Sunday, August 30, 2009

Breaking the Rules

I never have been one to break the rules. I was a good kid in school and tried to do what my teacher asked of me. As an adult, at work, on the road, in public places, I follow the rules.

But in my writing, I have issues. For my current WIP, I started splitting the scene when I changed point of view from one character to another. As the story has gone along, I've become brave. If it is within the same scene and I decide to change point of view, I would simply start a new paragraph with the opposing character's viewpoint.

Dianna, my critique partner, let me know the change in view point stopped her. Of course, she is looking for that sort of thing. But on the other hand, if the change in view point wasn't smooth, that could have been another reason the scene stopped for her.

As a writer, that's the last thing you want to happen for the reader, unless your at the end of the chapter. And in that case, you hope the cliffhanger you're ending the chapter with is compelling enough for the reader not to be able to put the story down.

In recent books I've read, the change in viewpoint within the same scene stopped me too, but that's because I have an eagle eye for the way an author displays his or her story. I liked the change in viewpoint. I always have.

As new authors we hear from other authors about the "rules." Then, you hear from other people in the business who may say if you can write well, then you can tell a story however you want. This last statement can mean you may be able to "break the rules" and get away with it.

I've read many authors who change viewpoint within the scene, they do it well, and it keeps me involved in the story. It may also get me deeper into the story.

Ohh- I love it when that happens!

So what do you all think? I'd love to see feedback about "breaking the rules" in writing as well as your reader preference for a character's viewpoint. Do you like to see the viewpoint organized and divided by a double line or do you prefer it be a fluid change?


  1. I know where you're coming from Christy. It's hard as an unpubbed author to know what will be accepted when submitting to an editor for the first time. But, even us unpubbed authors must trust our gut instincts.

    Keep going and push the limits when your instincts tell you to. What the worst an editor can say? Change it in revisions? You never know, the editor might like it too.

  2. Hi Christy,
    I'm still putting # when I change POV's in the same scene...but I've been thinking about just switching. Like to hear what others say. Thanks for the post.

  3. I'm with Dianna. I'm unpubbed and working on my first ms. I try to remember as many "rules" as possible, and yet, follow my "gut feelings" for the lack of a better phrase. If it "feels" right, and I'm satisfied with it, I leave it and let my critique group tell me what they think. Sometimes I go with what they say and sometimes I pray about it and leave it. Mostly, I always pray before I start to write - and I pray a LOT while I'm writing. :)

  4. I've seen POV changes w/in a scene, more in secular fiction that Christian. However, I'm usually a paragraph or two into the other person's POV before I realize it. Then it's like, "Wait a minute." At which point I go back and check to see if that's what really happened. Someone who's not a writer and doesn't know about "the rules" would have just kept on reading.
    I once heard an author discuss this topic. She said that there is a correct way to switch POVs within a scene. She said you need to back out of the first person's POV. Don't get into their head, just observations that could be from either POV. Then gradually slip into the other person's POV. Make sense? Probably not, but hey, I'm a blonde. It makes perfect sense to me :-D

  5. Mindy, that makes sense. I've also heard about handing off an object from one character to the other during the switch. And making sure to have an immediate thought in the next person's POV to show the transition. And I used to do that. Now I'm more likely to just break the scene.

    I'll make up an example of what you were talking about (just for fun). :)

    John couldn't believe Jane would be so stubborn. How could she stand there and tell him she had no interest in going to the office Christmas party with him? And if she wouldn't go, how could he possibly give her the gift that was tucked away in his pocket?

    "I know what you're thinking." Jane crossed her arms and her foot starting tapping. "And I'm not just doing this to aggravate you. I'm trying to prove my point."

    Oh, he knew good and well her point. She'd made it over and over the past week. "I guess we're just at an impasse."

    "I guess so. You won't commit. And I won't settle for less than full commitment."

    He moved closer, the smell of her perfume torturing him. "I'm not saying we won't commit someday. Just be a little flexible." He brushed his thumb over her cheek. Maybe just go to dinner again?"

    "Or attend a Christmas party together?" She took a step away. "I won't be manipulated by your sweet talk."

    He sighed. "Okay. I get the message." He yanked the gift box out of his pocket, the pristine red bow all crinkled now. "Merry Christmas." He held out the small box to Jane.

    Jane hesitated but then took the package from John, scared to trust his sincerity. She couldn't believe he'd even remembered to give her something. He'd forgotten her birthday. And ignored her graduation from grad school. "Wow. I don't know what to say."

    "Just say thank you." He looked hurt. Another shocker. This man never got hurt by anyone or anything.

    "Thank you," she said, and then she started to walk out of his office. But something stopped her. She couldn't quite go through the door. She turned. Opened her mouth to speak.

    And he was there. Wrapping her in his arms. "Don't go. Please," he whispered in her ear. "I don't want to spend Christmas alone."

    Sorry! That was long. I got carried away in the scene. LOL And now that I've done this, I'm wondering if maybe I should go back to my old way of changing POV. It might make scenes feel less choppy.

    Hmmm. Thanks for the post, Christy!

  6. Great example, Missy. However, now I want the rest of that story :-D

  7. LOL, Mindy. And now I want to write it! :)

    Maybe it would be a good creative exercise next time I'm trying to think up an idea.

  8. We've been discussing breaking "writing rules" in my historical critique group. Great topic.