Point of View Switching

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Point of View Switching

#1 Post by Bto3 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:06 pm

Say we have a visual novel with a changing/shifting point of view. The protag tells the story, but sometimes, it switches to the POV of their love interest or best friend.
For example, once, I read a book and I didn't have a damn clue that there had been a POV switch until something like half way through, when they FINALLY named a character and I finally realized "Oh! Those were names at the top of the chapter start pages!" I don't want that.
For a visual novel example, I'll use SHUFFLE! since it's pretty widely known. On Asa's route, it switches to her POV at one point and the only way I was able to tell was that her voice was distinctly different from the protag's and that the screen was black. It worked, but only because it was brief. For a longer amount of time, I would've been losing the visual bit of the experience.
The black may have been because she was on the verge of exploding, but I'm honestly not sure.
Now, I ask what does and doesn't make POV switch clear, and easy for you to follow? What drives you batty and what makes it an easy transition? Things like that. If someone has an idea about how to go about POV switching that's clear and smooth, I'd love to hear it!
Thanks!

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Re: Point of View Switching

#2 Post by Applegate » Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:24 pm

Switch PoV's after a chapter and feature the name of the narrator somewhere under the chapter name, or something. I remember reading this book... can't recall what it's called but I'd love it if someone could remind me!! I remember reading this book about a girl, her autistic brother and her mother, and the PoV would switch between them per chapter. Each chapter had the name of the narrator under it, so you knew who was speaking, and it made the story more whole and complete in my opinion.

I'd love to read a Visual Novel that explores this option, too, but it should never be a re-telling of what happened. i.e. Ann and Joe are walking down the street. Ann is narrating. Later on, Joe narrates the exact same scene from his view. Rather, I'd like to see Joe narrate new scenes, and if his views of the earlier scenes are important, work them in... subtly. ;)

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Re: Point of View Switching

#3 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:50 am

There are non-visual ways to indictate as well, such as having extremely different written styles (Accents, punctuation, sentence structure) or having the POV switch from first to third and focus on different characters (which is what Jonathan Stroud does).
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Re: Point of View Switching

#4 Post by PyTom » Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:59 am

I know that at least one game I've played indicated a POV switch by a change of the text box. Adjusting the interface - dialogue frame, text font, and color - is a really good way to let the user know that an important change has happened.
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Re: Point of View Switching

#5 Post by Bto3 » Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:47 pm

Switch PoV's after a chapter and feature the name of the narrator somewhere under the chapter name, or something.
Unfortunately, this VN isn't divided up into chapters that are small enough for that to work. However, it did give me an idea for something that was used in G-Senjou no Maou.
Image
Taking the silhouette idea from that and making a secondary title screen with the name of the character and the silhouette maybe?
There are non-visual ways to indictate as well, such as having extremely different written styles (Accents, punctuation, sentence structure) or having the POV switch from first to third and focus on different characters (which is what Jonathan Stroud does).
The characters certainly do have different ways of talking, and it shows with things from their point of view. One character's thoughts tend to have a very mature tone, and another has very fast, ADD type thoughts for examples.
I know that at least one game I've played indicated a POV switch by a change of the text box. Adjusting the interface - dialogue frame, text font, and color - is a really good way to let the user know that an important change has happened.
That gave me an idea for part of how to handle this:
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Thank you everyone for your replies :D

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Re: Point of View Switching

#6 Post by Greeny » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:57 pm

I have to warn you that many writers consider switching POV's a very bad move.
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Re: Point of View Switching

#7 Post by Bto3 » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:32 pm

Greeny wrote:I have to warn you that many writers consider switching POV's a very bad move.
I know that it's risky since it's easy to mess up with and overdo or just be bad.
Still though, it's either switch to another character or switch to third person in order to get some important events in. If switching POVs from Character A to B doesn't work, it'll be from Character A to third person whenever Character A isn't present.

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Re: Point of View Switching

#8 Post by Van Knox » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:32 am

Greeny wrote:I have to warn you that many writers consider switching POV's a very bad move.
I have frankly never heard of any writer saying something along those lines. I have heard writers saying that switching points of view is a bad idea if it has no point and is done badly, but then again, that applies to writing in general. Switching points of view is a rather common thing that I frankly have never heard of being frowned upon by any established writer.

