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Thread: How do you like multiple point of views to be divided?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Sweet Escape's Avatar
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    How do you like multiple point of views to be divided?

    For myself for research, I have looked into a few book series and looked into how multlipe POV's with more than 2 characters have been divided. I have not read standalone books with more than 2 POV characters. Did main characters get equal amount of POV? Sometimes no, sometimes they are fairly evenly divided.

    What do you prefer to read (when there are more than 2 POV characters) and why?
    1. One clear protagonist and two or three characters having a bit of POV parts occasionaly, but the book or book series are primarily written from one character POV. (Example: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Reese Brennan)

    2. More evenly divided POV's parts. Not much difference between all the POV characters in the number of POV's each character has, closely tied in numbers. (Example: Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo)

    3. One clear protagonist, but other POV characters have a reasonable amount of POV that is not dramatically different in numbers. In The Raven Cycle Maggie Stiefvater did this. The four books had four main POV characters, and in every book there was one obvious main character who had the most POV's. But from what I counted, ultimately there was one character who was the protagonist because she had the most POV's in numbers, but the other three were not massively far off The book were not primarily about just one character, but the POV's were not neccesarily evenly divided either.

    I hope the difference between 1 and 2 compared to 3 make sense, I apologize if I explained it badly!

    Is there a style of writing multlipe POV with more than 2 charcters preferable to agents and publishers?

  2. #2
    Falling in the milk megan_d's Avatar
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    As in all things it comes down to the skill of the writer. Stiefvater's method works best if your favourite character is the one who gets focus (which is why Dream Thieves is an all time favourite of mine, but Blue Lily not so much).

    Bardugo's approach makes sure every one gets equal time, but that can make some pov's feel padded and others rushed.

    Brennon's way is probably the safest. You don't get the chance to get too attached to anyone else, so you don't grow to resent Kimi having all the screen time. On the other hand you only have one character to entice your reader with, and if they don't get invested they might not read on. (I, for example, only ever read the first book of the Lyborne Legacy).

    So, yeah. Shrug. There are pros and cons to all approaches so you might as go with the one that appeals to you the most. (And if you want an example of a standalone with multiple povs try The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins).

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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Answering as a reader (not agent or publisher) and just for myself (I don't know what percentage of the population may feel the same way as I do about this):

    The answer depends on whether you're writing in first or third person. In third person, because the narrator isn't so close to each character, there's less mental investment in each POV character, you can get away with more POV changes (albeit that you still need to have a scene or chapter break to change POV) and more POV characters. With first person, because you end up identifying with the POV character more closely, changes in POV are more jarring (even with sufficient scene and chapter breaks) and I personally can't handle a large number of first person POVs in one book. The Girl on the Train was fine with 3 first person POVs because one of the POVs was central to the story (it's somewhere between your 2 and 3, with one central POV character, another who still got a lot of text and a third who only had a small amount of text to herself) and there was a lot of time to get to know the first character before the POV changed to the second one. The third POV didn't come in until later on.

    In books where there are several first person POV characters introduced early on, I find this very offputting and get confused between the different characters and find it a bit overwhelming to have to identify with so many people in quick succession and generally end up giving up by the time I get to the 3rd POV. Even in 3rd person, if there are too many important characters (whether POV or just important to the MC) introduced too soon, I get confused and forget who's who.

    I would find it very contrived if it seems like the author has tried too hard to give each POV characater equal amounts of text. Give each POV character the amount of text/attention that is needed for the story. It might turn out to be all equal or it might not. But don't try too hard to make it fit a pattern - rather let the needs of the story determine how much POV time each character gets. Also, consider axing a character's POV if there's no story reason for that character to have their own POV. They can still be a great character viewed through the eyes of your POV character(s).
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    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    What I prefer is a good story, well written with points of view handled well by the author. Whether that's a single or multiple, concentrates on one with occasional others, uses a single omniscient narrator, changes every chapter, changes within chapters or anything else simply depends on the story.

    The point of view should, in my opinion, never occur to the reader and simply seem a natural part of the story.

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  5. #5
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    I don't have a preference for something such as this. It just has to be a good story well told. This is part of the scaffolding, which the reader should not give a shit about if the story is done well. Scaffolding is for the writer to deal with.
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  6. #6
    climbing steps Bassel's Avatar
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    I agree with neandermagnon on this one.

