?

Should I focus on one person only?

  1. Yes

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    7.1%
  2. No

    13 vote(s)
    92.9%
  1. pamedria
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    pamedria Member

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    Should we only have one main character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by pamedria, Apr 4, 2016.

    My story is essentially about a war between two factions of a country - the north and south. It's a fantasy, being in a world I created. The story goes on to give the insights and perspectives of different characters.
    Northern king and prince. Southern king and prince. A group of mercenaries. A commander. (And other characters within the different scenes and chapters obviously which needn't be labelled).

    Main focuses seem to be the Southern Prince (mingled with the king, uncle), the group of mercenaries (story linked with king, prince) and the commander's story is a sub plot but he has some of his own chapters about his journey.

    The main characters like the Prince, Alzo, the mercenary, Ren - are a part of a lot of the storytelling.

    Obviously though, this is a story showing both sides of the war, with obstacles face, strategy, mixed with of course treachery, lies, sex, surprises... all the things we want in a book.

    Many sites advise against this though... saying a story should have one main character.

    My question is.... what is your view? I want to write a book the majority would prefer obviously. Personally, I think it's more interesting seeing the different viewpoints and the stories do go on chronologically to progress with the story and obviously interlink.

    Please share your thoughts and advice!
     
  2. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Many sites advise against this though... saying a story should have one main character."


    Do they mean for amateur writers? Lots of novels have many viewpoints.
     
  3. pamedria
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    pamedria Member

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    http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2010/12/02/having-multiple-protagonists-in-your-novel/

    I don't know. They must be saying for a general guideline but as you said, so many popular books have it. I wonder if this is not a good idea though. Is it risky? This will be my first complete novel but I feel like writing for just one character would not fit the tone of my story. This blog basically suggested that it was a rubbish idea though... saying that it would even be bad to show two sides of opposing views (which is basically the whole point of my story as its a war between two sides and the characters within).

    So I'm wondering what a reader would find more interesting. One detailed viewpoint and journey or my original plan?
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that books with multiple storylines are much, much more likely to fail than books with one main storyline. They're not inherently bad, but if it's your first book, it's a little like starting your cooking career with a croquembouche.
     
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  5. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    My own WIP has six main characters. I've read plenty of great stories with more than one MC. I've seen the argument (and agree with ) that there should only be one point of view per chapter. Other than that go for it.

    Look at Stephen Kings book -It
    Branden Sanderson's Stormlight Archive
     
  6. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on the story. Could you imagine Lolita being in different POVs?

    Let me say this. All stories can probably benefit from just one POV. Because there's the appeal of bonding with one character from first to last page. Some stories can definitely benefit from multiple POVs. War stories are an obvious candidate. Probably, it's harder to write a multiple POV story. As an amateur myself, I believe in making things as easy as possible for my first serious attempt at publishing a novel, so that means one character.

    Try writing as planned (multiple POVs). If you find the novel is going nowhere, let's say a month from now, consider making your life easier.
     
  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are books that have multiple POVs per chapter, too. Just saying... :S
     
  8. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Absolutely, I just find it frequently confusing when an author does that.
    (Looking at you Frank Herbert's - Dune):dry:
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Returning to add: I also think that there's a big difference between having more than one main character, and having main characters who are on completely different sides of the main conflict. Trying to show multiple sides of a war is a very, VERY ambitious goal. I don't feel that George R. R. Martin is really achieving it all that successfully. So unless you're confident that you're better than Martin....
     
  10. BadCrow
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    BadCrow Member

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    So, for my own book I'm working on, I have four strong characters which fuel most of the story. However to give the reader a better perspective of things I love using the views of different side characters.
    That being said some don't like this kind of writing, and it does make things difficult at times.
    All in all i value the oportunity multiple MCs give you. Especialy if there is war, showing two sides of things is something very important to me.
     
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  11. BadCrow
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    BadCrow Member

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    I love the way Steven Erikson manages exactly that in A tale of the malazan book of the fallen...
    and I dont believe you need to be better than Martin to do one thing better than him. You might just have enough ideas to make it work^^. As far as i can tell any writer has a weak spot;)
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But it's not one thing. To do this, you have to:

    - Create multiple characters.
    - With opposing goals.
    - And make them so fascinating that the reader cares about all of them despite their opposing goals.
    - And despite the fact that each character is abandoned for many pages, and then returned to.
    - And maintain a plot so very complex that each character gets an interesting plot arc.
    - Without exhausting the reader with drama overload.

    That's not having to do one thing well, it's having to do dozens of things well.
     