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Re: Point of View Switching

#9 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:10 am

Van Knox wrote:
Greeny wrote:I have to warn you that many writers consider switching POV's a very bad move.
I have frankly never heard of any writer saying something along those lines. I have heard writers saying that switching points of view is a bad idea if it has no point and is done badly, but then again, that applies to writing in general. Switching points of view is a rather common thing that I frankly have never heard of being frowned upon by any established writer.
It isn't forbidden or a set rule, but it isn't very elegant. If you are writing 3rd person subjective, objective, or omniscient, switching from character to character is easy and relatively smooth. The main problem with switching POV is when writing in first person. In first person, switching the viewpoint character is often awkward, jarring, or it disrupts narrative flow. But the MAIN problem, the one that has to be overcome, is that switching characters in first person must not break, and must conform to, the narrative "meta fiction".

The "meta fiction" is WHY the story is in first person perspective. Is this a story someone is telling a friend? A deathbed confession? A diary? A letter to a lover? In other words, WHY is this story best told in first person perspective? Why is this person the narrator and not someone else?

Switching characters in first person narratives is possible, so long as the meta fiction is maintained. Perhaps the story is a series of eye witness accounts of one event. Or the story of one character reading the journal, letter, diary, or story of another character. The challenge in all these cases is to create distinctive narrative voices and styles for each character, and to make the transitions as clear as possible.

I mentioned elegance before. This is what most professional writers choose when writing first person POV or third person limited. Simply put, you structure events and the flow of information in a story so that you have NO NEED for other viewpoint characters. Either the narrator is present, or they get the necessary information in another way. Some stories, like those that use an unreliable narrator, almost always have to be in first person.

Keep in mind certain types of stories are better suited for one narrative point-of-view or another. A story of personal growth or overcoming adversity might work best in first person, but a sprawling epic with dozens of locations and characters might be best told in third person omniscient. Another way to think of it is this: Which is more important - the events themselves or how one character relates to those events? Answering that question can inform which narrative POV you should be using for the story.

An example using Collins' Hunger Games: The actual events of the Hunger Games in the book aren't as important as the events' effects on the protagonist Katniss. So using first person was the best choice to tell that story.

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Re: Point of View Switching

#10 Post by Van Knox » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:40 am

LateWhiteRabbit wrote:
Van Knox wrote:
Greeny wrote:I have to warn you that many writers consider switching POV's a very bad move.
I have frankly never heard of any writer saying something along those lines. I have heard writers saying that switching points of view is a bad idea if it has no point and is done badly, but then again, that applies to writing in general. Switching points of view is a rather common thing that I frankly have never heard of being frowned upon by any established writer.
It isn't forbidden or a set rule, but it isn't very elegant. If you are writing 3rd person subjective, objective, or omniscient, switching from character to character is easy and relatively smooth. The main problem with switching POV is when writing in first person. In first person, switching the viewpoint character is often awkward, jarring, or it disrupts narrative flow. But the MAIN problem, the one that has to be overcome, is that switching characters in first person must not break, and must conform to, the narrative "meta fiction".

The "meta fiction" is WHY the story is in first person perspective. Is this a story someone is telling a friend? A deathbed confession? A diary? A letter to a lover? In other words, WHY is this story best told in first person perspective? Why is this person the narrator and not someone else?

Switching characters in first person narratives is possible, so long as the meta fiction is maintained. Perhaps the story is a series of eye witness accounts of one event. Or the story of one character reading the journal, letter, diary, or story of another character. The challenge in all these cases is to create distinctive narrative voices and styles for each character, and to make the transitions as clear as possible.

I mentioned elegance before. This is what most professional writers choose when writing first person POV or third person limited. Simply put, you structure events and the flow of information in a story so that you have NO NEED for other viewpoint characters. Either the narrator is present, or they get the necessary information in another way. Some stories, like those that use an unreliable narrator, almost always have to be in first person.

Keep in mind certain types of stories are better suited for one narrative point-of-view or another. A story of personal growth or overcoming adversity might work best in first person, but a sprawling epic with dozens of locations and characters might be best told in third person omniscient. Another way to think of it is this: Which is more important - the events themselves or how one character relates to those events? Answering that question can inform which narrative POV you should be using for the story.

An example using Collins' Hunger Games: The actual events of the Hunger Games in the book aren't as important as the events' effects on the protagonist Katniss. So using first person was the best choice to tell that story.
While I agree with what you are saying, I don't think it contradicts my original statement. Is it easy to disrupt the narrative by switching viewpoints? Absolutely. But my point is that switching viewpoints isn't significantly harder to do than anything else, writing wise. So to say that "many writers consider switching POV's a very bad move." like the post I originally quoted said seems rather strange. I don't see writers considering switching viewpoints a bad move; I see writers considering switching viewpoints while effectively destroying their own stories as a bad move. It isn't as though switching viewpoints is like using the second person, which is nearly always clumsy, seldom used and hardly ever done with a purpose. It's a very useful and common tool. That's what I was responding to.

