1. UltimateZero

    UltimateZero New Member

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    Writing Multiple POV Characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by UltimateZero, Jul 9, 2017.

    This is a total noob question, so I apologize in advance, but I've struggled with this internally for too long and I'd like to get on with my writing - hopefully with this bothering me a little less.

    I've been struggling with character time vs plot time while writing. I have three main POV characters and as I've been writing, I've changed between them while writing as the plot progresses. I'll often write a chapter as one POV character, then switch to another character for the next chapter. While sometimes this feels refreshing, I've been finding it has been staggering the story. I often think of how the last POV character encountered the situation and try to relate it to the current one, rather than view it uniquely through my current character. My story mostly focuses on the characters, I think the plot offers depth to those who want to dig, but simple enough to for the average reader to enjoy.

    tldr; I'm sorry if that came out jumbled and confusing, but do you write your story linearly by plot or character?
     
  2. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    I find it easier writing the story by the plot rather than by character. That way you get the continuity. If their stories are overlapping, you might want to think of some way of integrating their chapters so you don't keep on repeating events for different characters: a problem that I've been struggling with actually.
     
  3. TheNineMagi

    TheNineMagi take a moment to vote

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    As long as you can maintain a main arc to your plot line, then develop each of your characters to their fullest, so they are unique. Give your characters a back story to explain how they became who they are. Where did they come from, who are they in relation to other characters, do they have quirks and peculiarities. What are your characters likes and dislikes. What would they dismiss or what grabs their attention, does it remind your character of something... what is this something, describe it to a blind man, help a deaf person hear it. Think qualia, and what are the emotions involved.

    Tying your character back into the main arc is a matter of how they relate to other characters. How do they know each other, have they met if so where, is it a brief encounter, or life long relationship, was it good or bad, what were the circumstances. If not how will they encounter or affect each others timelines, is it suspense, will they be helping, is one using the other for an end goal, or are they trying to destroy each other. Throw in the curve ball, the unexpected, in general if you have an idea of how your story ends, then how are your characters interacting to bring about this closure.
     
  4. Keepson

    Keepson New Member

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    I am not far along enough in my writing to really help you but I know that it can work both ways. Tolkien presents an excellent example of running two POV's separate from each other. I also suggest Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series for a great example of a work that is written by plot rather than by character even though it has a TON of different POV's. Just understanding what you are trying to achieve is the key to which you should use. Now Tolkien does have majorly different arcs for his two groups so if your characters keep going through the same experiences the Tolkien way might be ineffective to achieve the end you desire.
     
  5. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I have several POVs in my story and the antag is planing things my MC doesn't know about.
    The only issue I still face is, when one of the characters steps away and they start a new point of view.
    For instance I have a FBI agent working with my MC, and after a discussion with my MC the FBI stepped away to talk to his team.
    The MC is not involved in that meeting, so it was a new paragraph, and the pound sign (#) to show a change in POV, and on it went.
    I do feel I have too many POV changes right now, so I'm trying to meld some of them together.
     
  6. TheNineMagi

    TheNineMagi take a moment to vote

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    In Tolkien we have a main arc revolving around two main factions competing in an age old battle of good vs. evil. One seeking to acquire an artifact for ultimate power, while the other seeks to to destroy this artifact. The back stories and individual points of view of the the characters allow for their alignment and placement in relation to how these factions are shaped and fit into the over all competing arc timelines, culminating into the desired end goal.
     
  7. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Couple thoughts:

    You don't need to do it this way. If it flows better, have multiple povs per chapter - just separate them with asterisks or octothorpes or dashes. Or run one character's pov across multiple chapters. Sometimes it makes sense to break a chapter but not a perspective, or vice versa, and letting yourself do that can help with pacing / flow.

    This seems like a bit of a meta issue where you just need to sit back for a moment and reconsider what you're doing. Some chapters run directly into each other, some don't. It's not a problem with how you're using multiple povs it chapters, bur how you're thinking about them.
     
