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View Full Version : More than one POV, one novel...yay or nay?


IThinkICan29
01-26-2008, 06:59 AM
I've read a few threads concerning this issue and for the most part, I think the general consensus is, "if it works, work it". My current WIP [on rewrite #5--please don't ask...please] has five main characters. Since it's their story, I've written their chapters in first person. I feel this helps to really understand them...really get down to the nitty gritty of why they are who they've become. I've written the other characters (only two/three others) in third person limited mainly because they're role players and their actions (not thoughts) are integral to the plot.

What do you guys think? The five main characters are siblings by the way.

Chumplet
01-26-2008, 07:15 AM
There's nothing wrong with multiple POVs as long as they're clearly defined and you don't switch a zillion times in a chapter. Keep it neat and tidy. Maybe, in my opinion you should switch to third person. It might confuse the reader less.

KTC
01-26-2008, 07:20 AM
There's nothing wrong with multiple POVs as long as they're clearly defined and you don't switch a zillion times in a chapter. Keep it neat and tidy.


Agreed.

kristie911
01-26-2008, 07:26 AM
As long as it's done well, and doesn't leave me confused as to who is talking, I don't have any problem with it as a reader.

IceCreamEmpress
01-26-2008, 07:52 AM
The challenge is to find ways to make it clear whose point of view is whose.

I get annoyed by books that have chapters that have a header with the POV character's name, but that may just be me.

Danger Jane
01-26-2008, 08:01 AM
Multiple POVs is fiiine. I use two in my story and it's probably not going to break 40K. Each shows an integral part of the story and the characters complement each other. I wrote the first draft just from one POV, but it's much stronger now with both.

Stew21
01-26-2008, 08:42 AM
It's very common. A lot of books employ multiple POV's and do it very successfully. It just has to be done well - no head hopping, clear separations between POV's - if you're going to do it.

JoNightshade
01-26-2008, 09:00 AM
I'm fine with multiple points of view - five, ten, whatever - but it would bother me to have some in first person and some in third person. I'd suggest switching to one or the other, but not both. If we presume that a book is a story being told by someone, we have to answer the question of who. If you're all in first person, then the answer is, each character is telling his or her own story. If you're in third person, it's an unknown (or known) narrator, removed from the action. But if it's first and third... you have characters IN the story and someone OUTSIDE the story talking together. To me, this doesn't make sense, and it's jarring. If you really like your first person accounts, I'd think it would be pretty easy to swap over your couple of third persons to first as well.

Shady Lane
01-26-2008, 09:01 AM
Totally accepted and totally an option. I, personally, am not really a fan.

EelKat
01-26-2008, 09:27 AM
I usually write in third person, but last year I did one in a multi-first person POV, it had 3 POV characters in it. I think it came out pretty good. It needs loads of editing, but for a first draft it was pretty good.

Here is how I'm writing mine: Each chapter is divided into three parts; Basicly I've divided each chapter into three mini-chapters.the chapter starts out with a page from the diary of a teenage girl, but than in the second section of the chapter you see the same events unfold through the eyes of her father, and than in the third section the events unfold totally differanty through the eyes of her grandfather. Though each of the three sections in each chapter is telling the same story, all three are totally differant, because each character sees only part of the event and each character interprets the events differantly, so you are not actually reading the same story three times.

Of the books I've read in multi-POV, the ones that I was able to follow best, used only one POV per chapter (chapters tended to be shorter than average as well).

Another method I've seen that worked okay, was useing a differant font-type for each POV, but this is best done with a 2 or 3 character POV, because it can get confusing.

I have seen others that put a "seperating bar" between paragraphs that changed POV; example:

***

new point of view paragraph goes here

***

Basicly as long as the reader can tell which character's POV they are reading, it works okay. It's when you start changing POV in mid paragraph that starts getting confusing.

If you need to read a well written example, I'd recommend Ender's Game as a good example, it uses 3 POV characters.

Ervin
01-26-2008, 09:51 AM
I once read a popular book where every chapter was a different point of view, so about 100 people ended up telling the story. Came out pretty well.

David I
01-26-2008, 11:22 AM
I'm fine with multiple points of view - five, ten, whatever - but it would bother me to have some in first person and some in third person.

It's tricky, but I've seen mixed first/third work quite well. Joan Didion made it work in Play It as It Lays, and Tom Robbins, Diana Wagman, and Roddy Doyle have all done it nicely on occasion. I think it's done in Julia Glass's Three Junes, too (which isn't everybody's cup of tea, but did win the National Book Award).

I think a bigger problem than the conceptual one JoNS mentions is that first is so intimate, and that tends to make it tough to keep a balance--the thrid person chapters tend to seem more distant.

But multiple first is a big challenge, too. Inventing and controlling several different and distinguishable voices is tough. It can be done, all right. Flaukner's As I Lay Dying has 15 if I recall, and I have a friend who wrote an excellent novel where each suceeding chapter is in a different first-person voice (except that the first and last chapter are from the same narrator).

Multiple POV in third is a helluva lot easier, that's for sure.

Dragonfly45
01-26-2008, 08:21 PM
I've read stories where multiple first person POVs went over really well and weren't confusing...and then I've read others that confused the heck out of me. I'm like Icecreamempress: the ones that just have a heading at the beginning of the chapter to tell you who is talking and no distinct voice to separate them frustrate me. So, like most of the others, I agree it can be done, just do it neatly :-) Make sure your different characters are distinct and don't blur together.