In any case, I agree with the principle you cited, but even then, there are some things that must be noted. Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, not only switches viewpoints, it also shifts from first to third person with no reason given. The first person is Dr. Watson publishing Holmes adventures in a magazine as he always does, and the third person is a flashback so as to give the crime itself a backstory. This 'flashback' is not an actual character remembering his past, but rather the reader just being taken to that past with no explanation.

This works because of a similar principle to what you mentioned, about plot or character mattering more. In this case, the connection between the two stories isn't neither the plot nor the characters, but the tone. It's the tone of adventure and mystery that made the Sherlock Holmes stories so famous throughout the ages and that remains present in both narratives, even as the viewpoint, plot and characters change. This is a change that works unlike the time Conan Doyle tried to use the same device in an earlier novel(A Study in Scarlet) where the shift in narrative, viewpoint and tone led to two bizarre stories that were seemingly packaged as one.

I believe elegance is more strongly attached to maintaining narrative flow, which I associate with tone just as much as I do with plot and characters, than through the use of a framing device.

Mind you, I do think that narrative structure can be easily messed up.

One more thing that should be noted is that compared to novel writing, visual novel writing has the advantage of visual cues to facilitate the viewpoint transition. This makes the act of switching viewpoints much easier, in my opinion.

So in short, I agree with what you said, just not quite with the same eloquence.

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Re: Point of View Switching

#11 Post by Catlip Candy » Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:23 pm

I don't know if the best way is to relive this thread or just make another thread but I don't want to have the other advice to go to waste, so anyways, just posting...... ....

I have the same problem of switching into other Point of Views. In my case, there will be 1 major character, 3 date-able guys and 1 character for the sake of the default ending (poor you :cry: )

So, what happens is the 1 major character is the center of the story, and will mingle with the other 4 characters. All characters have their pasts, and whilst this major character does a great job in choosing the right choices, there will be a flashback that will share some tiny information about the other character, but, in that other character's Point of View.

The VN is divided by day (dunno if that's a chapter, too) so currently, I have 9 days in total. Let's just say those are chapters. My problems are:

- Where am I going to insert the flashback? Should it be within the chapter, like in the middle of the chapter? Or in between chapters?
- What ways to do it so that it won't be too confusing...?


So, although the VN is divided, the switching character's POV won't take up the whole chapter. Their sentence structure might help, but I'd be writing in a child's perspective (because it's a flashback from where the characters were kids and I think the sentencing structure won't change much based on the personality, but maybe on a child's perspective (like, how a child thinks). I don't know much about coding, and I plan to do the textbox too, but I think it's a lot of work to change designs of textboxes and do codings and stuff (although I may just be thinking ahead without trying it). Also, won't it affect the consistency of the game's design?

I have done some POV switching before in my first novel. It was a flashback, too. However in my first VN, the protagonist and the character was talking with each other, with the protagonist asking her what happened about a certain scene. The character then started reminiscing what happened and then she takes the narrator role.

But in the current VN I'm working on, the protagonist isn't talking with the character that I'm planning to be switched to. It's something like a flashback that is intended for the readers to see so that they know the character's past, but the protagonist doesn't know about it, so it's like, there'll be no conversation that will take place between protagonist and other character to reminisce what happen and to hand over the narration role.

In my first VN, I did some side images for that other character so to show that clearly, she's the narrator. But this time, I want it to be pure CG (I think it's much more dramatic with just CGs and no side images), and the character's thoughts is that of a child, so that means I'll be drawing a child's face as a side image, too. But anyways, I prefer it without side images this time x___x

So, what is everybody's thoughts? .___.?
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Re: Point of View Switching

#12 Post by Bto3 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 1:05 pm

I can try to expand later but personally I think it would be best to nest the flashbacks between chapters/days. You're less likely to confuse POV and the readers that way if they know to expect that shift.

I've learned a lot myself since I first posted this!

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Re: Point of View Switching

#13 Post by Catlip Candy » Fri Nov 18, 2016 1:11 pm

Bto3 wrote:I can try to expand later but personally I think it would be best to nest the flashbacks between chapters/days. You're less likely to confuse POV and the readers that way if they know to expect that shift.

I've learned a lot myself since I first posted this!

Okay *^*)/ yeah I think that's better too, thanks for the advice *^*)/
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Re: Point of View Switching

#14 Post by RotGtIE » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:59 pm

One of the greatest advantages of writing in the first person is that doing so grants you the ability to develop the narrator's character through their thoughts and narration style. Narrators aren't restricted to simply telling the events of a story - they can have their own opinions about everything that happens in it, as well.