  13. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    I think people often worry too much about the theory behind something and if it will work based on that. Are multiple pov's bad? Is it a bad starting point for new writers? Is one pov better? These aren't really easy questions to answer because they are so broad. The way to narrow it down is to just go ahead and write something without thinking about how good or bad it is overall. Try to make each sentence as good as possible and the plot and pacing as good as possible. Then the question becomes "Are multiple pov's bad in this story?" and that yields a much more objective answer because its no longer in the realm of the theoretical. A single book is pretty easily determined to be good or bad while a technique used across books is much harder to pinpoint. So my advice is to just write something and see what people think of it after the fact instead of worrying about what generally works in writing.
     
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  14. pamedria
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    pamedria Member

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    Lovely point!
     
  15. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    You can do what you want. I have 3 MCs and haven't let that stop me from writing the story/s. Though to be fair I had to label them so it would be less confusing, but most do the switch on a rotation in chapter format. :p
     
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  16. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am a bit dense, but is this about multiple main characters or multiple first person point of view? I would think omniscient point of view for handling multiple main characters would be an easier approach but maybe that doesn't convey the story the way pamedria wants so that is the basis for the post. I am just confused, as usual.
     
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  17. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    Multiple viewpoints is definitely doable, though probably more ambitious in some aspects.
     
  18. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Every author has their strengths and weaknesses in writing. Your ability to identify your own strengths and weaknesses is essential to helping boost your own writing ability.

    That's why with the question your asking I feel that the only person that can answer that is yourself. It's your story, so if you feel it would be better written with multiple POVs then go for it. However, you should limit yourself to a specific number of POVs that you feel goes well with your current writing level.

    The more POVs you include the more time and dedication you will have to put into going back and re-reading, revising, and re-evaluating your story.

    Hope this helps. :)
     
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  19. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My publishable short stories have all been written from a single POV each, and it looks like my first publishable novel-length WIP will work the same way a single POV too, but my longest completed story (a novel-length Doctor Who fanfic) has 5 POVs.

    Just because you write one story one way doesn't mean that you have to write all of your future stories the same way ;)
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I would advise an approach similar to Derek Landy, where third person narration is oriented with varying character's perspective's depending on the chapter. That allows for multiple perspectives without any real risk of jarring. It flows more naturally than say four narrators. I've only got one idea I intend to even consider writing first-person, and with that I kept it at two. My other stuff side characters may well get a short bit. I'll have to see as I write things though. Always be a bit open and experimental with this kind of general, difficult to answer question. If it works for you, and enough people like it; that's what matters. This is not a simple one-answer question. But that's just my amateur opinion. Maybe there are little things I'm missing here, IDK.
     
  21. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If the story needs more than one POV to work, then by all means do so.
    I think in Game of Thrones, (i.e. the first book of the series) some of the POVs didn't tie in sufficiently with the others.
    Specifically Daenyrys and Jon Snow's plot lines didn't tie in with the core Stark vs Lannister plot line at all. - maybe they do later in the series, but they didn't in the first book and a half (after which I gave up on the series)
    IMO That's too long to have some seemingly independent stories mixed up with your main story.

    I recently read Peter V Brett's debut novel: The Painted Man (first in a series like Game of Thrones)
    I didn't have a problem with three separate POVs there. They were independent stories for most of the book, but converged for the final act and it felt cohesive enough.
     
  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Also, when it comes to the poll, my answer is "it sounds like yes but I can't be sure". And since there's no maybe..
     
  23. BruceA
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    BruceA Senior Member Supporter

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    I write short stories. I often after I have started it writing it that the POV isn't working for the story so it needs to be re-written. Which is easier to do when writing a short story compared with a novel. I agree with @HelloImRex that the story will tend to find the best way for it to be told.

    However, I think you need to consider why you are writing your book. If it is for your enjoyment: do what you feel best suits the story. If it is to self publish: do what you feel best suits the story. If you want to sell the book (and you haven't got an agent and a publishing history) it may be more difficult to sell a complicated, long book (or series of books), even if it is well written. The likes of Martin and others mentioned above had many novels and stories published before their epics where accepted. That is not to say don't do it: it just depends on your motivations.

    At the end of the day, it is your story - tell it how you think it needs to be told.
     
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  24. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Given your piece is to be set in wartime @pamedria using the multiple POVs would be quite liberating and afford you the ability to kill one or two of said characters off if the story's circumstances dictate. An emotional time for sure for an invested reader especially if the personalities have been portrayed in as much depth as an MCs. But at least they're (the readers) left with some continuation and other characters to cling to following such events.
    It'd test your skill as a writer, weaving stories within the story, but doable and has been done before. Were it me, err, I think I'd cop out and write each tale as a standalone instalment of a series.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
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  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's more difficult, more ambitious.

    But if this is the story you want to tell, it sounds like the multiple POVs may be necessary.

    That said - maybe this isn't the time to be writing this book? Maybe it will be your magnum opus that you write after you've developed your confidence and abilities with simpler stories?
     
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