1. Kalleth Bright-Talon
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    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

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    Plot Development: How many POVs is too many?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Kalleth Bright-Talon, Nov 7, 2015.

    So as of right now, I'm toying with the idea of having either three or six POVs. The three I need to have for each separate plot thread; a king, rogue, and ranger would all be able to move the plot nicely along and have plenty of development too. The problem? They're all related. They all experienced the same tragic finale in the last book. They're all still grappling with the same issue. And even though the way each of them deals with it can be different, I don't want it to feel that all three are carbon copies of each other. Especially at the start of the book.

    So I figured that there were three other supporting characters who would each play a role in one of the base three's plot threads. A goddess for the ranger, the queen for the king, and a princess for the rogue. These characters would be able to provide a different perspective and more info for each of my three plot threads, and when I interweave the plot threads, they all actually end up being couples. The extra trio also have really different and fresh perspectives unlike the somewhat similar backgrounds for the base trio. So in the end, I'm wondering if six POVs would be too many and too confusing? Would they hinder the plot's progression when I switch POVs? I've seen examples of multiple POVs being done well but I am unsure of whether six would work.

    Following the general flow of the plot, the goddess and ranger are together from the beginning, as well as the king and queen, but the rogue and the princess are not, and do not meet up for half the story. Does this make them wild cards? Would the switches to them be too jarring or refreshing?

    I'd like to know what you think, and I can clarify things if any of it is unclear.
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say this. Head-hopping is bad; it confuses readers. So if you choose multiple POVs, ensure they are separated sufficiently. Secondly, give each POV a distinct character, make them different and interesting.

    Personally I would not go beyond 3 in an average novel.
     
  3. Kalleth Bright-Talon
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    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

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    Each of the characters does have a distinct personality and each of their settings is radically different. One thing I did in my first draft that I didn't like was trying to come up with convoluted reasons for the POVs to connect, when really I should've just been letting the plot move forward naturally. I'm still a bit on the fence about it, but I think I'm going to try and make the extra three POVs be isolated or at least rare occurrences, which of course would make them stand out from the main story. Kind of like the mini-POV chapters in between parts in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive. That's the closest approximate I can come up with. Thank you for your advice!
     
  4. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    You have a fun problem, but unless these characters are linking up and having their voices compete for the readers attention - stick to 3rd Limited. One view point per chapter is ideal for most works.
     
  5. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I would suggest that you stick to the three viewpoints. I made the mistake of using too many viewpoints in my first novel and am now reworking it to eliminate some. Easier if you use fewer from the beginning.
     
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  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I agree. One POV per chapter is usually the best strategy for this. What's fun to me is when one POV character meets another POV character. It's enticing.

    EDIT: Yes, as others said, use only as many as you can actually handle without getting yourself and your readers confused. Also, and this is probably a big "Uh, DUH!" but only use the POVs that drive the story along. No one wants to read another Tom Bombadil.
     
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  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say it depends on you, the author. How many you can handle without confusing the reader.
     
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  8. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I think six is fine, but it does present some challenges.

    I think a book is like a TV Series. Unlike some people I know that compare them to a movie. The reason I bring up this, is because a TV series is longer and has a slow pace. It isn't that hard to believe a TV series splitting into more POVs something a movie would have trouble doing in such a fast paced environment.

    There are some things you have to do well for it two work.

    1. Being clear. We readers should never be unsure who we are following.

    2. It needs to happen at a meaningful time. Let me explain. Stephen King has a book that splits POV a lot. Its called Tommy Knockers. The first third of the book, it in two POV, but then the second book leaves them alone and brings up new characters, every chapter is new and seemingly pointless character. It felt like a different book, a book of short stories. I quit that book because of it. Now you said yours are related which is a good start. But the core I think is very similar to my rule on information dumping. Which is like this. "Don't tell the information before a reader wants it." A lot of people open strong with explanation, which before we care is bad. Because it feels like school. So when you switch POV. It shouldn't be because we you want to show us. It should be because we want to know.

    An example. In my WIP I split into like 8 POV? All back to back. Like Chapter 18-27 are all different POV. But most of the characters you know, and they are all on the same scene. The basic idea is they are in a dangerous place and they split up. So each chapter in this moment covers what is happening to them. I suspect a reader is curious. Given some characters die. I bet seeing someone die might make a reader go "Oh crap. What about the other character? I like them. They can't die!" lol. So I suspect the changing POV is going to be welcomed.

    You never want a reader to go "Oh man. This POV? I don't care!" See unlike a movie or TV show where we can look away and wait for the scene to end, you know, stare at your phone, ext. You can't really do that in a book. So yes, 6 shifting POV sounds like a hard thing to do. You have 6 different POV you want the reader to connect to and enjoy. Hard? Yeah I would say so. But if that is your vision? All my support. :D
     
  9. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    As complexity and number of POVs increase the more desirable omniscient becomes. It has great advantages, but is also not popular right now - and can be very difficult to write or follow.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I won't speak to the specifics of your story's intention, @Kalleth Bright-Talon , because that's really something for you to decide yourself. However, there are different KINDS of POV characters.

