactly as Peter said, depending on the context of the sentence. I was trying to keep the example simple. I hope it was helpful and didn't actually make things more confusing!

Now that I think about it, however, I don't I'd ever say something like "to be just alone" (haha!).
 

Peter Graham

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Passive Voice


To identify the passive voice, the first trick is to look at the verb in the sentence. If the object of the sentence is having the verb done to it, you are in the active:-

"The policeman waved his truncheon".

The policeman is the subject of this sentence - it is about him and what he is up to. "Waved" is your verb. The truncheon is the object. The truncheon is being waved, so this sentence is in the active.

If, however, what would be the subject of the sentence in the active (the policeman) ends up having the verb done to it, you are in the passive.

"The truncheon was waved by the policeman".

See how this sentence has become about the truncheon, rather than the policeman. What was the subject in the active (the policeman) has now become the object in the passive.

A slightly more complex (but slightly more accurate) explanation is to say that a sentence will only be in the passive voice if the main verb in that sentence is expressed as a past participle and if your subject is linked to the main verb by an auxiliary verb (basically, some manifestation of "to be").

This works with our passive policeman above. By way of a further example:-

"Beer is drunk by Peter."

Beer = subject, is = our auxiliary verb and drunk = past participle of "drink".

To make this sentence active, we would write:-

"Peter drinks beer."

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with using the passive voice. It actually has a big part to play - especially when the object in any givenn sentence needs to be given prominence. But like so many of the other "avoids" (head-hopping, p.ov. shifts and so on) it is all too often done badly, or done inadvertently as a side effect of poor sentence structure.

Regards,

Peter
 
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Interference

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The is such an informative thread. Thank you all for contributing! I wonder if I might add a little something here? I'd like to talk about:

Split Inifinitives

I see this often, even in published works, and I've had to take somes pains editing them out of my own work. When it's in dialogue it's perfectly acceptable, because people often speak this way (which may be what leads them to believe they can write this way too).

The "inifinitive" of the verb form apears like this: to be. It is grammatically incorrect to "split" the infinitive of the verb like this: "to just be." The correct way to write this would be either "just to be" or "to be just."
I think I said this somewhere before, but it looks as if the ST mission statement has actually liberated the infinitive such that splittage is now pretty much acceptable.

However (having just actually read what people have already said on the subject) Peter once more puts his finger squarely on the pulse and hits the nail on the thumb.
 

Interference

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Well, you accepted "splittage". I guess once you accept that you can accept pretty much anything :)

I shall now butt out until I have something more to wisely and illuminatingly say.
 

Peter Graham

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Peter's Guide to the Humble Comma

Part the First

A natural break

The comma is perhaps the most mangled and misused of our punctuation marks. It has a number of uses, one of the most common of which is to denote those little pauses and breaks which are such a characteristic of the spoken word. Grammar lovers talk of clauses and subclauses and all manner of other jolly things, but for those of us who would rather eat our own ears than listen to such gibberish, I have a little shortcut which might help.

"Peter is an odd fellow isn't he? All those commas exclamation marks apostrophes and whatnot. Is he just a boring numpty or a god who walks amongst Men? His examples whilst being properly written are not always easy to follow."

Anyone will be able to see that there are missing commas in the above piece. One very good trick to try and work out where they might be placed is to imagine that this piece is being spoken aloud. Don't rush through it - just try and imagine yourself saying the words in real time. Then mark everywhere where you would pause, either to take a breath or to allow a little emphasis. Chances are that those breaks should (or could) be marked in written text with a comma.

"Peter is an odd fellow, isn't he? All those commas, exclamation marks, apostrophes and whatnot. Is he just a boring numpty, or a god who walks amongst Men? His examples, whilst being properly written, are not always easy to follow."

Semi colons and dashes can be used to exaggerate this effect, but you can probably get away with not using them at all if you are on top of commas.

Regards,

Peter

Next time: Flagging up subclauses. See ya then, commabuffs!
 
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