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Thread: Alternating POV and story structure question.

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    Alternating POV and story structure question.

    Based on ScSarahTops thread, I've been looking at the beats in my story for the first time (this is the first time in any sort of dedicated way; I vaguely implemented some beats during the writing.)

    My question is:

    For a story with two heroes and alternating POV, should every element be doubled? My heroes have independent lives for 2/3 of the story, then meet and are together in a common (sort of) purpose til the end. (They both want to 'defeat the villain' but for different purposes - this makes 'stating the problem' a little murky, but I hope that's OK?)

    Some beats are obvious for one hero but not the other, others are stronger for one and weaker for the other. As a general rule, should I try to make sure they each have an inciting incident, a flaw, a complication, fun and games, etc?

    Or, if one has a strong complication, is it OK for the other character in the alternating chapters to have a weak complication, almost providing a 'thank god this person's life is easer' sort of break for the reader?

    As a specific example in my story. fun and games for one character is well developed, but her flaw is minimal - and the other character has more flaw hounding him, and less fun and games. It's not that either is missing an element necessarily, it's just more or less obvious for each element (beat).

    Also, the beats are not matchy - matchy in the story. The complication might be in one character's 5th chapter and the other character's 7th chapter. I hope this is OK? Or might it be disruptive to the reader. like, 'wait, I thought we had a trajectory, and now everything's bungled again....)?

    Any thoughts welcome. I can in theory pull the two storylines apart and massage them so that they are sort of 'the same' in terms of beat and pacing and strength, but that feels artificial. I suppose this is one area that I feel sort of organic, in comparison to all of the lists and technical revisions that I've been working through.
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  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Raindrop's Avatar
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    I wouldn't worry too much about it, to be honest. The monomyth is only one possible structure, and I think it's more useful as a tool to understand stories that have already been written.
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  3. #3
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Good grief - just reading that makes my head hurt.

    I have no answers for you, other than to listen to your characters and see where they lead you. Good luck.
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  4. #4
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Should every incident be doubled--no. I asked a similarish question a few threads down I think (about whether every pov character needs an arc). I do think they need arcs but not complete massive journeys.

    If you look at any book with many povs (eg Sanderson or GRRM, since they're well known) you'll find that they have arcs, but they don't double up on everything. It would require too much page space.

    I would say, utilise your characters. My phil fa MS has five povs and I use them for different things. Some for advancing plot, some for exploring ideas, some for exploring relationships. Characters should also share space; the same scene can advance more than once person simultaneously.
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  5. #5
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    Hurray! Two votes for 'you're overthinking this' and one for 'you're really overthinking this.'



    Thank you!
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  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    It entirely depends on how your novel is structured in whole. Even then, I can't think of many different structures that would really gain much from doubling the Hero's journey structure on two separate POV characters. It would read very heavy. I would also like to remind that as much as it is a tool for developing character arcs, it is more so - especially for the modern reader who gets tube fed by Hollywood with it - a pacing tool. If you double the hero's journey, you can't use it for pacing. You'll have to pace the novel with something else, and in my opinion pacing is more important to focus on on a multi-POV novel than complete arcs.

  7. #7
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    Well yeah, everyone is the hero of their own story. Even minor characters have flaws, arcs, internal conflicts. You just maybe don't have to show them as much. So maybe a minor character doesn't have an inciting incident in your story, because by the time they enter your story, they've already been incited. They are the hero of their own story, but their story might begin before your story and end before it or after it.

    My WIP is a Romance, so there are two main characters, but the heroine is the real main character, who the story structure follows. The hero has sort of an inciting incident around the middle of the book, and his arc is still somewhat unresolved at the end.

  8. #8
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    Awesome. Yes, in fact a minor character put her own arc in when I wasn't looking and ends up being remarkably charismatic a a result.

    OK, thanks!
    I'm also on twitter where I routinely upset people. at pltavormina

  9. #9
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    So, in the Steampunk novel/serial I wrote the two central characters (protagonist and secondary protagonist) both have inciting incidents, but the secondary character's II doesn't happen until Chapter 13, while the protagonist's happens in Chapter 3. He doesn't show up until Chapter 11 or so, but then there's a kind of introduction of his world (seen from her perspective) before we get to a chapter that presents him with a choice that forces him to take action. (Action that then later twins with her quest.)

    Which is to say, if you have a secondary/alternating PoV or protagonist then they are going to have a slightly different arc. Assuming that both characters don't have completely equal time and pacing (which to my mind would be kind of boring actually) then their arcs will be different. Secondary protagonists don't need as many beats as the MC. Also, their beats may seem more spread out because they may not be in as many chapters.

    It's okay to alternate, but be sure, if you have strong conflict for one character and weak for another, that the focus is on the stronger conflict/complication. FREX: Missing the bus is a minor complication until the following chapter when the character is late and that means the bad guy gets the drop on them. But you probably don't want to spend a chapter focused on missing the bus, but on the the character waiting for the person who is late trying to get set up and wondering if they're going to be in it alone or if the whole thing has already gone to hell or trying to set up some "thing" but needing a second person to help.

    If that makes sense. I do a lot of alternating PsOV to bring in different beats and character arcs, but it's always based on what action presents the highest stakes/reveal for the story line. (The MC will get probably 50-60%, secondary protagonist 20-25% and then a handful of supporting characters will get a chapter or two throughout.)
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  10. #10
    independent claws blackcat777's Avatar
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    I would also consider the significance of the beats - is there a purpose to mirroring them exactly? I have three timelines woven throughout my WIP, but only make a point of lining up beats between the timelines if it's HUGELY significant and I want the reader to have a direct compare/contrast of motivations for certain plot points, like these scenes MUST read back to back for maximum dramatic effect.

    I wouldn't consider matching beats perfectly - I would be more concerned with flow of story. I would only make a grueling effort to mirror them if it served a structural/aesthetic purpose. If mirroring beats forces your story to read unnaturally, by prolonging or forcing conflict that would otherwise flow more effectively without following that structure to a T, I wouldn't worry about it.

    It might be interesting, for example, if two separate POV characters are each on the hero's journey, but one makes a decision that aligns him "good" and one makes a decision that aligns him "evil." The juxtaposition of those turning points back-to-back could be interesting. I'm also assuming that would be pivotal to the story.
    Last edited by blackcat777; 12-28-2017 at 02:53 AM.

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