Can the POV character be absent from a scene?

Flaviosky

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Hello community,

It's been a while since I asked a question here 'cause I've been editing and setting my WIP into past tense instead of present tense.

While editing, I came across a thing that I wouldn't want to be an issue in the future.

Can the POV character not be present in a scene? Do I need to make a POV change to show something the POV character may not be aware of?

I'm trying not to "crop" too much the flow of the text by changing scenes, so this comes as a relevant issue.

Thanks!
 

Toby Frost

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Well, if he's not there, the scene by definition must move onto another point of view (possibly that of an omniscient narrator), unless the POV character is somehow narrating what happened in his absence. I think you do need a POV change. Further, if the entire story is told from one POV except for one scene, it could look rather odd and jarring. A while ago, I noticed that there's one scene in my novel Up To The Throne that's not from one a character's POV but is instead omniscient, which surprised me when I realised it.
 

Wayne Mack

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A scene must, by definition, have a point of view. One can, though, have a non-character point of view. Two that are possible are omniscient and journal points of view.

I'm a little unclear as to the question, but if the previous PoV character is not in a scene, then the scene has a change of PoV. It is a stylistic choice as to what PoV to use. I would avoid shifting from a first person or close third person to an omniscient. I would lean to either using a close third person or a journal style, as in a written report or a news broadcast or even an entry in an encyclopedia or book of lore.

Does this help answer your question? I feel like I may be still missing something.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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If you are writing in the first person then you cannot directly describe a scene in which the POV is not present. The usual method is to have the POV find out about the scene indirectly. For example:

Later I learned the full truth from Algernon. Rupert had confronted Cordelia about the damage to his umbrella stand and it had ended in an awful row during which she had threatened to leave him.
 

Le Panda du Mal

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You could also have multiple first person narratives, switching between chapters, as with Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Or embed the stories as they are narrated to the primary narrator, eg. "Then the duck whisperer, upon his watercress deathbed, imparted to me his woeful history, which began thus: [New chapter: The Duck Whisperer's Tale]"
 

Bramandin

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It seemed like Rowling was using every trick she could to get around the limitations of Harry's pov, including the pensive when eavesdropping with the invisibility cloak isn't enough, but it seems to me that she finally had to break to switching to omniscient.

I'm not sure what to do because I'm not the type of reader who usually notices that sort of thing.
 

Astro Pen

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Agree with the above.
I am currently working on volume two of a first person present tense.

Of necessity the MC only knows what he knows. I dont even describe anything going on that he doesn't know. If you do that, even once, you have blown the immersive experience of 'being' the MC.
 

Flaviosky

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Does this help answer your question? I feel like I may be still missing something.
Yeah. I use omniscient narrator with a POV, dwelling into the POV's thoughts.

Well, the answers have been very clear. I'll have to change POV when changing into a scene where the POV is not present.
 

jacksimmons

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Yeah. I use omniscient narrator with a POV, dwelling into the POV's thoughts.

Well, the answers have been very clear. I'll have to change POV when changing into a scene where the POV is not present.

Just out of interest, how did you plan on doing it without changing POV, if the POV character isn't present for the scene? If a scene doesn't have a POV it doesn't exist.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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You could also have multiple first person narratives, switching between chapters, as with Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Or embed the stories as they are narrated to the primary narrator, eg. "Then the duck whisperer, upon his watercress deathbed, imparted to me his woeful history, which began thus: [New chapter: The Duck Whisperer's Tale]"
Its a bit of a digression, but I like the multiple first person technique. I plan to try something along those lines soon. Off the top of my head I can think of The Book of Skulls (Robert Silverberg), Success (Martin Amis) and Black Ajax (George MacDonald Fraser). All good examples.
 

Wayne Mack

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I may be getting tripped up by the terminology.
Yeah. I use omniscient narrator with a POV, dwelling into the POV's thoughts.
For me, "omniscient narrator" is the Point of View. The omniscient narrator may dip into one character's (or multiple characters') thoughts, but the POV will be external to any of the characters. With this PoV, it isn't even necessary to have a character in scene; one could describe a star exploding in space, if desired.
 

Flaviosky

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The omniscient narrator may dip into one character's (or multiple characters') thoughts,
Ah, well, that's correct, but one of the first and most strong advices I got here was to stick with one to avoid head-hopping. I do change the POV from time to time, but the thought-reading is one at a time.
 

Flaviosky

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Just out of interest, how did you plan on doing it without changing POV
For example, I'm sticking to one character, detailing his feelings, expressions and thoughs. Then the character leaves, but the narrator sticks with the other characters, this time narrating in close third person, because the "target" of the omniscient perspective is no longer in the scene.

But its seems already that this approach is not desirable.
 

tinkerdan

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The simple answer is that such as I did in my first two novels, where I had a First Person POV, when there were scenes I wanted the reader to see that were not from that POV I then dropped to a Close third POV based on the the best character in the scene to tell the story. So, yes it can be done and yes if the character is not there and they have been your only POV then they can't be the POV when they are not there so you need to chose some other POV to convey that scene.

