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noranne
06-15-2014, 07:04 AM
I sat down to outline today, and I realized I have a problem.

This story is really the story of one person, so I decided that single 3rd person POV was the way to go. That's a new area for me as ALL of my previous novels have been multiple POV. So after I had plotted and done some worldbuilding, I had a decent 2 page synopsis and I thought I had substantial enough plot for a good novel.

I just finished my basic scene list and it is WAY too short. Only 37 scenes. (My last two completed MS had 69 and 82.) And it feels like since I am following only the one character, the subplots have been pushed to the edges and are almost nonexistent.

So how do you get sufficient complexity with only one POV character? Or should I just go ahead and add in one or two more POVs to pad out the subplots?

Kerosene
06-15-2014, 07:20 AM
I sat down to outline today, and I realized I have a problem.

This story is really the story of one person, so I decided that single 3rd person POV was the way to go. That's a new area for me as ALL of my previous novels have been multiple POV. So after I had plotted and done some worldbuilding, I had a decent 2 page synopsis and I thought I had substantial enough plot for a good novel.

I just finished my basic scene list and it is WAY too short. Only 37 scenes. (My last two completed MS had 69 and 82.) And it feels like since I am following only the one character, the subplots have been pushed to the edges and are almost nonexistent.

So how do you get sufficient complexity with only one POV character? Or should I just go ahead and add in one or two more POVs to pad out the subplots?

So, you want to add POV because you don't have enough scenes? Or do you need more POVs on the subplots--if they even matter? You've already said that the story is about just the MC, so I don't see how different views on the subplots could add to this.
I don't know what 37 or 69 or 82 scenes mean in terms of story, the length of the book, and whatnot, but I can't see those numbers being a reason why you should add more to a story when you've already deemed the story enough (as far as the planning stage is concerned).

Is there a reason to have sufficient "complexity"? Other than trying to fit your story to a term?
Is there a reason to cover the story from other than the MC's POV?

If anything, "padding/filling/fluffing" and whatnot is not what I want as a reader. I already skip enough pages and chapters because I see no use in reading them, why have some that have the purpose of being frivolous fluff?

The reason why I have multiple POVs is because not the entire story revolves around my MC--not even around both, or all six of them. I need more cameras to cover more of the story. And when I can, I try to push my MC into a different position without pushing the boundaries of their character, plot, and world. I will only add another POV or create subplots when the story calls for it--otherwise, I'll just keep writing.

noranne
06-15-2014, 07:34 AM
I mean that there are subplots I wrote into the planning stage, but they dealt mostly with the other characters. So by only having the one POV, I can't really include much of those subplots. Which means there is just basically a single storyline.

If I added the other POVs, it would be characters who are already part of the novel, but having their POV I would be able to expand the subplots and add depth to the story.

By the number of scenes I have now, basically I'm looking at about a 50k novel. I'm wondering whether I can beef that up while still maintaining single POV or if it is better to bring in some other POVs.

Kerosene
06-15-2014, 08:04 AM
I mean that there are subplots I wrote into the planning stage, but they dealt mostly with the other characters. So by only having the one POV, I can't really include much of those subplots. Which means there is just basically a single storyline.

If I added the other POVs, it would be characters who are already part of the novel, but having their POV I would be able to expand the subplots and add depth to the story.

By the number of scenes I have now, basically I'm looking at about a 50k novel. I'm wondering whether I can beef that up while still maintaining single POV or if it is better to bring in some other POVs.

What's the genre? Because 50K is most likely novella territory. Some sub-genres, like Urban Fantasy, tend to run shorter around 75K, while others are upward of 100K.

It really sounds like you want to include those subplots, but they don't play a large enough role in the main story to actually be highlighted. If they were really important, they'd be in the main story, right? For that, I don't see a good reason why they should have their own POV. Though, you can always make them important to the story and add POVs to highlight them*.
I have several subplots in my WIP, and they hold deep pasts that sparked everything that's happening in the foreground. But, I barely touch at them because their story doesn't play much of a role in the main story. I give enough for the reader to make sense of why these characters and their stories are important to the MCs, but just enough to get by.

*One of my big problems with some novels--or stories in general--is when the author includes subplots and other things that seem needless, or are needless, just because the author wishes to include them. As a reader, I don't care for these things, and it's the author's job to make me care. If you make me care--which is easiest when they directly matter to the MC's story (whom I'm already connected with)--then you'll be fine. But at the first whiff I get that it might be not needed, I'm privy to skip.

