1. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Multiple POV question

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CGB, Dec 11, 2015.

    Writing a story right now, but was using only 4 POVs. Decided it might add more to the story to use 6, but the two I want to add would only have 3 or 4 chapters dedicated to their POV, while the other POVs would have 12+. Do you see any potential pitfalls here?

    This is meant to be the first story in a series, so I am not planning on fully developing a character arc for each person with a POV. Some of them will be less important in this story, but moreso in future installations. Hope this question is clear...
     
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  2. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short answer: No, adding POVs is not innately bad, even if briefly. To compare, in my own work. I have a 38 chapter story with like 10 different POVs. Many of them only have one chapter.

    Long Answer: From what your saying I do see some pitfalls, but it is not the POV itself. A story should work as a standalone, except when it has a previous installment. So while the other books may build off of this starting point, this book should be solid by itself. Adding a POV scene for something that will only matter later is a bad idea. It needs to mater now. Or within this book. At least in my opinion. Another thing I see as concerning. You say the characters are not fully developed. I don't like the way that sounds. See, the fact the story doesn't end is fine, people can have more than one arc. But an arc you start in book would should finish in book one. This is because book one really needs to stand alone. If it doesn't how it doesn't stand alone. Standing alone is very important for book one.

    I say this for two important reasons.

    1. Publishers feel this way. At least from what I gather.

    2. It does matter story wise.

    Personally I think you might have not explained yourself properly. And you might be fine, but since you asked about pitfalls that is what my comments are about. lol. Let me again compare you with an example of my work. My main girl's arc in book one is realizing that she can't just live for others. Yet her arc for the series, is more learning that her darkness doesn't define her. See, learning she can't live for others is the first step to learning her darkness doesn't define her. Since she will in the second book live much more for herself and see the drawbacks there. She will begin to see the harm in either, which I think is an important part of her learning who she is. But the important point, is that in book one, their is an arc and it starts and finishes in book 1.

    A cliff hanger, especially in writing can leave a reader unsatified, it feels like they were working for a conclusion you didn't give them. Which is all in the attempts to trick them into reading the next book. Do everything great in book one. Make it so awesome that they loved it and that will keep them reading.

    That is sort of the same reason I don't suggest involving things that don't have a point. That isn't to say cut them. If you need them for a future book, use them, but give them a reason to be in book 1. This reminds me of a story I watched in movie form recently. The villain was just plain stupid.

    Thing is, someone told me that it was foreshadowing to the fact that there was a traitor with the villains and as such it was clever. No, that isn't clever. Making the villain so stupid it is distracting is not clever foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is something you shouldn't noticed until you think about. It should help you accept the twist when it arrives and shocks you. If the story doesn't make sense without the twist then it isn't a very good twist.

    Sorry, I feel like I am being a bit harsh. The point being, if you want more POVs that is fine. But have a point. Every page, every word should have an explainable reason to be there. Because asking a reader to read it is an honor, an honor that should be rewarded with a point. The point doesn't have to be big. It could be small. Maybe the reason for a scene is to slow the pacing and allow the reader a moment to breathe. That is a fine point.

    Hope it helps. :)
     
  3. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    From what others have said 3 is optimal, as well as saying anything beyond that can get a bit to confusing for the reader.
    So yes you can have multiple POVs like @GuardianWynn said, but they must all tie together and have purpose. Though this cannot be a simple task to go for a broad number of characters, as there will be a bit of confusion as to what is going on. I think if I had to remember a truck load of characters and their traits, I would lose focus of the story with the overload of recognition involved. Perhaps lighten the load with more secondary and tertiary characters, as they can still have a major impact in the overall story. :D
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think there is a 'rule' as to how many POVs you should use, but keep in mind that you don't want to disconnect the readers too often. Secondary POV characters should be there simply to provide a perspective that your main POV characters aren't able to give you. I'd say three or four chapters for each of them, in a long piece, would work fine, although it will depend on context.

