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Multiple POV chapters changing over the course of a trilogy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Swordfry, Aug 18, 2015.

  1. Swordfry

    Swordfry Troubadour

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    This is a two part question, but first just a quick little set up of my trilogy to make things easier: It is the story of a war between two races. One lives on the mainland, mostly in forested regions, the other on a large peninsula, blocked off from the mainland by the first race. I wanted to have one pov chapter for each race, each side of the war. One would be more action oriented, and the other would deal with more cerebral matters of war like inner debates over how to wage war and other political matters. I also have one character that is immortal, travels the world, and knows the history of these two races and why they hate each other. He would not only act sort of as a surrogate for the reader, as most of the history and exploration of the land would be through him, but also as an important figure in the personal life of the main protagonist.

    1. Do you think I am structuring this right? With three different pov characters? I should also add that these will vary in length. The immortal character would have far less pov chapters, but be featured in other pov characters' chapters.

    2. Over the course of this trilogy, I have planned to vary the number of chapters each of these three pov characters get. For example, book one would have them be spread pretty even with only the immortal guy having far less. Book two would almost be split in half. First half of the book deals mostly with two pov characters, but once the third pov character is ready in his part of the story, much more of the action will focus on him for the rest of the book. Book three will be divided mostly between the two warring pov characters, but then end focusing on the political pov character once the war ends and the rest of the book deals with the main protagonist confronting the immortal character. Do you think this is a good idea, shifting around the numbers of pov chapters per characters as the trilogy goes on?

    Also, any tips in general for writing a multi-pov character book would really be appreciated.
     
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think it's too hard to know how it will play out before it's done. I recently started reading a novel that switched p.o.v. like clockwork between two characters from two different societies, from chapter to chapter, back-and-forth. I couldn't finish the novel. The writing was ok; each character was somewhat interesting, although I liked one a little more; and the coming clash of cultures was an interesting set-up; but I just found myself not caring enough to continue reading. Just as I'd find myself getting lost in one character, here would come the chapter ending and I'd know I'm about to get kicked out of that p.o.v. and forced into the other. I've read many, many novels and trilogies that successfully used multiple p.o.v.'s, of characters stretched far apart throughout a land, and enjoyed those. I think the problem with this one was the fact that neither character had anything whatsoever to do with the other character–they hadn't even met yet, when I gave up, and no common thread, like a common antagonist or common goal existed between them–and this was after something like 10 chapters which felt like a much too long set-up.

    I think, as a general principle for this type of multiple p.o.v. approach, finding that common thread to run through the p.o.v.'s is important. Even if the characters themselves are unaware of the commonality, the reader needs to have some inkling at least. I mean: a foreshadowing, however subtle, that makes the reader anticipate their eventual meeting. Even if the characters never actually meet – and so you don't want to foreshadow that – then introduce events and actions which show how each character's activity will (or, may) have an effect on the other character. So for instance in your example, the character that is more action-oriented might cause through his actions the other character to need to reevaluate his own cerebral state and political efforts; and, vice versa. Even if they never meet. Or perhaps the commonality is that each has to contend with whatever local power structures exist, whatever local events happen, in similar ways, showing they are quite alike even if they will never meet or directly affect each other.

    Edit: I kind of overlooked what might have been your primary question. Again, it's too hard to know before the thing is written whether your changes throughout the trilogy will work. On the one hand, as another general principle, it's always a little dangerous when you show the reader that the focus will be on one or two main p.o.v.'s and then switch it up to largely ignore them for half a book; so your second book in the trilogy might cause a stumble. It's been a LONG time for me, but I remember reading Feist's Magician series and, after becoming absorbed in the two principal characters (the two young friends), there's this sudden shift to focus primarily on one of them (Pug) once he's transported to a different world. I felt a little cheated...but ended up becoming absorbed in that character and ended up enjoying the whole thing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2015
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  3. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think your structure could work well as long as it suits the message your book is about. Seeing both sides from their own perspective AND having a neutral observer implies to me that you want the reader to get important messages about large issues, not be right down in the close headspace of any particular character.

    That style might be slightly archiac but for the right story could be the optimal structure.
     
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  4. Swordfry

    Swordfry Troubadour

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    Well for 75%, if not a bit more, of the trilogy, it is mostly about the war and what will come of it between the two races. But at the same time, the readers will definitely be getting into the headspace of all three characters. I'm setting up the action oriented one as a tragic hero driven by his ego and pride. The political pov character has his own agenda, to end the war with peace, and so the readers will have to get in his head space to understand why he acting this way. And then the immortal character is mostly an observer, and readers will get lots of insight from his own point of view. The last 25% or so of the trilogy focuses much more on the action pov character and how the war affected him.

    Thanks for the feedback.
     
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Nothing better than an immortal character to give your readers a broader perspective.
     
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