    I divide POV characters into two camps.

    1) the main (or secondary) characters, whose personal development we are following throughout the story

    2) the minor characters, whose personal development isn't important to the story, but who SEE things that are important to the plot

    The first category will be your protagonist, or the person who follows the protagonist and is also changed by events in the story. These are your main characters, the ones whom the story is 'about' and whom we get closest to. These are the people we learn to care about, whose emotions and private thoughts are important to the plot.

    The second category will be the 'spear carriers.' The milkman who notices the front door has been left open, wanders inside, and is chased off the premises by a character with a bloody knife. This milkman runs to the police and reports the crime—then disappears from the story. We want to watch the scene through his eyes, so he can describe what the knife carrier looks like, etc, but we are not interested in what happens to the milkman when he goes on holiday two weeks later.

    This second category can include people whom we 'care' about—as in we 'like' them (like the progagonist's witty sister)—but they are not the people the story is 'about.' They exist to give an outsider's perspective on the main characters, or to give us (the readers) a view of what is happening 'offstage' that will be important to the plot.

    I think you should limit your first-category POV characters to only one or two. Possibly three, but that's stretching it a bit. Your main POV character or characters should carry the bulk of the story, and be the characters we identify with most strongly. These are the characters who change during the story.

    The second category characters can be as many as you need, but be careful about creating too many. People will get annoyed at having to handle too many named characters in any story, and hopping in and out of heads can be exhausting. I'd limit these to only as many as you must have, in order to present a coherent plot.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2015
  11. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    All of the advice so far is good. If you can limit your POVs, do so. If you don't need multi-POV madness, don't do it.

    That said, I at present have used eight-nine different POVs in my draft, and that's not counting the flashback versions of the same characters (Young Madison and Present Madison are entirely different people :p ). My readers generally are fine with it and I haven't been called on it once, which I'm guessing is mostly because I use all of that madness to preserve the forward momentum of the plot (or at least that's what I think I'm doing).

    That said, pulling multi-POV stuff a la Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is HARD. I'm doing it, but I know I'm piling extra work on myself by doing it, and that certain parts of it may end up cut in the final draft.

    So, if you do choose to do six POVs - it's doable, but it's hard, and all six of those people are going to need really distinct voices.
     
  12. Kalleth Bright-Talon
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    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

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    Thanks, this is really insightful advice. Especially going into this second draft of the book, I can see how the first run-through struggles with two things you cited; too much head-hopping and an indistinct protagonist. I do think I'll keep with the two protagonists I have at the moment, but I'll keep the second category POVs in reserve for "Must-have" moments. If nothing else, the second draft should be closer to what I'm looking for. Again, thanks!
     
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  13. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I did the 3 different POV thing. Funny thing was the only person to ever read the large chunk I sent them did not have any trouble following the narratives. But that must mean I got lucky somehow. So technically it is possible, but it is challenging. Well off to write part two now since the whole damn thing is way to long for just one book (not going to go further than 2, cause there isn't enough left for a trilogy or a series). :p
     
  14. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    My WIP is written in third person omniscient. I had previously been doing a variant of subjective omniscient and tried a 3rd Limited and objective omniscient POV with disastrous results. The problem with omniscient is that many writers are prone to head-hopping, where the focus changes each sentence or where characters respond to the internal thoughts of others.

    The difference with omniscient is that it is very tell-y in comparison to other POV types. This means large informational dumps are easy to create by accident. If you overcompensate and try to remove all "telling", then you might end up with a situation where character's presence and placement can be lost. The beginning of each scene needs to establish context and order quickly, but the writing also needs to be consistent. The inability to keep secrets from the reader also means that your action will need to play out differently then in 3rd Limited.

    Another drawback is the emotion for a character, it is pretty difficult to do in omniscient - but I have tried to get around this by empathy in other characters. It is something I am playing with and cannot really give any advice on executing successfully. Lastly, it can be really hard to build to emotional scenes because the reader has more distance from the character.
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You've certainly nailed the problems an omniscient POV can suffer from. Too much telling is certainly one of them.

    However, it's possible to 'tell' what a character is doing or saying in an omniscient POV without also telling the reader what to think. Describe what Fred is doing that would lead a reader to the conclusion he is sad, but don't say 'Fred was sad.' That swerves past the problem.

    The problem of distance is a major one, but sometimes distance is what you want. In other words, you want the reader to see and judge a character by what they say and do, not by living inside their heads. Sometimes you really do not want the reader to identify with a character. It all depends on the effect you want.

    That's the most important thing, really. Understand what effect each storytelling method and POV choice can have, then work with the one that suits your story best.
     