    Just write the story the best way you can, from the perspectives that make sense to you, and see how it evolves. The great thing about writing is that it's risk-free. Anything you do 'wrong' you can undo at a later date. So I'd say follow your instinct during the first draft, and tell the story the way that works best for you. It's during the editing (and getting feedback from beta readers) that you'll discover what works and what doesn't.
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a multi-POV writer myself, and having looked at some other multi-POV examples, there is no problem with having a few POV characters who get a lot less attention than your major characters. Honestly mine kind of work in tiers where my protagonist gets the most POVs, her sidekick comes second, and everyone else gets what they need to move things forward.
     
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  6. Shepherd
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    Shepherd New Member

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    As a fantasy writer, I find that writing with multiple POV perspectives gives a plot to have greater depth and allows the reader to see the plot from different perspectives. SO in my opinion go for it!
     
  7. qWirtzy
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    qWirtzy Member

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    I've got a rigid structure involving multiple POVs for my fantasy trilogy: One for the prologue, three in the meat of the book and one for the epilogue, where the prol/ep. aren't repeated in future books, though the three in the middle may or may not be.

    My issue with too many POVs is not that, as a reader, I find it disruptive to change pint of view often, but as a writer, I think it's sort of "cheating" to use more than just a few. By this I mean that it makes the story too easy to tell: Don't know what the King's doing during an important arc? Just switch to his POV for 1000 words. Bored with your peasant farmer? Switch to a knight for a chapter. And so on.

    For me, limiting the number of perspectives has made me really think about the story I'm telling and how to tell it. Selecting which character can be a valuable/interesting enough POV to be worthy of getting one of only three main slots is a big challenge, but its given me a tighter narrative in the end.
     
  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I know Richard Morgan has PoVs that only last 1-2 chapters while he simply alternates between his main three.
     
  9. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    Multiple Povs is fine, but they need to keep the reader engaged.

    Either they are part of main plot or have people guessing about potential future plot strings.

    Future plot strings in future books shoud be used sparingly unless they have significant tension in them.
     
  10. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    I would be able to answer your question better if you could tell me why you think you need to use so many POVs to tell one story.

    Provide me a list of your characters. Next to each name tell me what their pov adds to the story. If you say "Because the reader will get to know how this character feels/what this character sees/otherwise we won't know that this super important thing happens cause the other characters aren't there!!" then you really don't need that character's pov.
     
  11. R.P. Kraul
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    R.P. Kraul Member

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    My third novel has fourteen POVs. It's a literary horror/mystery novel with a fairly broad time span. I used all of the POVs for several reasons: I wanted the book to be deeper and more complex, and I wanted to represent a broad range of perspective in a small town that falls under the shadow of a macabre killer. It was a great exercise in testing the limits, and it was a hell of an edit, having to coordinate the POVs with a broad time span.

    What's the disadvantage? To the average reader, it's pretty inaccessible. We're talking esoteric stuff here. I don't know how complex you aim to get, but by using so many POVs, you may alienate the average reader. So it depends what you're going for.
     
  12. AdDIct
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    AdDIct Active Member

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    I personally don't think it's so much an issue of how many POV's but rather what the significance of the POV is. I agree with @GuardianWynn in that every POV should have a place in the current story. That being said I think there's nothing wrong with throwing in bits to foreshadow later books in the series but if the sole purpose of the character POV is to just be like "Hi, I'm taking up space so you know my name but I don't get important until the next book" then I think it's better to just leave out the POV until they'll be a more integral part of the story.
     
  13. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    When you are writing multiple POVs in a single story, do you ever try to write all of a single character's POVs for the entire story, and then move on to the others? Or do you switch it around while you are writing?

    Any benefits/draw-backs to writing all of the POV chapters for one character, and then repeating that process so you just consistently focus on one person at a time?
     
