1. Lau_02
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    Lau_02 New Member

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    How to balance two points of view?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lau_02, Sep 18, 2016.

    I am currently setting out to write my first, what I hope will be, novel. In the way of fiction I have only previously written short stories.
    I have started to write from two points of view, and found I am including two protagonists. I don't want my story to loose its focus by writing in this way or to become confusing for the reader.
    Is it best to alter the novel to focus on one protagonist and one point of view or is there a way I could balance my viewpoints to prevent the narrative from becoming too confusing?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If you are talking about having two first person protagonists, I think it works fine. Some very good books like Barbara Kingsolver's, The Poisonwood Bible, does this. The story is told from the separate POVs of three sisters and the mother. The author changes chapters when she changes POVs.

    Otherwise you are talking about third person omniscient or third person limited with two characters (it's usually with one), neither of which has the same effect, in my opinion, of cleanly changing character POVs.
     
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  3. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Le Carre writes omniscient with multiple POV's, seems to work for him.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I forgot to mention, welcome to the forum.
    :superhello:
     
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  5. Lau_02
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    Lau_02 New Member

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    Thank you! Thanks for replying too, your comment has really given me food for thought.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This depends a lot on genre. @Sack-a-Doo is coming at this, it seems, from an action-adventure perspective, and I can see how having one protagonist for a book like that might be important. (Although I think there are lots of exceptions, for sure).

    But for other genres, it's quite standard to write two protagonists--romance, for example, is almost all two-POV, two protagonists these days. (There are exceptions to this, too, but it's definitely the default in my experience).

    What's the main story you're trying to write? What's the ultimate goal? How many people are intimately involved in reaching that goal?
     
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Something outside the action/adventure genre? Most romances, as mentioned.

    The Game of Thrones extravaganza. It's kind of a cheat because it's so many different stories being told, but I'm still trying to believe GRRM will be able to pull them all together by the end of the series...

    Similar thing with The Stand, and it did all get pulled together fairly well.
     
  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've done both: single POV and dual POV. I prefer dual, probably because of the genre (romance which, as Bay mentioned, usually has two 'equal' protagonists). I change chapter to change POV. I tried changing mid-chapter but I just wasn't comfortable with it. Felt messy.

    As a reader, I don't have a preference.
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Not a single part of that is correct, Sack. :p
     
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  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    What?

    I've written, like, 20 romances, published as romances, by reputable publishers including Big Five. And you're going to lecture me about the structure of the genre?

    Do you want to take a moment and come at the issue from another direction? I don't recall you being an asshole, usually, so I'm going to guess there's something weird going on today?


    You should probably read the books before you lecture to someone who has read the books? Maybe?


    I think you're stretching the meaning of "protagonist" on this one...



    Did you read my first response to your post as some sort of insult? If so, I apologize (although I'm not sure what I said) but otherwise... what the hell is going on?
     
  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes - I'm a romance author.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a split focus. They're both equally upset about it.

    Well, I didn't call you that - I said I didn't think you were. Generally. But mostly I was confused because it's an asshole move to lecture someone who I think you know writes a lot of romance about the structure of the genre when you clearly don't know anything about it. The term "mansplaining" does come to mind...

    I don't see the connection between the market and the protagonist? Women have gotten pretty good at reading stories with male protagonists, after all.



    We're talking theory, using concrete stories as examples. That was what you asked for - examples. And then you dismissed one of the examples I came up with because it didn't match your theory. In that situation, maybe you should be questioning the theory?

    Because, no, it's not at all clear who will end up with the crown, or end up alive, at the end of the series. I don't watch the TV show, so I can't speak to that, but the books? Loads of protagonists, all with their own goals, their own antagonists, etc.

    You're stretching things because you're willing to manipulate the definition of "protagonist" in order to make reality match your conviction that There Can Be Only One.


