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POV poser

Started by geoffnelder, July 28, 2021, 04:48:15 PM

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A book I am enjoying is annoying me.
The much acclaimed, best-seller "Leave the World Behind" by Rumaan Alam is published by Bloomsbury in 2020 and is a kind of mystery thriller whereby a family on holiday in a remote location discovers a news and media blackout. A mysterious loud noise is heard giving rise to all sorts of speculation of asteroid strike, terrorist strike, nuclear power station meltdown, etc.
The thing is, while the characters are strong, the plot (for me) compelling and page turning, the POV is so head hopping its driving me as crazy as the characters. Perhaps that's the plan: to turn me into the demented beings in the book. Yes, we have an omniscient POV, but editors frown on it because, like me, the poor reader loses engagement several times a page when thoughts hop from one to another with no section breaks. It's not just a case of an experienced author and publisher knowing and thus allowed to flout the 'rules'. The author isn't a novice although much of the narrative is rather naïve: such as the dialogue is often repetitive as real life is but therefore as boring as real life can be.
Is this the way of things now? Do I stop encouraging my editing clients to stick to one POV per section for novels? Do I chuck everything into the air for my own writing? The more I read of contemporary writing the more I know nothing!


Geoff, I've noticed that more and more often, particularly in e-books, there are no obvious section breaks.  Sometimes not even an extra line of 'white space'.

Technically I wonder if there is some typesetting software in use which is programmed to just ignore all 'spurious' symbols.  If so it's 'not fit for purpose'.

Those three little asterisks, or runes if it was that kind of book, make all the difference for a reader.  Just a non-jarring prompt that something is changing.  The  printed equivalent to a live storyteller leaning forwards, or making a dramatic gesture.

When the readers can find themselves three or four paragraphs further on in the tale and wondering why 'Susan' is suddenly talking - or worse still behaving - like 'Bob' then either the writer or the publisher isn't doing their job properly.

Stick to your guns.


Jo Bannister

Before a book is fashionable, innovative or clever, surely in the name of all that's holy it has to be comprehensible!  If someone who both reads and writes is having difficulties following which of the characters is at the steering wheel now, the book has failed.  It's easy enough to make it clear so there's no excuse for not doing.

I like multiple view-points as a reader and use them as a writer, and I've never had any complaints about clarity.  I think the trick is to use it with discretion: don't jump from head to head to head without both identifying the heads concerned and having a good reason to do it.  Often a new chapter, or at least a white line, makes a natural juncture between one POV and the next. 

Like Gyppo, I don't know why the physical presence of an asterisk as a row-marker has fallen out of favour.  My publishers seem to prefer a blank line, unless that line co-incides with the end of a page in which case they'll treat me to an asterisk.  But why not always? - it can't use that much ink!