  14. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    It's either worth writing the whole story from one character's POV or it's not.

    You can either effectively tell the story you want to tell from one character's POV or you can't.

    There should always be a reason for more than one POV beyond "So you can see things from this character's perspective!"
     
  15. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can you give examples of reasons you would consider valid for multiple POVs?
     
  16. AdDIct
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    AdDIct Active Member

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    I personally usually write it in a somewhat chronological manner, meaning that it's switched off and progressing with all the characters as 1 vs 1 character and then going back to the beginning. I've seen it done before, but well I personally don't like writing like that.
     
  17. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    I think it's worth asking: what do the scenes with these new POV characters focus around? Sometimes, authors will choose a new or different POV to give a better perspective on what an important character is doing. If you shift to a completely different part of the world with a POV, it may be confusing to the reader, but if you switch to the perspective of a random solider who's watching the main character's badassery for example, then I don't think it would cause much confusion to have that POV.
     
  18. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    That would have been good to include in my initial post wouldn't it. :oops:

    You could use this rough check list.

    The character may warrant their own POV represented in the story if:

    - they are directly, personally, and profoundly affected by the conflict/antagonist
    - they have their own unique journey entirely separate from the others they must undertake in order to grow/evolve/develop (aaaaand...)
    - their journey tackles completely different concepts and ideas to the journey of someone else but will still arrive/tie in to the overarching theme

    The best and most obvious example I can give that meets everything on this checklist is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    They are all brothers who have the same mutation that transformed them into what they are. They are all then personally and profoundly affected by any antagonist/conflict even if only one of them is the target. They each have their own unique motivations and ambitions that drive them in their collective pursuit to understand the nature of their existence.
    Each brother has their own hang ups and flaws which provides unique challenges for them to overcome.

    You could just focus on one Turtle. But any story can, with skill, be effectively told from one POV. It all depends on what you want the reader to get out of the experience. But there has to be a reason for the use of more than one POV.
     
  19. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Teenage Mutaunt Ninja Tutles is a good example. In the sense it seems as if that media is trying to say. "It is not one of their story. The MC is them as a group."

    Right?

    My most recent WIP splits into 10 POV throught 38 chapters and thinking about it. Not sure if it would fit your critia, but maybe.

    In a sense the split is very much like this.
    (Warning I am not actually counting)
    MC gets like 20.
    A few minor characters get 2-3
    And a few other minor characters get 1.

    Funny enough, the way I see it. I see it like the MC story but that her story features characters in her life and knowing them is almost if not as important to knowing her.

    Then again, many of the characters are given a scene based on being effected by the plot but not all.

    About three shifts if not more are more just angle. The climax has the heros split up. I dive into each of their POV throughout this moment. Because of that. Word count wise everyone gets about the same amount of time and nearly everyone gets a scene here. Like 6-7 characters. So the MC in a sense is almost pushed off the stage for HER climax. Something tells me you don't approve of this. Am I right?
     
  20. Aster
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    Yes, you're right. :p But I'm not going to say you shouldn't do it. It all comes down to how you present it.

    I feel most writers think multiple POV is just something they can use because it's available to them. Clever writers find creative ways to expose the protagonist to what the reader needs to know through one persistent POV.

    By changing POV from character to character, your reader gets privileged information that your protagonist(s) don't have. This can upset the shared experience your reader might otherwise have with them.

    Your MC obviously gets the bulk of the POV share. The reader shares every experience she has. The reader will feel her anxiety, her trepidation, her fears and her joys and triumphs far more intimately and powerfully if they only know what she knows.

    If the reader has privileged information they are put at ease. The shared experience is lost. You have severed what would otherwise be a very strong and profound bond between reader and character.

    On the other hand using multiple POVs well can create a stronger bond the reader can have to the group and help them to have a deeper understand of the dynamic. Your reader, then, can feel like part of the team.

    So either you have a catalogue of protagonist who are represented equally, or you choose one protagonist and never waver.