You can "beef up" the story while maintaining the single POV if you just add to the MC's story. Take the route less traveled, take a left rather than a right, expand on situations, add more conflict, make shit much harder and make the character fail more often. If this calls for stronger subplots, and POVs to show those subplots, then add them. But there is other ways to expand a story rather than adding attachments to it.

Are you in still in the planning stage? Because if you haven't written any of it, it might surprise you how many words you can get out and how the story expands/contracts as you write it. And, you can always add more while writing it. I believe you really can't plan for everything

rwm4768
06-15-2014, 08:24 AM
It's entirely possible to do subplots with a single point of view. Surely your MC has issues in their life that don't revolve around the main plot.

It could be a sign that you haven't fleshed out the characters and setting around the MC.

noranne
06-15-2014, 08:47 AM
What's the genre? Because 50K is most likely novella territory. Some sub-genres, like Urban Fantasy, tend to run shorter around 75K, while others are upward of 100K.

Yes. I know. That's why I need more plot. It's a fantasy, I'm aiming for at least 90k.



It really sounds like you want to include those subplots, but they don't play a large enough role in the main story to actually be highlighted. If they were really important, they'd be in the main story, right? For that, I don't see a good reason why they should have their own POV. Though, you can always make them important to the story and add POVs to highlight them*.

Well if they were in the main story then they wouldn't be subplots. And the reason I am having trouble with the single POV is that he wouldn't be there to see most of them, but they still affect him. So they're there, but they don't get explored much and they don't fill out much of the outline.



You can "beef up" the story while maintaining the single POV if you just add to the MC's story. Take the route less traveled, take a left rather than a right, expand on situations, add more conflict, make shit much harder and make the character fail more often. If this calls for stronger subplots, and POVs to show those subplots, then add them. But there is other ways to expand a story rather than adding attachments to it.


That's what I'm trying to do right now, just having trouble with it. I hate obstacles for the sake of obstacles, so I'm trying to work realistic and interesting conflict in. But it's hard when it's just the ONE storyline, it feels like.



Are you in still in the planning stage? Because if you haven't written any of it, it might surprise you how many words you can get out and how the story expands/contracts as you write it. And, you can always add more while writing it. I believe you really can't plan for everything

Yes I am still planning. But I do know how much my writing grows as I go, and that is what I am basing my current estimate on. I find that the things I add while writing are the things that suck, so I am a very thorough outliner as much as possible.


It's entirely possible to do subplots with a single point of view. Surely your MC has issues in their life that don't revolve around the main plot.

It could be a sign that you haven't fleshed out the characters and setting around the MC.

I mean, he does. But not many. Once the plot gets going, it's a pretty all-encompassing threat, and he's pretty focused on the one thing. There are emotional underpinnings that go along with the main story, but there aren't many available subplots that deal just with him.

Agh. This is driving me nuts. I just remembered that there was one other time I tried single POV, and I had this same problem and ended up giving up on that one about 20k in. Maybe I'm just not cut out for single POV!

Roxxsmom
06-15-2014, 09:35 AM
It makes sense that a novel with just one pov character could have fewer scenes in it, because you won't have those scene changes that are driven specifically by changes in pov. Fewer scenes don't necessarily mean the story will be shorter. Maybe each scene would be longer, for instance. And even if it is shorter, it's not necessarily bad. To some extent, it makes sense for a novel with fewer pov characters to be shorter. One problem those of us who are attracted to complex plots with more than one or two pov characters is excessive word count, actually.

How long is your novel anyway, and what subgenre is it? A typical adult novel is around 85,000 words or so, though epic fantasies often run a lot longer. Even so, most people advise than anything too much longer than 100,000 words is a harder sell to agents.

BTW, I've never counted up the number of scenes in a story or novel (or novel chapter) and worried about them, in my own or anyone else's books. I'm no expert, but I'd advise against adding unnecessary character povs or subplots just to pad things.

One suggestion: read a SF or F novel or two that has just one pov character and see how their authors did it. Some I can think of:

Green, by Jay Lake
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
Fade to Black by Francis Knight
Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (and many other books by this author too)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemison.

noranne
06-15-2014, 12:00 PM
When I say that I want to beef it up, I don't mean adding unnecessary fluff. I just mean I am trying to get it to a point of sufficient depth and complexity to be a good novel. I don't like having less than about 5 storylines, and trying to get there with only one POV has been challenging.

I was just going through my synopsis and realized I have almost exactly re-created a Hero's Journey. On the one hand, I guess that's good as it means I have an intuitive grasp of story structure. On the other hand, writing a straight-up hero's journey can be kind of boring. That does kind of push me towards maintaining just the one POV though. Ugh. I already started planning adding in POVs too.

Back to the drawing board! Or spreadsheet, same diff.