Of course there are a few scenes where it sounds like Omniscient POV and turns out that my MC is watching from a distance; but that's just another wrinkle in the whole POV grab bag.
 

Swank

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Can the POV character not be present in a scene?
Why would you want such a scene? The point of the POV that you're using is that the reader only gets the story that the POV character sees or hears about.
 

DLCroix

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The simple answer is that such as I did in my first two novels, where I had a First Person POV, when there were scenes I wanted the reader to see that were not from that POV I then dropped to a Close third POV based on the the best character in the scene to tell the story. So, yes it can be done and yes if the character is not there and they have been your only POV then they can't be the POV when they are not there so you need to chose some other POV to convey that scene.

Of course there are a few scenes where it sounds like Omniscient POV and turns out that my MC is watching from a distance; but that's just another wrinkle in the whole POV grab bag.

I have observed at least that Pérez-Reverte also does this in the Captain Alatriste saga, a cloak-and-dagger historical novel where the narrator (Iñigo Balboa) recounts the adventures he lives with his mentor in first-person POV, but sometimes he " cheats", so to speak, to narrate the events related to his master where he (Iñigo) was not present. Otherwise, as some have said, if your POV character isn't present in the scene, the best way to save yourself all the fuss and confuse the reader is to go straight for an omniscient narrator. :ninja:
 

Flaviosky

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, the best way to save yourself all the fuss and confuse the reader is to go straight for an omniscient narrator
Yeah, this seems to be the simpliest way out if I don't wanna change POV's into a small scene worth one or two pages when the POV is not present but still there are relevant things to show. I've done another look into my editing to see if rearranging events and dialogue I can minimize these situations, with mild success.

What would be the best approach to introduce this omniscient narrator with no (apparent) POV? For instance, in other threads some use graphical elements to mark a change in POV (I've picked ###), but this situation is different; The POV is now omniscient.
 

DLCroix

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Let's see, about the camera angle, so to speak, I can think of the following based on a novel where I had to alternate between multiple POVs.

First, the master POV that opens the chapter and is master because the main actions of that chapter will converge in him (based on your situation, he is not the MC). The best example, since you are Chilean, is obviously San Martin. I suppose you understand that perfectly: let's suppose that O'Higgins is your MC, he has a hole in his arm and is recovering (that is, absent from the scene), so San Martín must direct the battle of Maipú.

Camera or POV 1: San Martín and the boys seeing how they come out of it, and it's serious, that's where war is defined. Whatever happens on that couple of pages should go together. Then, as shown in this example, line break with white space and we go to:

Camera or POV 2: The realistic army, troop movement, general panning. As in the previous one, what happens on this page must go together. Then another line break with white space and we go to:

Camera or POV 3: The Patriot Army. Worse than San Martin, seeing how a foreigner manages to get them out of that one, and it's much more serious. But, as in the previous one, what happens on this page goes together. Then another line break with white space and we go to:

From then on the camera or POV alternates between the 3 POVs but it has already become clear to the reader which these 3 POVs are. Therefore, there is no problem in describing, for example: a cannon that is fired from the Spanish side and the explosion on the opposite (or Chilean) side in the same paragraph.
Only in terms of its importance as a POV master (and that's why I put it with a line break or separate period), the thoughts, emotions or swear words of the POV master, seeing the tremendous damage that cannon shot did among the people.

Oh, and by the way, now that I remember, a wonderful example of multiple points of view is the narrative of the rebels' attack on the Death Star in Richard Dean Anderson's adaptation of Star Wars. But that use...

***

...is used within a chapter when the action of a particular scene is actually over and rather tells what happened the next day or the next week or something like that. It is a severe cut that almost indicates the "liar" beginning of a chapter and it was not established thus merely for the needs of the story itself. :ninja:
 

Brian G Turner

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I use omniscient narrator with a POV
In which case you can play fast and loose. Usually when people talk about a POV character they're talking about close third-person, but omniscient allows you to move outside of any particular character you're following.

Just be warned that a) omniscient isn't very common in mainstream publishing these days, and b) most aspiring writers seem to drift into that first because it allows them to avoid being too emotionally close to their characters/story, resulting in a wall of text that can struggle to engage a reader.
 

tinkerdan

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For scene breaks I have used:
***
I have even use:

~*~
However some readers I have experience with are annoyed by those types of breaks and would just as soon see just extra line spacing.

Line of text from end of scene..................here


and then new line of new scene here.

However when publishing I have found that the ebook conversion often deletes extra line spacing when it see what it thinks is too many which seems to be more than one. So when I want to force a space I use the smallest character I can find.

For example:
End of text of scene one. And if you look carefully there is a period in what would be the second line apace.

.​

Beginning of new scene. That way the conversion process sees the period centered on the middle space allowing all three spaces.

When formatting for publication I often take the first four words of a new chapter and capitalize them.

BEGINNING OF THE CHAPTER is here. with no indent and the subsequent paragraphs have indents until we reach the scene break

.​

THEN THE FIRST paragraph of the next scene has three uppercase words with no indent. Each subsequent paragraph is indented.

That seems to help make the scene changes evident.
 

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