I've been writing a novel that pushes the bounds on a conventional POV. It's essentially third person limited, but I sometimes leave the perspective of the main protagonist to cover an event that has direct relevance to him. I might even use an entity (such as a bird or a river's flow) to "direct the camera" to something that I feel the reader should see. I don't overuse that though, as it could quickly feel forced. It's a fantasy novel and the purpose of this tactic is to fill in a little of the backstory and connect dots when the protagonist might not be present.

Other than this one quirk, I follow the third person limited standard pretty tightly. My question is, will this POV confuse readers? I understand that a weird or inconsistent POV can really chew away a reader's faith in the author, and the whole purpose behind this POV is to add, not take away value.

I'm curious what other writers think of this and if anyone can give me examples of books that employ a similar tactic. All opinions are welcome and appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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    I'd just write it and see what my readers say. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


Seems to me like you are simply branching small deviations from the main POV. You can do these with indented blocks of text, or special formatting, or simply by making those sections smaller than the surrounding text. If the aforementioned sections are obviously done with a different POV for the benefit of the reader, then I should think that most readers will catch on rather soon.
Of course, whenever you plan to introduce these ‘glances’, you should have quite a few of them in near succession so that the readers can easily get the feel for what you are doing — especially if you haven't done any other POV shifts previously.

One thing that I always do is to shape the voice of the narrative as fits the scene. I was to quote some examples from one of my works, but it is best to summarize:

  • My transitions are obvious because the subjects of the sentences describing perspective are, well, obvious. If all the previous sentences talked of how some person named ‘Mıduḷ’ made observations, and then — suddenly, — while walking past or while staring at a tree, the sentences begin talking about the tree as if it were the POV …
    You described what I shall say to be a beautiful technique. I didn't think I had done something like it many times, and indeed now am unable to recall a single one. Maybe they are buried in with my perfunctory fragments. Excepting sections or phases which encase large shifts in the narration which were made to bear exposition, my characters tend to imagine such scenes in their mind, rather than me detour the narration.
    I have one portion which begins from the operators of a vehicle, and describes the movement of the vehicle as it exits a hangar. Then, as the vehicle passes some observers, the POV of narration begins to follow them. While the POV is outside the pilotry of the vehicle and prior to resolving the observer on the ground, it is not following any actual person. Alas, to quote the entirety of that passage would be 506 words and 3137 characters of text.
  • Other transitions occur between participants in dialogue. There is a large passage where POVs are mixed: each paragraph has a single, clear POV; the POV is not always aligned with who-ever is speaking in that paragraph.
    I almost never combine speakers together in a single paragraph.
    The transitions occur when one participant exits the scene. I.e.:
    I may begin describing one person walking to a door. The door opens and another participant appears. They talk. The door closes, the participants are separated and the dialogue severed, and now we are reading of the person who was inside the room during the aftermath of the conversation at the door.

Alas, I cannot cite a review which has commented as to the flow or readability of my styles as such.

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    I'll quote some examples if you like, but bear in mind that many of them will be quite long if they are to serve as informative examples. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 4:10

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