Kerosene
06-15-2014, 12:10 PM
I just mean I am trying to get it to a point of sufficient depth and complexity to be a good novel.

If complexity and depth makes a novel good for you, then go ahead and continue on that path. But IMO, novels are just entertainment--they don't need to contain any depth, meaning, be complex or cryptic--just be entertaining. Whatever entertaining is is up to you, but I see no reason why you should break your head over trying to add this--especially in the planning phase.

Mr Flibble
06-15-2014, 12:44 PM
It's entirely possible to do subplots with a single point of view. Surely your MC has issues in their life that don't revolve around the main plot.



I mean, he does. But not many. Once the plot gets going, it's a pretty all-encompassing threat, and he's pretty focused on the one thing.

Could the other things in his life complicate the main plot in any way? Shine a light on the main theme from a different angle? Contribute to character growth?

I mean, I don't know your plot but say....OK so say your main guy starts off in a loveless marriage that he can't quite seem to escape. Then Godzilla (main plot) comes to town. Godzilla will likely be forefront in his mind. But the threat could also make him re-evaluate his marriage. Maybe his missus comes out and kicks butt, and he realises that he does love her after all. Or, after a near death-by-Godzilla experience he realises that life is too short and he should get out of a marriage that isn't working. Or....Sub plots are where your character can really grow, and are where character arcs come into their own.

The main plot and sub plots shouldn't normally be unrelated. They should all tie in together with the main plot (or theme). You have your plot, have you got a character arc? How do they change over the course of the story? How can you highlight that by use of a sub plot? The actions of the main plot can (should IMO) inform what happens in the sub plot. So frex my current sub plot is about the relationship between a brother and sister. What happens in the main plot affects that, and drives the sub plot and vice versa

I don't think you necessarily need to add this at the planning stage unless you love planning. You could write it and see what crops up -- but that's me.

Once!
06-15-2014, 02:14 PM
I think most people probably hit this the first time that they switch from multiple POVs to a single POV. I know I did.

Writing in multiple POVs give us a certain degree of flexibility. If we don't know what to do with our main character we can simply flip to a secondary character for a while and then flip back. We can drive the story along by showing the bad guys doing something dastardly. It's like having a magical TV remote control for the story. We can change channels whenever we want.

Having a single POV can be trickier to write. You can only show things that your main character would know about - and then only from the perspective of the main character. You don't get the luxury of channel hopping or opening another tab on internet explorer to go looking something up in Wikipedia. One pair of eyes (unless your MC is an alien or a cyclops), one viewpoint, one window on the world.

The first time that I wrote with a single POV, I found that I could not write the story in the same way that I would for a multiple POV novel. So I ended up with a plot that went something like this:

1. Something calamitous happens. Main character does not understand it. He does not know what caused it. He does not know what he is supposed to do. I can't flip to a secondary character to explain it.

2. He and his girlfriend try to work out what to do in their changed situation. I can't head hop into her head to show what she is thinking.

3. Meanwhile, our bad guy seizes power and starts making up new laws. I can only show the bad guy when my MC sees him in a public place or reads about him. I can't show the bad guy directly.

4. The MC's girlfriend is kidnapped by the bad guy. I can't show what happens to her after she has been kidnapped. At least, I can't until my main character rescues her.

Writing with a single POV means that there is a lot that your main character does not know. He/she has to carry the action on their own. The reader needs to be entertained and not get the impression that all the action is taking place off screen.

I found that one way to tackle it was to play with the idea of a hero who doesn't understand things. His lack of knowledge is one of the themes.

My advice? Go back to your scene list and give your MC more to do. This may be a subplot to develop his character or a more involved main plot. Your MC has to carry much more of the plot than in a multiple POV novel.

Roxxsmom
06-15-2014, 05:06 PM
When I say that I want to beef it up, I don't mean adding unnecessary fluff. I just mean I am trying to get it to a point of sufficient depth and complexity to be a good novel. I don't like having less than about 5 storylines, and trying to get there with only one POV has been challenging.

Again, I'd suggest you read some SF/F novels with a single pov character. You'd be surprised at the depth and complexity that can be achieved with one character.


I was just going through my synopsis and realized I have almost exactly re-created a Hero's Journey. On the one hand, I guess that's good as it means I have an intuitive grasp of story structure. On the other hand, writing a straight-up hero's journey can be kind of boring. That does kind of push me towards maintaining just the one POV though. Ugh. I already started planning adding in POVs too.

Back to the drawing board! Or spreadsheet, same diff.

Lots of stories are classic hero's journeys, and even an un-embellished hero's journey has plenty of room side trips and diversions. The secret lies in making yours unique in some way.