    Multiple POVs should mostly be in third person unless absolutely needed otherwise.

    And there shouldn't be many unneeded POVs just for the sake of having multiple angles of the story, only the very important ones should be demonstrated.
    Last edited by Bassel; 04-11-2017 at 05:01 PM.

  7. #7
    figuring it all out shootseven's Avatar
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    I think it completely depends on the story and what you're trying to accomplish. I just dealt with this with my most recent book, which has five first person point of views, and it did make it a tougher sell to agents and publishers. I heard multiple times, each time from people who only read a query, how difficult this would be to do (time will tell what readers think). But maybe third person they wouldn't be so hesitant to try?

    A fun little example of 2 first person POVs is Mark Twain's "The Diary of Adam and Eve" (in the book The Bible According to Mark Twain and I believe available online as well). The interaction between Adam and Eve and their different take on situations is very amusing.

  8. #8
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    It mostly doesn't matter to me, as long as it's well-written, well-paced, and I'm not bored. That means each character arc needs to be compelling in its own right.

    My only objection is when the number of POV characters is so great that the story slows to a crawl while each one gets a turn. In these cases, there's also a tendency to use fairly minor characters as viewpoint characters, which further dilutes the impact of the story.

  9. #9
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    I'm also in the "depends on the story" camp. The book I'm currently peddling has a primary POV character--no doubt she's primary, but several people pop in. All are first person. Although it was my first story told in first person, that seemed to be the best way to go with that story. Main character assumes things, and others let the reader know not all the assumptions are actually facts. Because assumptions are merely assumptions, but that doesn't keep them from masquerading as facts, you know?

  10. #10
    Back on Track Carrie in PA's Avatar
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    I also am going with "depends on the story" and I'll add my pet peeve -- I detest it when a POV character only shows up for a brief bit but then we never go back to their POV. (disclaimer: unless there's a damn good reason) It feels much like the author is forcing info to the reader and doesn't want to work it into the "real" POV characters' sections. (second disclaimer: not so much a problem in a series where the POV characters and the size of their role may shift book to book)
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carrie in PA View Post
    I also am going with "depends on the story" and I'll add my pet peeve -- I detest it when a POV character only shows up for a brief bit but then we never go back to their POV. (disclaimer: unless there's a damn good reason) It feels much like the author is forcing info to the reader and doesn't want to work it into the "real" POV characters' sections.
    Or else the author REALLY WANTS to show something onstage that none of the "real" POV characters are present for, and can't think of a better way to share it with the reader. (IOW, writer wrote themselves into a corner and has to cheat to get out of it.)

    2 of my pet peeves in Other People's work:

    1. an excessive number of minor POVs that seem to be included for logistical convenience or dramatically unnecessary variation, or
    2. a rigid adherence to some artificial arrangement of POVs (e.g. a strict rotation like ABCABCABC, sometimes with each segment artificially constrained to the same length) which is likely to deform the pace and structure of the narrative, force false cliffhangers & other dramatic artifacts where they aren't actually needed, and display the mechanics of the story far too obviously

    There are clearly going to be writers who can pull of either one of these tricks, but that's the sort of exercise we should leave for master practitioners only

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    My preference is by chapter.

    I also really enjoyed how Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein handled it with one POV in the first half of the book switching to another in the second half.

    Spoiler:
    Given the first half was portrayed as a written account, it allowed the author to inject purposeful deception on the character's part that we didn't find out about until we got to the second half of the story.
    Last edited by MaeZe; 04-12-2017 at 09:35 PM.

  13. #13
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Sweet Escape's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the answers so far!

    Yeah, maybe if you plan it out too much with having each POV character having equal POV's it may seem contrived somehow? If the POV is unnecesary than it should be left out.

    But it is something I have been thinking about, and I was not sure of how much authors tend to make notes of it somewhere on how the number of POV parts should be divided between characters. Maybe it is best to let it flow naturally, when a certain character works the best as a POV in the scene - use it? I do like for it not to be too unbalanced I think.