    You have to think about what's important to you.

    Are you doing multiple character studies and exploring the dynamic of a group? (the reader feels like part of the group and is drawn in by the interplay of unique personalities)

    Or

    Are you concerned with how individual journeys diverge, meet and intersect and still influence each other like the butterfly effect? (the reader knows everything and feels powerless. Not necessarily a bad result. It can provoke the strongest bursts of passionate rage ever seen in bookworms!)

    OR

    Will you follow one character, and allow the reader to share their struggles and triumphs. (the reader shares the experiences of your protagonist and is essentially living vicariously through them)

    In your case @GuardianWynn I can only advise you go with committing to the POV of your MC. Having said that, I haven't read the work in question. If it's up somewhere I'd be happy to read it.
     
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  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think there are any hard-n-fast rules.
     
  22. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    I think for fantasy multiple POV is essential to capture the depth of the story and the world. But if you are writing multiple POVs it important that you keep the reader interested by not lingering on a single POV for too long. If two POVs happen simultaneously then they should be captured as two sections within the same chapter. If the happen within a similar time-frame but not simultaneously then they should be in consecutive chapters. If you linger on one character too long you may lose the readers interest particularly if the reader doesn't identify well with that character. Major characters should have more chapters than minor characters but the minor character POV should be interspersed throughout the story so that it remains relevant.
     
  23. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just starting reading Robert Jordan's "Lord of Chaos" in the Wheel of Time series, and in first five chapters I think he introduced at least 10 POVs, with probably many more to come in this 900 page work in the fantasy genre. So I think the answer is yes, have as many as your story needs. And as personal encouragement to myself, it seems that 900 page books can be published, (my WIP is 800) but on the other hand, I am not Robert Jordan!
     
  24. Illandrius
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    Illandrius Member

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    What are some good books with multiple POV's? POV's confuse me a little bit because I don't know what they mean specifically. I need good examples of the different kinds. I am writing a book with 6 main characters. I believe I will need a POV for each one but I don't want it to be like GOT. That was difficult to follow at times. Any thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
     
  25. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very simply, a Point of View (POV) character is the one in whose head the writer (and therefore the reader) is for some duration. What that means is that if he/she has internal thoughts about what is going on, or is drawing inferences on what another means or does, or the heart rate is going up, or the person feels chilled... anything internal to that character that no one could know by observation, that is the POV character.

    "Dan watched Bill smirk. Bill always smirked, whenever he was trying hide something deadly. Dan's heart began to race as he tried to figure out what that might be this time. 'Why is your hand in your pocket?' he asked, trying to control his breathing. But he couldn't keep his heart from hammering."

    That paragraph is with Dan POV. You shouldn't mix POVs in the same scene as that is called head hopping. If the scene shifts, another POV can pick up the emotional lead, but make sure you have a definitive break, and always insert an extra line feed to cue the reader.

    The POV character thinks and feels, all the other characters have to give cues about what is going on in their head by things the POV character can see: Bill smirking, his hands in his pocket per above.

    I have one main character who plays a major though brief role in my WIP, but I never had him occupy the POV role. The reason is he is an American Indian, deckhand in 1st century Roman ship. He is a complete mystery to all, limited ability to communicate, and I don't want anyone in his head... I want to the reader to come to that conclusion by dropping hints here and there, but never be quite sure, because Galosga (Cherokee: He who fell down) shouldn't be there. When he does get better language skills, he can explain how he got to here (picked up by strange ship on the seacoast, given rope to pull, then weeks on more water than he knew existed, virtually enslaved as deckhand till he finds a friend, a Jewish rebel, on another ship in Carthage), but he knows neither where home was, nor where here is, and nobody else does either. He is a mystery to all of the other characters, and to the readers, and remains so till he rides off with the Xiongnu north of China with his newly-tamed wife, warrior woman of the Xiongnu Does this help?
     

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