    I might have been more willing to discuss the vagaries of The Stand if you hadn't been so clearly talking out of your ass on the other two examples. Like, you're just wrong on romance, you're saying things about Game of Thrones that make no sense for someone who's read the series... so I'm not really trusting your opinion on The Stand at this point. Could I see an argument for it being a single protagonist book? If it's easier to accept a protagonist who makes no appearance in the book than it is to accept the possibility of multiple protagonists... I guess. But the other two examples make it clear that multiple protagonists are totally possible, so then... why accept a protagonist who doesn't actually appear in the book?
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everything you say as a fact to a woman who's more-or-less an expert on a topic that you know absolutely nothing about? It's a much smaller umbrella, now, isn't it? Like, a parasol in a fruity drink? So, yeah, every time you contradict or try to explain something about which you know nothing to a woman who does know quite a bit about it? It's going to fit under the umbrella. In order to not say things that fall under the umbrella, you should probably try to avoid spouting nonsense about a topic you know nothing about.

    This feels circular. I did give a concrete example. Game of Thrones. You didn't like it because it didn't fit your theory. I don't think I'm going to spend a whole lot of time coming up with other examples that you also won't like because they don't fit your theory...

    Other people have suggested Poisonwood Bible. It's been too long since I read that, but I trust it would work. I think As I Lay Dying fits, although again, it's been a long time since I read it.

    What about the books of fiction you've read? Like, maybe you should read Game of Thrones. The first couple books are pretty good. Poisonwood Bible has a favourable place in my memory. Give it a shot.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23637854-just-a-summer-fling
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25476393-hometown-hero

    Oh, did I write those?

    You want more than two protagonists? How 'bout three?

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13502581-of-dark-and-bright

    Did I write that one, too?


    Okay, I'm just being a smart ass with those, but, seriously... it's like you're asking for a concrete example of a novel that uses chapters, or something. It's so ubiquitous that it feels silly to offer examples. I don't keep track of my reading based on how many protagonists there are, but off the top of my head, I think these have two protagonists:

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13489919-the-duchess-war
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3112394-the-duke-of-shadows
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18143986-fool-me-twice

    You want non-romance? As I was looking for those I stumbled across my reviews of The Powder Mage books from Brian McLellan. Fantasy, with lots of different protagonists.

    Well, the story's not over yet, so I have no idea whether someone ends up on the throne. But I wouldn't say that's the main goal for all of the story's protagonists. Some want the throne, some want revenge, some just want to survive. Different protagonists, different goals.

    I don't really accept it - I was obviously aware of the "God" aspect while I was reading, but that's not why I cared about the story. I'd have liked it better, really, without all the religious nonsense. I just wanted to read a story about a bunch of people surviving and banding together.

    I'd be willing to accept, I think, the idea of a compound protagonist for The Stand. That is, I think I'd accept the idea that the protagonist is the group itself, the crew that eventually ends up in Denver or wherever it was. And God could be a figurehead for that group. Using that structure, though, makes the first half of the book feel kind of meaningless...



    Whee... playing on Goodreads! Always fun to poke through old books. So add a few more examples...

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27210949-rag-and-bone
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17877553-untamed
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23569243-a-gentleman-in-the-street
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17730586-the-magpie-lord
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17730557-provoked
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21562713-singe
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11277601-life-lessons
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11738128-a-week-to-be-wicked
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23834716-a-fashionable-indulgence
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18853613-crash
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25893424-a-gentleman-s-position
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25845039-turning-tides
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11938752-a-lady-awakened

    Non-romance? How about The Killer Angels? Little Women (is Jo the protagonist? Maybe. Would have to re-read to be sure).
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
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  14. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    I hope you don't mind if I give my non-technical opinion. There are a lot of good thoughts here!

    My first thought was that balance is good, always good, but trying to balance two points of view may be really difficult because they are so different. Let's say you have a negative POV and a positive one. Do you really want to 'balance' them? Seems impossible to me.

    I may be totally missing the point, but I just wanted to chime in. :)
     
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  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think it is hard to get a completely 50/50 balance. Even if both (let's say it's two, for argument's sake) have equal page space, most readers are going to relate more to one than the other. I don't see a problem with that, as long as the other POV isn't so unappealing that they begin to skim to get to their favourite's next POV scene!
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I wonder if every novel even HAS a single protagonist. Maybe some don't. I would struggle to identify a protagonist in most of James Michener's books, for example. I can also think of several books where it would be difficult to pick one of several characters, all of whom have POV chapters, and all of whom end up differently from when they began. Snowblind Moon, is one book I just thought of in that category. It could be any one of three characters in that book. Or even four. The subplots are so strong that it's difficult to determine which of them is actually the main plot.