  16. Theoneandonly99
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    Theoneandonly99 Member

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    The people above have said most of there is to be said. I learned quite a lot myself, but here's my 2 cents:

    This is off the top of my head. However, you might want to consider using a first person POV for your supporting characters (Goddess, Queen, Princess). You did say that the each pairing would ultimately become couples, romantic couples, I assume. While from the looks of it you are definitely leaning towards a 3rd person POV for your three (or two) protagonists, I think writing the parts or chapters of the supporting characters from their very own perspectives gives your reader an outer -though intimate and biased- view of your protagonists, which I think is beneficial. I might be biased myself, because I am fond of writing my works in first person, but think about it. Writing it this way gives off a more 'human' feel to how these supporting characters see your protagonists. If pulled off well, the contrast of the 3rd person POV in the chapters of the protagonists and the 1st peson POV in the chapters of your supporting cast might create quite a colorful and grand, but intimate portrayal of your protagonists.

    That might make it feel EVEN more confusing and jarring, switching from 1st to 3rd POV every once in a while, but I think it could work.

    I hope I made sense. :)
     
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  17. NathalieDelRey
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    NathalieDelRey New Member

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    I would say 6 POV's maximum, unless there are some who are 'one off's' so they have their own chapter and then get killed off or they don't feature in the later parts of the novel. I'm fond of multiple POV's because I like writing in the 1st person too, also you care about the characters so much that you want to get their emotions and opinions over to the audience. I also think it's fun to play with multiple perspectives on the same event, so the reader knows that not all the narrators are reliable. I would say it's an unusual way of writing a novel but after GoT I think it has probably become a bit fashionable.
     
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  18. Kalleth Bright-Talon
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    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

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    I really like this idea, and I'd like to at least experiment with it. Thank you very much for your two cents! They were well spent! The question is, what tense do I then put it in? That would probably be the most confusing part. My protagonists' POVs are told in past tense.
     
  19. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    It will be very tricky to pull three POVs off. And I caution you not to incorporate more than that. It's not that's not been done, it's that you may lose the reader, no matter how well you pull it off. I'm reading a book by Sandra Brown entitled Low Pressure. And I have to be honest, since I'm halfway through it, I'm skimming through it. Why? Because it's the same old thing over and over again. She's dragging her feet about "who dunnit" and it's becoming a bore. There are at least six or more people with a vendetta against a flirtatious girl who was mysteriously murdered.

    As for the three MCs' POV, I'd get inside their head and exploit their flaws then ask myself how does their flaw play into the plot or scene. Their flaws will put a different spin on the same scene. Think of how you would react if someone barged in with a bomb. Think about how everyone around you would act differently. Each person in the room would draw from their experiences of fear, failures and their anxieties of possibly not being able to do that one thing that they kept putting off. Those are the kinds of things you want to draw out of your characters. They all have something to lose. Ask yourself what it is and exploit it. When you do that, their reactions, feelings, and dialogue will become easier to write.

    That's my take on it.

    Hope I provided a margin of help.
     
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  20. PapaGhanda
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    PapaGhanda Member

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    I am currently at 4 main POVS and using a 5th as a twist...

    I find the more POVS the more challenging the details become and the dynamic becomes another hurdle as well...
     
  21. PapaGhanda
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    PapaGhanda Member

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    I'll be posting the 1st chapter soon
     
  22. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    The most important aspect to this, I think, is whether or not it's a first person or third person perspective we're dealing with. I'm not convinced the former is particularly easy to pull off.

    Personally, I have at the moment two narrators and four MC's for my current main writing project. At first glance this would, at least to me, sound far too excessive, even ridiculous and not something to be condoned. There are several ... redeaming reasons, however: it's a very long novel, the entire book is in the third person view and the past tense and the narrators are essentially omniscient and very similar to eachother.

    In my story, the MCs are also all related and connected to eachother, one of the MC's dominates in terms of importance, the time amount of time he's the MC and the other POVs are just as much there to add to his story as they are to advance their own. The first MC is a boy whose death is vital to the understanding the second, his younger brother. This second MC stays the MC right up to the middle of the final battle at the end of the book when he is killed. By then he has a long-term girlfriend, with whom he has had two children, who is also fighting in the same battle and then becomes the MC so that the readers may get to know how the plot is resolved. However, she too dies soon after, and the boyfriend of the previous two MCs' daughter (their son and his girlfriend were already dead by that point) carries the story to it's very end, complete with a sappy epilogue (which, of course, features another major character dying ... ).
     
  23. Kalleth Bright-Talon
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    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

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    A very shakespearian sounding tale. Many would be bitter at your brutal slaying capability. In writer's oaths we trust, that they might not slaughter those we learn to love. And in many, such trusts are shattered. Keep up the good work! :D Also, to anybody who has already posted or might post from now on, I've pretty much decided to go ahead and try the three POV strategy, with some guest chapters for important plot elements. The plot threads are sufficiently different and weave together in such a way that I think it'll turn out fine. Thanks for all the great advice! And by all means, continue sharing your input!

    -Kalleth
     
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  24. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    If you're not doing a new POV every chapter, you're not trying hard enough.
     

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