  8. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

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    If you watch the movie Pulp Fiction, not only are there multiple POV's, but there's also jumping back and forth in time. The key to keeping it flowing without confusion is to use something at the end of one POV scene to point to the start of the next POV scene. It's sort of like a relay race where one character passes a baton to the next. It could be a watch, a brief case, a gun, a dead body, or whatever ties the two characters together.
     
  9. UltimateZero

    UltimateZero New Member

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    Thanks for the replies, they've been really helpful. I think I need to focus a lot more on tying the plot to lead into the next POV characters story arc better than I have been.

    I guess overall there's really no solid rules, like most of writing, for how to hand this, other than playing it by ear.
     
  10. Hervey_Copeland

    Hervey_Copeland Member

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    The excellent book 'First Blood' by David Morrell (which the Rambo movies are based on) shows how a book can have two main characters, and tell the story by switching between the protagonist's and antagonist's POV.

    I think if it is executed well, it adds to the suspense. Plus you really get to know the characters, how they think and rationalise their decisions.

    H.
     
  11. Partridge

    Partridge Active Member

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    What I tend to do is avoid switching POVs if I can. About 85% of my books is from my MC's POV.
    Sometimes I need to change around to allow the plot to advance - for example if one character needs to know something that the other can't, or if you need to know what the other's private thoughts are to understand their motives.
    So I will change viewpoint at whatever point I need to in a chapter, but I'll do it with a new paragraph.

    I have no idea if this is "correct" or not, but it seems to work.
     
  12. Keepson

    Keepson New Member

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    I was thinking more along the lines of how the first half is written from the perspective of Aragorn/Legolas/Gandalf and the second half is from the perspective of the Ring-bearer. Specifically referring to after the fellowship went their separate ways at the end of the first book.
     
  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    I've found that the more straight lines (preferably one giant straight line) a reader can follow the easier it will be for them to comprehend the story, which, in theory, should free more real estate in their attention span to engage with the characters, absorb the imagery, and pick away at the various narrative threads that are likely to spring forth in any book of appreciable length. Think of it like a football game told from three POVs with the clock consistently ticking down (or up) no matter which character carries which scene. It's a nice straight line of events that everyone can follow. Now, if we were to jump around from the first quarter to the third to the postgame to the pregame warmups depending on where each character is rooted? Might become problematic. Not that it's impossible by any means--LoTR and Pulp Fiction, as mentioned earlier, are excellent examples of the non-linear plot (Pulp especially) adding something extra to a story. But with multiple POV's I've always had more success keeping the plot in linear motion and having the characters come in and out like train stations along a single track. I have done it the other way before but found the signposting a bit clunky... it was an additional thing to trip up the reader on top of the many other obstacles I'd placed in their path.
     
  14. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    Another example of different POV characters would be Conelia Funke's Inkheart. Most of the story focuses on Meggie, it occasionally has other characters that are, as far as Meggie's view goes, off screen. One example that comes to mind is Dustfinger berating himself, which is also one of the shortest chapters in the book.
     
  15. TheNineMagi

    TheNineMagi take a moment to vote

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    A very good point, which definitely should not be overlooked, because it provides for a solid foundation...

    Wherein the first part gives us the backstories and the history of the ring, from the various perspectives of those who have felt its destructive powers. Laying the groundwork for the trials and tribulations the ring bearer will be facing in his quest. Allowing for each of them to go their separate ways to battle their own demons, and in doing so help the ring bearer in their own unique way. The climax brings them all back together in the defense of Gondor and the at gates of Mordor as the ringbearer goes thru his final challenge, affecting them all should he fail.

    my deepest apologies to Tolkien, for simplifying and trivializing one of the greatest trilogies ever written...
     
  16. GothicSpook

    GothicSpook New Member

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    I think changing the POV in novels can really help enhance the plot and enrich each character in their own right. As long as it's clear whose POV the reader is reading, I've read some books where it took me a few paragraphs to realise the character had changed :eek: xxx
     

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