Whenever the subject of multiple pov stories versus ones with a single pov come up on the SF and F forum, many people express a dislike (sometimes an intense dislike) of multi-pov novels. This suggests that there's a hunger for more stories that focus most intensely on a single character in SF and F (in contrast to large pov stories like GRRM's stuff), so don't try to shoehorn yours into being something it's not.

I personally like different kinds of stories and can think of favorite novels that range from single character pov to many.

lianna williamson
06-15-2014, 06:17 PM
I have one POV, but I also have subplots: my heroine is serving as an envoy at a summit meeting to negotiate the resettlement of a mostly depopulated Earth by space-dwelling humans; at the same time, she's uncovering a mystery from her own past, using a clue she discovered inside something her deceased mother left to her; and she's also developing an uneasy attraction/flirtation with the man assigned to be her aide by the hosts of the summit.

I also went through and plotted out story arcs for 4 other characters, so I know what's happening to them whenever they're not "on stage". We never see their POV, but through the heroine's interactions with them we see their stories progressing as they collide with hers. Does that make sense?

BethS
06-15-2014, 09:44 PM
I sat down to outline today, and I realized I have a problem.

This story is really the story of one person, so I decided that single 3rd person POV was the way to go. That's a new area for me as ALL of my previous novels have been multiple POV. So after I had plotted and done some worldbuilding, I had a decent 2 page synopsis and I thought I had substantial enough plot for a good novel.

I just finished my basic scene list and it is WAY too short. Only 37 scenes. (My last two completed MS had 69 and 82.) And it feels like since I am following only the one character, the subplots have been pushed to the edges and are almost nonexistent.

So how do you get sufficient complexity with only one POV character? Or should I just go ahead and add in one or two more POVs to pad out the subplots?

Maybe your POV character needs to have more than conflict to wrestle with.

ETA: ...more than one conflict...

Mr Flibble
06-15-2014, 10:06 PM
Maybe your POV character needs to have more than conflict to wrestle with.


Or more than external conflict.

That on its own gets boring. There should be internal conflict as well (that hopefully juxtaposes the external or at least ties in in some way) And that's where your sub plot comes in.

Latina Bunny
06-16-2014, 12:19 AM
Whenever the subject of multiple pov stories versus ones with a single pov come up on the SF and F forum, many people express a dislike (sometimes an intense dislike) of multi-pov novels. This suggests that there's a hunger for more stories that focus most intensely on a single character in SF and F (in contrast to large pov stories like GRRM's stuff), so don't try to shoehorn yours into being something it's not.


I'm one of those who prefer single POV stories. (I also prefer first-person POV, too.) I don't know why, but I like to stay in one person's head most of the time. The romance genre is a big exception, though. Two (or three) POVs are the most I would want to handle. :P

Still, some of my favorite stories are single-POV. :)

Noranne, if the story is from one POV, you have to create more conflicts for the MC to deal with. Think about the choices your character makes. Think about how other people could have goals/interests that may conflict with your MC's choices.


Or more than external conflict.


Exactly.

Give the character more complications and internal conflicts to deal with. There could be conflicting feelings on what to do on given situations, or maybe the MC has some other things going on in life, like complications with family and friends. The MC could be dealing with multiple stressing factors, including a new rival, a step-parent/sibling, a new baby, a new co-worker, etc. Maybe the MC has to make a choice on how to save the world/solve whatever current problem, because those choices can affect other people, etc.

EDIT to add: Oh, forgot you're still in the planning stages. Why don't you start writing the scenes you have at the moment? Maybe you might end up writing more than you think? :)

noranne
06-16-2014, 01:42 AM
Oh there's definitely internal conflict. In fact the internal conflict is really the main one that spans the entire story. But right now it's basically just the main external conflict and the main internal conflict.

Thanks for all the advice. I feel now like this story definitely needs to be single POV in order to match the vision in my head, and I have some ideas to expand it out a bit so it's not so thin. Not having the multiple POVs available to me will be an interesting challenge. :)

(I just realized that of my four completed MS, 3 of them have exactly 3 POV characters, and when I started sketching out a multi-POV palan for this one it was 3 as well. That seems to be my sweet spot!)


Again, I'd suggest you read some SF/F novels with a single pov character. You'd be surprised at the depth and complexity that can be achieved with one character.

Thanks for the list. :) I've read many of those and they are great novels. I'm just having trouble making my plot work like that! I will add a couple more to my reading pile.


I think most people probably hit this the first time that they switch from multiple POVs to a single POV. I know I did.

Phew, glad I'm not the only one. I just feel so constrained! The MC doesn't even come across the antagonist until like halfway and I don't want the first half to just be a travelogue.

