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Author Topic: Determining POVs and Story Threads
Member # 5195

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I want a character-driven point of view (one chapter/segment in Cael's head, another chapter/segment in Renan's head, etc.). As a reader, I get really irritated when there are too many characters and too many story threads in a novel. I keep wanting to get back to my favorite characters or action while the author drags me elsewhere (and I almost always prefer some characters/story threads over others).

In your opinion, what range is the best number of points of view to maintain? I'm thinking around five. How many story threads? I'm thinking no more than three-four (unless a brief separation is needed), and mostly just one-two. You'll probably tell me it all depends on the story...

Does the answer change for a stand-alone novel versus multi-volume? I am toying with a sequel, but it would not be all the same characters.

I started a bulleted list of my novel's scenes, underlining the POV character in each, and found I needed to start cutting scenes where no POV exists! It helped me see which scenes could be cut, with the reader finding out about what happened to character X, when character Y hears about it. It also helped clarify which characters need to have their POV expressed; someone I thought was a bit character showed up in scene after scene where there was no other POV character. So I found a need to develop her into someone more substantial.

Slightly related question: If you write a sequel, how much thought do you need to give it while writing the first volume? (I find that as I get further along in the plot of my first book, I need to go back and re-work earlier plot ideas.) It seems to me that both volumes should be completely planned out as one story, and then cut in half, to hang together well.

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Member # 2883

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Personally, I don't like POV switching much, but sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes, it tells a portion of the story that the reader wouldn't see otherwise, which can explain some important plot points or other information.

One key test I apply to nearly everything I write is to ask, "Is it important to the story; and what does it do for the story?"

More than 2 or 3 POV characters would bug me. They fewer the better.

Concerning sequels, I leave an opening and some notes on what the sequel will be, but I don't do much more than that. I've heard too many things change by the time one comes to the sequel that much will get thrown out. I certainly won't write any sequels until the first is published. I think you certainly want enough of an idea that you can discuss sequels with your agent or publisher when they ask.

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Member # 4849

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I could easilt accept the protagonist PoV, the antagonist PoV, and one or two secondary characters.
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Member # 2883

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Interesting. Are antagonist POVs common, these days? I've been considering using it in my WiP.
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Member # 5137

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Some of the Bean/Shadow novels by OSC did this, and truthfully, I experienced the drawbacks you mentioned. There were some characters I cared about more, some I was dying of curiosity about while forced to read about another, etc. Come to think of it, this happens in the later Ender books - Children of the Mind? Is that the one w/the world on Path?

I think it is challenging because the reader begins to care about the first POV character they are introduced to, and, if they're at all like me, start getting grumpy when the POV moves.

I see where it's necessary, though, when you can't your main character in all scenes/locations. It makes sense, and lets you tell a "bigger" story (in a literal sense - a story that covers more physical ground, or perhaps covers time.) I would urge caution. I think 2-3 POVs is the most I'm comfortable with. The later Bean ones where we're going from one to another of Ender's posse (darn what's that word - jesh? jeesh?) got tiresome after a while. Think about it - with say 5 POVs, if you're rotating between each one each chapter, 5 chapters elapse before you get back to one. What's that - 50 pages at the very least? That's a LONG way to go to find out whether POV #2 met her long lost love at the bridge. And if you don't go through one after another predictably/in order, it could be LONGER - 6, 8 chapters, between some of the POVs.

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Member # 3413

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I think you should just think hard about what is best and most effective for the story, then do it. If a change in POV is necessary for the story, I think readers in general are pretty forgiving about it. If it becomes annoying to the reader, I would bet it is because the story itself is becoming annoying to the reader, or it just isn't being done in an effective way.

Having many POV characters has been done by the best. I personally wouldn't hesitate if I thought it beneficial to the story. (If it got out of hand, I would simplify it and try again.)

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Member # 3261

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I try to show what's important in a linear fashion rather than having the MC find out about it by being told. There are just some events that the MC wouldn't know but the reader has to know. When that happens, you have to have a different POV or be Full omni.

Full Omni gets a bad rap but I'm not sure why. Yes, it is hard to do but what I am noticing is that a lot of multiple 3rd ltd POV stories out there would be better, IMHO, full omni.

My choice usually depends on what is important to tell the story.

On sequels, the second book in my WIP came from editing the first because it was a different series of events and I needed to reduce word count. The current "third" was mostly writen at the same time. I put that on hold to finish the first.

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Member # 5564

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There's no real right or wrong answer. It depends on what you feel is right for the story.

George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series switches views a whole lot. There's over a dozen POV's.

It's perfectly right for his book, and it adds (1). Depth, and (2) Usually, some moral complexity. Seeing an issue through another's eyes can make overly-simplistic good vs evil ideas much better.

But, there are drawbacks. In reading Martin's books, I always want to skip ahead and read more about Arya (And double check to make sure she's still alive!) When you have more than one POV, generally, the reader's are going to like one better than the other. And it will switch, depending on where the suspence is.

On a side note, OSC reads Martin's books one POV at a time. Skipping all other POV's until he reads all of one's, and then he reads the next POV's story thread.

It makes for convaluted reading, I'm sure. Not exactly my cup of tea.

Back to the topic.

Linear, single-POV stories are great too. They're easier to manage, you don't have the multi-POV drawbacks, but your world may not seem as rich.

The Harry Potter books use the Single-POV, and it works for them. Rowling only switches around when needed, and usually only in the beginning of the book, sort of like a prologue.

However, the HP books don't seem nearly as rich and full as George R.R. Martin's do. That's the drawback. It's simple, which is good if you want simple, but sometimes it can be too simple. Simple, simple, simple. I've decided to go for a record. See how many times I can say 'simple' in a paragraph.

These are all my opinions, and very general, but overall, I think I'm pretty correct in saying that you'll have to decide what's best for your book. If you, as an author, want to skip ahead to write another POV, this could indicate that you're bored with the current POV, and your reader will be too. Not always, though. Sometimes you want to skip a part because you're scared to write it. That means you definently need to write it.

Sorry. I went off on a tangent there for a minute.

Just do what you think is best. :~)

PS: With sequals, I just think of Jane Lindskold. She wrote a series of books, each with the same characters and world, but each book stood on its own. She never wrote the book intending to write another book. Ideas came to her, and she made them fit within the confines of the other books, often coming up with ideas I don't think she would have come up with had she not written the books the way she did. <Gasp> I'm out of breath, that sentence was so long! I know when I wrote stories for my younger sibblings, once I wrote a chapter, there was no going back. I had to worm my way out of several sticky situations, but I wormed succesfully, and the stories were richer because of it. That's just my opinion. Don't take it too seriously, I haven't published any sequals.

[This message has been edited by LindskoldCardFan (edited June 12, 2007).]

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Member # 5195

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Oh the pain! I have axed a character, and am shaking some others up to see if they need to disappear. I'm considering axing what I thought was my MC and blending his important characteristics into someone else. Well, I wasn't too fond of that MC anyway.

My bulleted outline pointed out that I had too many threads and POVs that weren't driving the story forward; I had planned too many scenes with not enough action.

I'm so grateful that my efforts have been in a very detailed outline mode instead of full text. It would be so much harder to change things around if I had already committed the scenes to paper, as it were!

Thanks to everyone for your responses. You helped me accept the reality that my gut was telling me.

Personally, the Martin series drove me to distraction; the high POV count is what made me give up on him.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited June 12, 2007).]

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