    Does it work better if you pitch an idea to an agent and have one clear protagonist in your story even if you have multlipe POV's, or does that not matter much? I am going to have 3 POV characters for my current project.

    Oh, I also totally get that the idea of having a character have one POV in a book and then dissapear can be irritating. Sometimes it can be for a good plot reasons but sometimes they seem unnecessary. Or sometimes even boring like in The Raven Cycle where villians could have a few POV parta and i honestly skipped all those chapters because they just were not interesting.

  14. #14
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    I don't have a preference among the approaches you listed. For me, it's really a matter of which one works best to keep the story moving forward and for keeping me engaged.

    I wouldn't like it if an author felt compelled to stick to some kind of predictable pattern or rotation if doing so results in fluff or filler chapters that aren't that interesting. The rotating pov approach works best, imo, when a story is being advanced on multiple fronts, with each character having an arc of some kind and playing a role in driving it forward.
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  15. #15
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Replied in quote, sorry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sweet Escape View Post
    For myself for research, I have looked into a few book series and looked into how multlipe POV's with more than 2 characters have been divided. I have not read standalone books with more than 2 POV characters. Did main characters get equal amount of POV? Sometimes no, sometimes they are fairly evenly divided.

    Get yourself a copy of Elantris - 3 POV standalone fantasy book.

    What do you prefer to read (when there are more than 2 POV characters) and why?
    1. One clear protagonist and two or three characters having a bit of POV parts occasionaly, but the book or book series are primarily written from one character POV. (Example: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Reese Brennan)

    I prefer to read a book which is good. Whether that's one compelling character or ten.

    2. More evenly divided POV's parts. Not much difference between all the POV characters in the number of POV's each character has, closely tied in numbers. (Example: Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo)

    Well, that depends. Not all characters need equal spaces. Sometimes they do.

    3. One clear protagonist, but other POV characters have a reasonable amount of POV that is not dramatically different in numbers. In The Raven Cycle Maggie Stiefvater did this. The four books had four main POV characters, and in every book there was one obvious main character who had the most POV's. But from what I counted, ultimately there was one character who was the protagonist because she had the most POV's in numbers, but the other three were not massively far off The book were not primarily about just one character, but the POV's were not neccesarily evenly divided either.

    I hope the difference between 1 and 2 compared to 3 make sense, I apologize if I explained it badly!

    Is there a style of writing multlipe POV with more than 2 charcters preferable to agents and publishers?

    MPOV is extremely common in scifi, fantasy, and spec fic generally. I'm always surprised by how unpopular it is outside of those genres, which is a real shame because a lot of authors who suck at pacing could probably tell a better story with different POVs to move it along.
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  16. #16
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sweet Escape View Post

    Does it work better if you pitch an idea to an agent and have one clear protagonist in your story even if you have multlipe POV's, or does that not matter much?
    Having one clear protagonist is almost always better when it comes to pitching. And if you don't have a single protagonist, you still probably want to boil the story down to one major arc when querying.
    Last edited by BethS; 04-13-2017 at 10:53 AM.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW CJSimone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sweet Escape View Post
    Thanks for all the answers so far!

    Yeah, maybe if you plan it out too much with having each POV character having equal POV's it may seem contrived somehow? If the POV is unnecesary than it should be left out.

    But it is something I have been thinking about, and I was not sure of how much authors tend to make notes of it somewhere on how the number of POV parts should be divided between characters. Maybe it is best to let it flow naturally, when a certain character works the best as a POV in the scene - use it? I do like for it not to be too unbalanced I think.

    Does it work better if you pitch an idea to an agent and have one clear protagonist in your story even if you have multlipe POV's, or does that not matter much? I am going to have 3 POV characters for my current project.

    Oh, I also totally get that the idea of having a character have one POV in a book and then dissapear can be irritating. Sometimes it can be for a good plot reasons but sometimes they seem unnecessary. Or sometimes even boring like in The Raven Cycle where villians could have a few POV parta and i honestly skipped all those chapters because they just were not interesting.
    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    Having one clear protagonist is almost always better when it comes to pitching. And if you don't have a single protagonist, you still probably want to boil the story down to one major arc when querying.
    + 1 BethS. You'll find almost all advising this in QLH. It's just easier to get attached to one character. There's hardly enough time/opportunity to get an agent attached to your one character, but when you dilute it with multiples, they're all spread way too thin.