Mr Flibble
06-16-2014, 01:50 AM
Phew, glad I'm not the only one. I just feel so constrained!

It's a challenge to be sure. But a good one that will make you grow as a writer. So huzzah!

PS my antag didn;t openly show himself till the climax, But what he does is there all through the book.

Roxxsmom
06-16-2014, 01:53 AM
It may be that you're being too hard on yourself after switching to a different kind of story than you've written before. We're used to epics in the fantasy genre, and they often have multiple characters. But there are some great stories with just one two. Really, it's down to what the focus of the story needs to be. Some need multiple characters, some need just one.

If you haven't already, have a couple of writing buddies look at the draft. Sometimes fresh and objective eyes can tell you if your worries are well founded or not.

Someone asked in an earlier thread how many povs is too many, and one of the responders was "if n=the number of povs needed to tell the story you want to tell, then n+1 is too many."

One isn't always the loneliest number :)

BethS
06-16-2014, 12:43 PM
Or more than external conflict.

That on its own gets boring. There should be internal conflict as well (that hopefully juxtaposes the external or at least ties in in some way) And that's where your sub plot comes in.

Yep. I meant to say -- more than one conflict, but somehow "one" snuck off for a drink or something and I didn't notice he was missing. :D

Wilde_at_heart
06-16-2014, 08:05 PM
I sat down to outline today, and I realized I have a problem.

This story is really the story of one person, so I decided that single 3rd person POV was the way to go. That's a new area for me as ALL of my previous novels have been multiple POV. So after I had plotted and done some worldbuilding, I had a decent 2 page synopsis and I thought I had substantial enough plot for a good novel.

I just finished my basic scene list and it is WAY too short. Only 37 scenes. (My last two completed MS had 69 and 82.) And it feels like since I am following only the one character, the subplots have been pushed to the edges and are almost nonexistent.

So how do you get sufficient complexity with only one POV character? Or should I just go ahead and add in one or two more POVs to pad out the subplots?

Okay, I've got one WIP in which there is a single POV character (written in 3rd) and already it's at 115K and I'm not even done yet. Needless to say, I'm going to have to chop most of the first third. In life, many people have more than one thing they want to do at a time - maybe broaden the MC's 'focus' a little more to add some depth.

Keep in mind that for the following, I mostly write on the fly and sort out scene structure, lengths, etc. once I'm done with the first draft.

I don't think deliberate 'padding' usually works, but maybe try writing the whole thing and seeing how long it ends up being? I've no idea what works for you as an individual writer, but there's always the chance that while you are actually sitting down and writing the thing, ideas might come your way to expand on the story in a more organic way.

PeteMC
06-18-2014, 02:41 PM
Have you tried writing it in First Person, or at least plotting it out that way?

My FP MC has pretty much one external plot problem to deal with, but he's also dealing with his guilt about something he did, issues from his past, and his increasing alcoholism.

Get right inside your guy's head and I'm sure he'll find plenty more things to worry about than you think he has at the moment :)

Myrealana
06-18-2014, 03:29 PM
Have you read many books in your genre with a single POV and checked the number and depth of their subplots?

I write primarily 1st person, single POV, and I have so far had no problem bringing in every-day life to screw up the MC's day wen she's trying to deal with the main plot.

I don't know your genre, but all I have to do is draw from my life. A neghborhood kid with a grudge who gradually escalates pranks; a nosy neighbor; an ex with issues; unexpected relatives; a fender bender; the 4th of July picnic coming up; a ghost that keeps telling you you're no good. If you just take every day annoyances and dial them up a bit, complications ensue.

Lissibith
06-18-2014, 03:47 PM
For me, one of the really great things about single-POV narration is a variation on what Once! said (and you might very well be already doing this, but just in case).

Your main character won't know everything. But they could be on the periphery of what's going on with the other characters. They can draw partial conclusions. They can draw *wrong* conclusions that make total sense based on the information they're given. And they can act on those partial or wrong conclusions to end up getting in the way of other characters or even themselves. It could allow you to bring in an unrelated subplot without making your MC at the center of it.

Aggy B.
06-18-2014, 08:48 PM
Back in February I started working on a short story to follow The Spider Thief and The Sorcerer. 63k words later I'm almost done. It's 1st person, single pov and I've not had trouble with it being too short. Any time I thought "There can't be much left to write," the MC or her traveling companion/mentor revealed something new that changed the course of action or they encountered a new challenge.

It's not really been any different than the last novel as far as figuring out subplots - you just have to figure out what might be the worst possible thing to have happen right then and write it.