1. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    On using a character for a single chapter

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TimHarris, Mar 9, 2013.

    Im currently writing a novel that I intend to be somewhere around 90000 words in total. My story is written from the viewpoint of three different characters, whose actions affect the main plot even though they never actually meet. in one of the chapters, one of my characters visit the capitals marketplace to investigate a missing shipment of weapons, and learn what he needs from a merchant.

    I have been thinking about writing said chapter from the viewpoint of the merchant instead of my main character, to build atmosphere and let the reader view the world from through the eyes of one of the commonfolk, while at the same time letting them see my protagonist from the outside. I intend my protagonist to come off as extremely arrogant and selfish, even though he actually just want the best for the realm, as revealed by his thought process in his other chapters. afterwards, I never intend to use the merchant again.

    How would you as a reader feel about a chapter like this? Would it work in a novel of this size? I intend it to be soomewhat like the chapter "Captain of the Guard" from A Feast for Crows, but George RR Martins story span several books and thousands of pages, so that might be why he can get away with it. Is there anything I should be concerned about with such a chapter?
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    look at shawshank redemption...
     
  3. Mot
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    Mot Member

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    Many of Louis de Berniere's books have chapters featuring a single character who only makes sporadic and minor appearances elsewhere. There isn't a rule against using a character like that, but you have to be careful about making the reader think the merchant is more important than he actually is, or breaking up the narrative. If looking at the world through the merchant's eyes is going to do something more than just create atmosphere/get across MC's arrogance, then by all means use it. If you are intending it solely for those reasons, I think there are 'neater' ways of going about it.

    I personally wouldn't use that technique, but it wouldn't hurt to experiment. Write it how you imagine it now, and if that doesn't work, try something else- flip between the characters (e.g. start off with the merchant and revert back to main character before the end of the chapter) or just bin the scene and get across the MC's momentary arrogance in some other way or, through the eyes of a more major character.

    I don't remember a single character appearing a chapter and then disappearing the next?
     
  4. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    Why does only this character get this alternative point of view? You have two other main characters, shouldn't we see how they are seen by others? It doesn't have to be this merchant. It doesn't even have to be a commoner.
     
  5. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    Yeah, what Mot said: don't let the merchant take over the story.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This is one of those decisions that really, only you can make. Sometimes, an alternative viewpoint of a character whose POV is well documented can provide insight for the reader of where the character's perspective deviates from reality. So, if you're doing it for that reason or a similar one (i.e. greater insight for the reader), then that's probably a useful exercise. OTOH, if it's just a gimmick that doesn't serve a purpose to the story, I wouldn't do it.

    As far as jwideman's point about only one of the three major characters being viewed this way, that is certainly something the reader will pick up on, and may wonder why. Again, I would just make sure you have a good reason.

    Good luck.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think you need to not only justify the reason behind the unusual POV choice to yourself, but also to the reader. It's going to stand out that you've dragged in this other POV out of the blue, unless there's a logical (in terms of the story logic) reaso for him to take charge for that chapter.

    Other than that, though, I don't see any major problems arising from your choice.
     
  8. rodereve
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    rodereve Member

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    I see no problem with it, since you said there's 3 main chars, the reader is used to different POVs (point of view) switching anyway. I love when the writer includes a different POV I wasn't expecting ,like hearing the experience of the antagonist and his thoughts/sayings. You don't have to justify the change in POV to the reader because its a secondary character merchant, you just have to justify it by making the POV interesting enough to warrant the change (ie. why couldn't the same story be told by the protagonist's POV instead). As you said, the merchant provided a completely unique perspective, so make sure that it does.
     
  9. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    Well I generally agree with the above advice (use if it you want, just justify it somehow), I want to add a few things.

    I think that the shift in POV would be more believable if the merchant was significant to the story, but not required to be in the story for more than that chapter. Also, if you start with the merchant POV near the beginning of the story, or use it near the end, it would, in my opinion, be slightly less likely to throw off the flow of the story. If you alternative between the three main characters' POV, and then toss in a fourth POV for a single chapter, midway through, it might throw the reader off a bit. If you disrupt the flow, the reader might put the story down.
     

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