Shady Lane
01-26-2008, 08:50 PM
It's tricky, but I've seen mixed first/third work quite well. Joan Didion made it work in Play It as It Lays, and Tom Robbins, Diana Wagman, and Roddy Doyle have all done it nicely on occasion. I think it's done in Julia Glass's Three Junes, too (which isn't everybody's cup of tea, but did win the National Book Award).

I think a bigger problem than the conceptual one JoNS mentions is that first is so intimate, and that tends to make it tough to keep a balance--the thrid person chapters tend to seem more distant.

But multiple first is a big challenge, too. Inventing and controlling several different and distinguishable voices is tough. It can be done, all right. Flaukner's As I Lay Dying has 15 if I recall, and I have a friend who wrote an excellent novel where each suceeding chapter is in a different first-person voice (except that the first and last chapter are from the same narrator).

Multiple POV in third is a helluva lot easier, that's for sure.

Smack and Doing It by Melvin Burgess do it well, as well.

IThinkICan29
01-26-2008, 09:17 PM
Thanks for the feedback guys. Keep it coming. It really helps me focus on areas that will need attention should I decide to go through with using the multiple POV approach.

Erin
01-26-2008, 09:29 PM
I wouldn't mind the mulitple POVs and switching from 1st to 3rd as long as it's done well. Keep the switch separated to chapters and identify who's POV it is at the outset or in a chapter heading.

For my romance stuff, I write in 2 POVs, the man & woman. I have an urban fantasy romance where I added 2 villain's POVs in very limited scenes. My current is 1st POV all the way! I obviously work better with limited POVs! But I don't mind reading multiples.

IThinkICan29
01-27-2008, 08:12 PM
No, you're not alone. That irritates the heck out of me too.

Geesh...I thought I was alone. For some reason, this annoys the heck out of me. I find myself wondering if the author thinks I'm stupid or if they were just too lazy to give each character a distinct voice.

Thrillride
01-27-2008, 09:49 PM
When it is done well, I have to say, I have never been bothered by it. When it's seamless and I am just reading along and I am with the story every step of the way, I think it's doing the job it's suppose to do. Indeed, it's what we writers should always aim for, whatever POV.

I say go for it. I would also read a few (good) novels that pull this off nicely so you can get a feel if it's working for yours.

akiwiguy
01-27-2008, 11:02 PM
I hate "rules", but one that I think is fairly universally agreed on is to never switch POV within a scene. In other words switches in POV should usually be delimited by a scene break. Possibly you'd find exceptions to this, but I've read that advice more than once from well-regarded sources.

KTC
01-27-2008, 11:06 PM
I might get smacked in the face with a leather belt for this one, but I think Ethan Hawke's Ash Wednesday was done well. He had two main characters tell the story. Chapter 1 was the male character, chapter 2 was the female character...and so on to the end of the novel. I was pleased by his ability to write two unique characters. When the POV was the female, I believed it was a female telling the story. I would say this is a good example. What's more...it was first person. Yes, terrible unforgiving first person. My favourite.

Danger Jane
01-27-2008, 11:27 PM
I hate "rules", but one that I think is fairly universally agreed on is to never switch POV within a scene. In other words switches in POV should usually be delimited by a scene break. Possibly you'd find exceptions to this, but I've read that advice more than once from well-regarded sources.

Yeah. I think it's just really hard to pull off well, so in the hands of most writers...it would be a mess. But it can be done, and when it is, the effect is awesome.

Devil Ledbetter
01-28-2008, 04:18 PM
Matthew Kneale's English Passengers uses 11 first-person narrators. Each voice is distinct. It's brilliant.

Klazart
01-28-2008, 04:46 PM
My current WIP has three main charecters. Originally I wrote it with 1st person for 2 of the chars and 3rd limited for the last one. I stuck to the POV of a single charecter PER chapter, though that was just my preference. The POV worked fine IMO, each charecter had a distinct voice and so on and so forth.

However, at the end of the day, (after finishing my first draft), following long discussions with the wife, I decided to make the whole book 3rd limited. I felt this made the story gel better together, and eliminated the problem of how a charecter who was going to die at the end was telling their own story. (though I'm sure there are other methods of getting past the latter hurdle).

Thanks to computer technology the switch only took me a couple of weeks. But it was still painful. At the end of it, I don't feel like any of the main charecters have lost their "voice." Their unique attitude and mode of thinking still comes across very clearly, though I think writing it in first person initially helped to define that.

The multiple POV's worked okay for me, but I just felt that at the end the story was served better by keeping it all 3rd person limited, even if I was switching between charecters, as it made the book feel more cohesive.

In the future I plan on sticking to synchronous POV's. Either the whole book will be First person (even if it is in first person from different charecters) or all in 3rd person. This certainly seem to be the pattern with most writers that I've read. I've read a few that write both in first person and in third person in different novels, but never vary that perspective in a single body of work. I don't know what, if any value this insight has, but it's become a personal rule for me after my current dithering.

Best of luck!

Charlie Horse
01-28-2008, 06:26 PM
I agree with the general consensus. Multiple POVs are fine, just don't head hop yada yada yada.

RJK
01-28-2008, 11:01 PM
In the first 100 pages of my 3rd person WIP, I've been inside the heads of 9 characters to some extent. I have a half dozen main characters who all believe the story is about them. I have tried to maintain a single POV in each scene, but may have slipped in one or two, but as I re-read them, they seem clear to me.

dawinsor
01-28-2008, 11:29 PM
I know novels with multiple POVs are popular now, rather like ensemble cast TV shows. I'm a big fan of George R. R. Martin, and he pulls this off extremely well, using character names as chapter heads, I might say.

However, I do think that the longer you spend in one character's POV, the better the reader gets to know that character and the more they care about the character. Every POV the writer adds has the potential to dilute that effect.