1. Abbierr

    Abbierr New Member

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    How to organise a novel with multiple main characters?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Abbierr, Oct 3, 2017.

    Hello, I am new to this site.

    I am planning a novel that follows 5 main characters and just wanted some insight on how to organise the book so it doesn't become over-bearing and confusing to the readers. Any tips would be much appreciated.

    I thought about each chapter would follow a certain character, but I wasn't too sure.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist

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    The style of the writing might inform the organization. Last Orders and As I Lay Dying organize chapter by character, but Harry Potter is organized by Harry pottering around. I guess I'd ask what kind of story you're trying to tell and how big a role each character plays in the plot. Further, how close are the characters both spatially and temporally?
     
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  3. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    Hi @Abbierr, welcome to the forum :D

    My novel has similar structure to yours in that I have 4 different PoV characters who are all equally important to the story. What I do is I dedicate each chapter of one of the PoVs and name the chapters after the Characters whose PoV we're gonna follow in that chapter, that works well enough for me. Though which chapter should be from whose's perspective can be a bit of a struggle.
     
  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    I have a hierarchy for when multiple POV characters are together for a scene. A is always over B, B is always over C, etc. Occasionally there's a little curveball but not often. I find if one or two are very well developed the smaller POVs pop a bit more.
     
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  5. Clementine_Danger

    Clementine_Danger Member

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    Having their arcs play out at roughly the same pace can help a lot. It feels jarring if one character is heroically throwing herself into an Inner Cave while another is still Refusing The Call, so to speak. That's nowhere near set in stone, but it can be tremendously helpful to have a rough sketch of the individual character arcs and line them up a little bit before you start. Again, I don't mean you should make every chapter a mirror of the one before it. With that big a cast it's just going to be incredibly important to mind your pacing, and being aware of the stages of the character arc can really help with that.

    And for a first draft, I wouldn't worry too much about giving everyone equal playing time. Look at your timeline, decide what the most interesting thing happening at that moment is, and write that.

    Mostly though, outline. Outline outline outline. Outline.
     
  6. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum.

    Are you sure you mean 5 main characters, and not five POV characters? Having 5 main characters might read more like a collection of short stories. That's not necessarily bad, it's just something to be considered. Having 5 POV characters, with one being your mc, is certainly easier to manage.
     
  7. Abbierr

    Abbierr New Member

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    Thank you every one for your replies.

    I have one that links with the other 4 and the others link with each other when "needed". You all have really helped. @Clementine_Danger Thank you for your input. What you brought up about keeping the pacing going throughout the chapters and to make sure my characters are at roughly the same "stage" in their part of the story.

    @Fernando.C I like the idea of naming the chapters with the characters names in them. That could help keeping the reader focused and in the know of who they are reading about in that chapter.

    And thank you everyone else. All of your inputs are appreciated.
     
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  8. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Active Member

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    POV choice and how the characters interact may end up with different advice.

    Ensemble seems to lend itself to Third Person Limited, for example, where there's less benefit from assigning chapters to characters, since they're sharing so many scenes.
     
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    Well I did it by Name Tagging each MC. But the standard is by chapter
    turn-base. Though it depends on which POV you are writing as to how
    well it will work out. Cause just head hopping in First POV with no
    way of knowing tends to make things confusing, unlike Third POV.

    Just have to work the angles that will best suit your POV preference.
    The more I's you have, labeling of some sort may be in order to keep
    things straight and not confuse the reader. But generally it is chapter
    based for 3rd, though I have read one 3rd POV book where they did
    label sections inside the chapter when they head hopped. And they
    had an MC cast about the size of yours. So just go with what you
    feel works best for your story. :)
     
  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Active Member

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    I've only done multiple main characters once. It was in third limited so I could jump between characters relatively seamlessly. I found it easier to kind of treat the team as a character, rather than as several specific characters in some ways. Drafting, though, I would use a different colour of type for each if I started following one character in particular for a bit. But it is hard to have multiple equally main characters in a story. Whether you want it to happen or not, a leader will emerge in your group and that's most likely the perspective you'll follow most often.
     
  11. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Are they five completely disjoint people or can they be grouped? When I think of stories that have more than one main character Stephen King’s The Stand and It both come to mind for me. He split everyone up in groups which slowly conglomerated into large scenes with most of the characters together.

    As I lay dying was interesting but it’s style would only work for specific types of works I think. I tend to get confused when you have multiple narrators, even when they’re as different as the family.

    I think as you flush out the plot, a lot of this will just fall into place. There will be certain scenes that will just have to come before another.
     
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  12. Abishai1000

    Abishai1000 Member

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    If each character is interesting, then maybe they're all complements and you can write about that, but if some are stronger/wiser, then use ornamentation to bring out the allure of the less-interesting ones. Whatever keeps a nice even level and pace is what would feel best I think.
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In the HFN I'm using three viewpoint characters, third person limited with varying levels of distance, swapping POV per scene to whoever's POV seems most interesting for that scene.

    I have no idea whether this is going to work in the end.
     
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