A classic example of narration switching is found in Fate/Stay Night. In the prologue of all routes, and the epilogue of the final route, Tohsaka Rin is the narrator. But for the overwhelming majority of the story, Emiya Shirou narrates the events. The former is a tsundere heroine with extremely high expectations of herself, and the latter is a mild-mannered protagonist with a survivor's guilt complex. The stark contrast in personality between these two characters drastically changes the way they narrate the same events, and even the frequency with which they inject their own opinions and judgment statements about what is going on changes significantly enough that it's hard to be unsure whether the bossy, easily-frustrated Rin is talking about an event, or if the easy-going and somewhat thick-skulled Shirou is doing the storytelling.

Of course, your editor will want to murder you for switching narrators in the middle of your story, but that's just part of the eternal struggle between writers and editors. If you want to try this, I recommend you start with an easy switch - between a first-person protagonist narrator and a third-person non-character narrator, and no others. That makes it possible for you to keep the reader informed about events that a first-person narrator couldn't possibly know about, but spares you the challenge of trying to disambiguate multiple first-person narrators.

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Re: Point of View Switching

#15 Post by Kuiper » Sat Nov 19, 2016 8:01 am

Saya no Uta starts off as a first-person narrative from Fuminori's perspective, but at a certain point there's a shift to third-person viewpoint from a different character's perspective. The shift between first and third person is always really obvious (so there's never any doubt in the reader's mind as to who the active viewpoint character is), and it also illustrates some of the difference between the two character's mental states. (Part of Saya no Uta's core conceit is that the main protagonist Fuminori has warped senses, so the parts of the story that are narrated from his perspective are seen through his warped perception, whereas the portions of the story that are told from the perspective of a character who has "normal" perception are sort of more "objective" (or at the very least, closer to the "true" version of what is really happening), and while third-person limited viewpoint can certainly be subjective, it certainly feels like first-person is the most subjective narrative style.

One of the biggest issues with having multiple characters who have the first-person viewpoint is the fact that it can be confusing to the reader when they see "I" and the definition of "I" is constantly changing. Even in cases where I consciously know that the viewpoint has shifted, if I've just spent 2 hours reading a story and training myself to think that "I = John," it's really hard to mentally replace that with "I = Sue" when the viewpoint character changes. Outside of visual novels, it's exceedingly rare for stories to have more than two viewpoint characters with first-person narration (the only exceptions I can think of are weird experimental literary pieces). Visual novels do benefit from the visual component of their presentation; as other posters in this thread have noted, a visual change to the style of the font or textbox can help alleviate this, since the presentation of the text can serve as a visual "marker" for the current viewpoint character. Another way to get around this is to make sure that all of your viewpoint characters have really unique and distinctive voices. If both viewpoint characters perceive the world and articulate their thoughts in the same way, the distinction between the two of them is going to get really muddy.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have more than two characters using first-person viewpoint, I'd take a moment to question whether first-person narration is right for your story. One of the main benefits of first-person is that it brings the individual to the fore, and that can be great if you want to tell a story that is centered on a compelling character whose headspace is critical to the story you are telling. First-person narration is basically the one place where you easily get away with "telling" (as opposed to showing) directly to the audience, just by having your main character talk at the audience. ("Hey, I'm John, the kid in the awkward sweater. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation...") However, if you have three first-person viewpoints, at least two of those characters (and maybe even all three) are going to have a minority of the screen time, meaning that they can't really be a focal point in the way that you'd usually like a first-person narrator to be. If you look at any of the prominent examples of stories that have myriad viewpoint characters (see for example most epic fantasy like A Game of Thrones), they tend to use third-person viewpoint, which puts less of a focus an individual and more on the world that they inhabit.


I think multiple first-person narrators works best with "dual narration," where you have two main characters who are on similar footing both in terms of how central they are to the story and how much screen time they get. (They don't necessarily have to be equals, I think it's okay for one of them to be a more prominent role and have them split their screen time 60/40 or maybe even 70/30, but I want both of them to have their time to "shine.") However, if you have a story that is 80% focused on one character with occasional scenes from other cast member(s), you might want to consider doing the Saya no Uta thing, where the main character's viewpoint is narrated in first-person, and the "digressions" from other characters' viewpoints are told in third-person. First-person narration requires us to take a bit of time to acquaint ourselves with the narrator for it to really be effective, so if someone is only going to be a viewpoint character for one scene, I'd definitely lean toward using third-person narration for their viewpoint.)
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