    "Maybe it is best to let it flow naturally, when a certain character works the best as a POV in the scene - use it?" I'd say yes overall. Whoever serves the story as POV character. If multiple viewpoint characters are present, whoever has the most to gain/lose generally makes the best POV character.

  18. #18
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    R
    This. I've read a lot more SFF (and romance, which most often has two povs, and occasionally more) in recent years, so it came as a shock to me to discover, on writing forums, how discouraged having more than one pov character is in general.

    First-person pov has become more popular in speculative fiction in recent years, and some still are told in omniscient (this seems to be experiencing a bit of a resurgence, thanks to the popularity of some historical fantasy told in an old style narrative voice) but when a story is told in limited third, SFF writers most often seem to use more than one viewpoint character.

    Though this observation could reflect my own personal tastes. I have nothing against single pov stories, though. I've just noticed more writers using first person in these cases (but there are some exceptions that also work well).

    Quote Originally Posted by Sweet Escape View Post

    Oh, I also totally get that the idea of having a character have one POV in a book and then dissapear can be irritating. Sometimes it can be for a good plot reasons but sometimes they seem unnecessary. Or sometimes even boring like in The Raven Cycle where villians could have a few POV parta and i honestly skipped all those chapters because they just were not interesting.
    I'm not a big fan of "one off" povs, or of showing the pov of the antagonist (or a villain), "just because." Sometimes writers use this to show the reader something that the pov character doesn't know, or to build tension or foreshadowing, but imo there's almost always another way to do this. Generally, I think that a pov character should have a significant arc of some kind, even if they're not the main protagonist.

    Of course, with an omniscient viewpoint, the author has more freedom to show thoughts and events that the main character isn't privy to, including those of minor characters, but they're not actually writing in the protagonist's viewpoint at all either. And even omniscient pov isn't license to jump all over the place without good reason.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 04-13-2017 at 08:35 PM.
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  20. #20
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    I've been a little obsessed with third-person limited lately and I'm finding all other approaches to POV less satisfying to read. So I guess my personal preference, right now, is not to divide POV at all. (That's not an absolute statement; rather it's my peculiar state of mind at the moment.) (Oh, and in utter contradiction to that, I second MaeZe's comment on Code Name Verity, which is one of the very best books I read in the last two years; it left me breathlessly gushing to anyone who would listen.)

    My own project is third-person limited, though I have two POV characters, and quite frankly I wish I didn't have to - I often wish I could keep the whole thing inside one character's head, only because I'd love to try to do the thing I'm obsessed with. Alas, the story I'm working with as of now won't work that way.

    Anyway, to your question, in my outline and in the first draft thus far, the POV switches every four chapters or so - four chapters in character A's head, then four chapters in character B's head, then back to character A for four chapters or so, etc. Yet one of the things I want to try when I get the first draft done and set to revising is to try switching more often; never within a chapter, but at least more frequently than in the current draft. I have a feeling that it might make the story feel more dynamic, and make the timeline feel more natural - things happening in two lives simultaneously.

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW screenscope's Avatar
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    I title my chapters (or sections) with the name of the POV character. I use lots of POVs, so this works best for me as a writer and keeps things clear for my readers.

    When reading, if I don't notice, I don't care how it's done.

  22. #22
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by neandermagnon View Post
    In books where there are several first person POV characters introduced early on, I find this very offputting and get confused between the different characters and find it a bit overwhelming to have to identify with so many people in quick succession and generally end up giving up by the time I get to the 3rd POV.
    Interesting. Is your opinion on this the same if it's limited third? I have 3 different POV in my opening chapter, but the three people are all together experiencing the same story. I don't know if that makes a difference.

  24. #24
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    How do you like multiple point of views to be divided?
    Points. Points of view. Not point of views.

    And I like them to be delineated by voice.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post

    And I like them to be delineated by voice.
    This is a good answer and an important point. I often struggle with this and have removed the POV from certain characters, turning them into side characters. I did it because their voice was so similar to some other POV characters that it seemed silly to give them their own POV when it wasn't adding anything.

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