Thursday, May 29, 2008

Multiple POV aka write-tight

Kimberly recently asked me about multiple POV, which was cool, because I've been trouble-shooting a) my wip and b) category versus single title, and this sort of plays into the whole thing.

I’m not trying to bring up Scott Eagan again, but he put a lot of thought into what makes a category book, category—strong focused pov, y’know, just the hero/heroine, and a plot with few bells and whistles.

It’s got to be enough to carry the story, but it can’t be so much it takes over, if that makes any sense. And maybe that’s the true definition of a character driven romance. Enough plot to hang two characters on.

Category isn’t as easy as it looks, because people lose confidence and worry they won’t have enough material. Subplots can be crutches—they pad word count, and unless done right, can turn into multiple books running at the same time. It’s why old epics have that “epic” feel. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy. Each book has a cast of multiple pairs, and the books follow each group separately as they do their own thing. I don’t know if the story ever ended, but after reading thousands of pages that covered—I think about a story-week, I got bored.

Unless the subplot advances or mirrors the plot in some way, it’s just extra.


Kimberly’s question was kind of sideways, because she asked if multiple povs are a substitute for a strong plot. Uhm, maybe that’s not the way she put it, but—lol, that’s what I’m going to say she said. So, yes—in my opinion, multiple povs are lazy writing, and let me back that up quickly before people throw rotten tomatoes at me.

…if you have subplots in which strong secondaries have their own pov, and the subplot isn’t just filler, then it’s not really “multiple” povs in the classic sense of “even the cat’s pov”. Each pov is needed. i.e. early Brockmann. In her two story arcs, her book arc, and her continuing arc, there’s a total of four povs. The continuing arc advances the plot but continues beyond the current book to become its own multi-book arc.

BUT,
if you have a mystery or suspense, or something where the outcome hinges on knowledge, letting the reader know what’s going on through the cat’s pov is just not cool. A well thought out, strongly constructed plot takes the “entire” plot into consideration. If you need to lay a clue, foreshadow things. Put a gun on the mantle for the hero to grab later. Having the heroine’s former mother-in-law do an as you know, Bob with her best friend, in a coffee shop somewhere totally off to stage left is avoidance. If your reader needs to know back story, a stronger construction would be the use of dialog or a flashback.

There’s a scene in the mom’s POV where she and the reader discover this walk on character is more than a walk on. I think that info could have, for lack of a better word, been shown in the next scene when he saves the day.

I left the question whole, because it explains the situation, but…yeah, it’s a variation on telling. You aren’t actually “telling” because you’re “showing”, but it’s telling because it’s not being shown in the right way. Does the mom need to be there? Is she the one in danger? What logical reason does she have to be on stage? And her knowledge of the guy, isn’t her daughter’s knowledge of the guy, so to the heroine, this guy’s actions come totally out of the blue. It’s like that old standby, “little did she know” but updated. It’s…omni pov through multiple pov—does that make any sense?

Even a complicated plot, as long as it’s constructed in a tight manner is easy for a reader to follow. That rescue-guy could have had flashes of “heroic” behavior, or let something slip in conversation, or had something strange about his appearance or behavior that triggered a thought string in the hero or heroine. And I’m not saying plotting is better than pantsing. Once the basic plot and rough is down, stuff like that can be layered in.

It depends on who you’re writing for. I assume anyone who reads my stuff is just as smart as me. I trust my reader. Maybe…it’s all a matter of trust.

10 comments:

Jeanna said...

Oh, don't assume. At least in my case. Must go watch soaps now.

Alice Audrey said...

Sometimes coming up with the right material in the right way is instinctive, but a lot of the time it isn't. Sometimes the story - which is not the same thing as plot - isn't clear enough to know which POV's are important and which aren't.

Is Boe Foley needed? I think so. Without him it would be a radically different book. But he wasn't in the rough draft.

jodi said...

Jeanna, when Victor grew too old for Nikki in the Young and the Restless, I was sad for weeks. :(

(ignore me, Alice. I'm pontificating :)

If it's needed, it's needed. I know you don't have cat-pov, lol.

Unhinged said...

Well, I'm primarily a ROMANCE writer who'd like a STRONG PLOT to be #3 in a character-driven story. H/h, then the plot.

Two main point of views.

Fringe pov thrown in when necessary, but not often.

No more, no more, no more. Because of my two-cell brain and all, yanno.

I know this because one of my favorite writers keeps dropping me out of one pair's story to continue along another's. It frustrates me, but I keep reading.

sigh

Unhinged said...

(From now on, I'm going to end every post with a sigh.)

Hah, hah, hah, hah!

sigh

jodi said...

lol, you'll get me doing that too.

*sigh*

Jeanna said...

There must be some similarities between romance writing and soaps, no?

Unhinged said...

Jeanna. LOL!

sigh

John Q. Writer said...

I agree that writing tightly, i.e. concisely, is very important, but when you condense what you have written so much that the reader is trying in vain to figure out what you are talking about, then you have exceeded the realm of good writing.

Perhaps I was not cut out to be a writer, for I had trouble following a cogent trail, even though I already understood all these points you seemed to be making.

Sorry.

John Q. Writer said...

I agree that writing tightly, i.e. concisely, is very important, but when you condense what you have written so much that the reader is trying in vain to figure out what you are talking about, then you have exceeded the realm of good writing.

Perhaps I was not cut out to be a writer, for I had trouble following a cogent trail, even though I already understood all these points you seemed to be making.

Sorry.