    Game of Thrones? Dunno. It's entirely possible that there is no single protagonist in that story. And whoever wins the throne (if that ever happens before we all fall off the branch) isn't necessarily the protagonist, either. Somebody we haven't even met yet could waltz in and take it. Or the character who leaves the strongest impression might be the one who sacrifices him or herself so that somebody else can have it. Or they might be the person who is defeated in the final battle, and realises at the end that the whole fight wasn't worth it.

    The 'story must have a protagonist ...only one' notion is one that's worth exploring. Why do we believe that to be true?
     
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  17. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    How many do believe it? I never have, probably because I've always been reading books with multiple protagonists.

    It certainly is an interesting misconception! Maybe it's because we sometimes use 'protagonist' and 'main character' interchangeably, and 'main' suggests one?
     
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm firmly behind the idea of multiple protagonists (obviously). The idea of no protagonist is interesting, too. I guess to some extent that could be the solution to the "there can't be multiples" objection - we could just say that certain books don't actually have protagonists at all, just main characters who are working toward goals and being met by antagonistic forces... no, that's not gonna work for me.

    So a story without a protagonist... would it be possible? As a vignette or something, maybe... but a real story? What would that look like?
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. I'm happy to use the word 'protagonist' (or main character) as appropriate, when discussing a single character who is the focus of the story. I'm just not happy with the notion that every novel has to have only one. Like so much in writing, it's not a 'rule.' Tell the story you want to tell. If it's about two people who have equal experiences in the story, then don't worry about which of them is the protagonist.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Probably a lot like Game of Thrones. :)
     
  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you're taking the "one protagonist or no protagonist" approach.

    Possibly we need to decide on a definition of "protagonist"...
     
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  22. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think you can have one or many. I also can't imagine how a no-protagonist novel would work, but I don't have much imagination...
     
  23. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The story in my signature has 5 POV protagonists: the one with the most screen-time has 20,000 words, the next has 15,250, the third has 12,750, the fourth has 8,000, and the fifth has 7,000.

    The biggest thing that I had to do was make sure that each was doing something (even just internally) in their chapters that another character couldn't do in the same chapter, and the reason two of my characters only got 15,000 between them while another got 20,000 all to herself was because the two characters weren't doing as much as she was.
     
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  24. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Two would be manageable and a little easier if they were both human. From the what I have learned
    is that the common way to jump heads is on a turn base from chapter to chapter. You could however
    use time/space gaps if you prefer to keep them a bit more together. As long as your two MCs have
    have a distinct way of telling their side of the story so as to not get them muddled up and confuse
    the reader. Or if you feel that there may be some confusion you can tag each character so there is
    no way to get them mixed up.

    My first novel was a learning curve, with 3 first POV MCs. One human, one alien, one bio-engineered,
    and after a ton of trial and error of how to make it less confusing I tagged each to prevent confusion.
    And it is also tricky to get their distinct personalities correct all the time. Which sounds silly, but trust
    me working on the sequel it has it's trials. :)
     
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  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wikipedia, with the reference to some book on screenwriting (which may be a mistake, because I think it's totally obvious that movies can have multiple protagonists - Big Chill, etc. But then I think it's obvious that books can have multiple, too, so...?):

    The protagonist is at the center of the story, should be making the difficult choices and key decisions, and should be experiencing the consequences of those decisions. The protagonist should be propelling the story forward. If a story contains a subplot, or is a narrative that is made up of several stories, then there may be a character who is interpreted as the protagonist of each subplot or individual story.
    I can see that definition working for all the books I've referred to so far. Romances with two protagonists are essentially two individual stories with a shared ending; Game of Thrones is endless individual stories, etc.

    I think the idea of multiple protagonists makes a lot more sense to me than the idea of stories with no protagonists.
     

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