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Opinions about multiple POVs in fantasy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Morgoth_69, Aug 31, 2020.

  1. Morgoth_69

    Morgoth_69 Dreamer

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    I am working on my first fantasy novel and instead of the most regular single POV, I opted to follow three characters who do not know each other and live in different places on the same continent. As the plot evolves, the varied conflicts the three of them deal with will bring these characters closer and closer.

    What are your thoughts on this, in which books did you find such an approach irritating, and in which did you find it well done?

    Personally, I really liked The First Law trilogy, ASOIAF or LOTR (I hope to read in the near future the saga of the Malazan Empire).
     
  2. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    That sounds really cool :) It should work out fine to have multiple POVs. A few years of working with this style has shown me that POV shifts are more effective by chapter. For instance, chapter 1 is in A's perspective, chapter 2 is in B's perspective, chapter 3 in C's and so on. I guess the hard part is just figuring out whose POV is the most effective at what time. I've seen a couple of fantasy books that use this format, the most recent being Willow of Ashes.
     
    Gwynndamere and S.T. Ockenner like this.
  3. Morgoth_69

    Morgoth_69 Dreamer

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    Yes, that's exactly the way I've been phasing the chapters, alternating between A, B, or C. For me, the hardest part has been working on exciting points of convergence, which later in the story will draw the characters together. But the fact that there is a global danger that could affect the entire continent (a point that is tied to the arc of one of the characters) facilitates the connection. As for the other two characters, they deal with "normal" things linked to a medieval fantasy world: schemes, wars, lies, and so on...
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  4. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    Ah, ok. Are you comfortable with repeating the same event in three different perspectives? That might be a good way to do it, have them all generally experience the same thing. It's okay to have the main story centered on one character. Every book basically has its main protagonist, even if there's a trio of some sort.
     
  5. jacksimmons

    jacksimmons Scribe

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    Personally I enjoy this approach a lot and it's something I employ often. I am currently working on a sci-fi/fantasy with three POVs much like yours. These are two antagonists and a third, younger, innocent character caught between their machinations. The only important thing would be to ensure each character has a point, with arcs & themes of their own that tie in to a larger whole. I have read stories where the POVs have sort of just become a camera from which to view the action and I find this a little unsatisfactory.

    ASOIAF does this really well. The POVs are intricately linked, with common themes and arcs that crisscross. I would say though that right now some of the POVs feel a little detached from the main thrust of the action (namely Dany and Jon from the struggles in Westeros).
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  6. Morgoth_69

    Morgoth_69 Dreamer

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    Describing the same scene from different perspectives is always interesting. For example, to realize that what one character thought was true, in reality, was nothing more than a farce.

    It's true. Among my three main characters I have the one I consider a little more special, even though I like the arcs of the other two. It's like everything in life, we always have a preference, no matter how much we resist. In my case, my favorite character is a young man who was adopted by the High King after the only son of the latter died during a civil war that took place 15 years before the story. This young man's real father is actually the former commander of the royal guard, who changed sides during the course of the conflict and saw his wife killed and was led to think that his son also suffered the same fate. In the end, the commander ended up fleeing from the kingdom accompanying the defeated, without ever imagining that his son was alive after all.
     
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  7. Morgoth_69

    Morgoth_69 Dreamer

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    Exactly, one must take extra care so that all POVs are entertaining and at the same time make sense in the unfolding of the plot.
     
    Leonardo Pisano likes this.
  8. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I’m hoping it’s a great idea and everyone likes it because I’m doing that.
    My thing is more on the suspense/mystery side so my hope is that this structure will allow for obscuring events and keeping the pieces of the puzzle scattered at first before they are gradually put together.

    I think it becomes a problem when there isn’t a strong correlation between all of them. Or when it’s just the writer saying “I got all these characters so I’m just going to go around and check-in with what they’re doing right now.”
    My way to avoid it is that all the major subplots tie into the main villain’s big evil plan but if you just read the main POV, you wouldn’t know what the big plan is, exactly. So having subplots from alternate POVs would, in theory, help the audience see the big picture of what the villain is doing and why it is a problem.
     
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  9. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    That sounds awesome, Morgoth. :) If you'd like me to take a look at anything, just let me know. Your story idea is fairly similar to mine, so I'm willing to help you organize it and such.
     
    Morgoth_69 likes this.
  10. Morgoth_69

    Morgoth_69 Dreamer

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    Of course. It makes perfect sense to link the subplots to the larger problem if multiple POVs are used. Another thing I like to do is to subtly release crucial information about character "X" problems in the "Y" character's POV. In other words, the reader gets to know certain information that the character "X" needs to know, but due to the unhappiness of fate, he/she only gets that information when it is too late.
     
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  11. Morgoth_69

    Morgoth_69 Dreamer

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    Nice, I don't see any problem with that, nor in seeing something of your authorship. Right now I'm focused on finishing the map of the continent where my plot takes place, but as soon as I get back to the writing, I'll be able to show you something concrete from the first draft. Although I write in my native language (Portuguese), I have no problem translating some chapters into English, since I have done it several times. Coincidentally, I have a writing buddy who like you (I noticed the information below your avatar) is also from Texas.
     
  12. jacksimmons

    jacksimmons Scribe

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    I second this Morgoth_69Morgoth_69 I am writing something with a similar angle and it would be great to swap feedback if you were so inclined.
     
    Morgoth_69 likes this.
  13. Morgoth_69

    Morgoth_69 Dreamer

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    I am completely receptive to that. My intention is to help and be helped.
     
  14. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    Nice! So much support, I love it. Portuguese is a really cool language. I can only sing a few songs in Portuguese. Does your friend live in central Texas or no?
     
  15. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I am doing that but I was thinking that might not be great advice to give since it’d be very easy to mess that up and frustrate the reader when they know crucial information that the character doesn’t know. It’s a good idea but easy to mess up.
     
  16. Carl Brothers

    Carl Brothers Scribe

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    Funny, I was actually going to post something about this topic. Does anyone find it annoying to have rolling POVs in the same chapter? How much do you think readers care these days?
     
  17. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

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    That's exactly what I'm planning on doing for my fantasy, a single POV seems too limiting. I have plot ideas for different places across my world and the POV character would have to visit all of them if I only did one.
     
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I love epics, but I'm personally starting to finding the unconnected-POVs a little bit of a turn off. It's a common strategy right now for exploring big worlds with complex plots, and I've certainly read plenty of them, so I'm not going to try and change anybody's minds. But the more I write, the more I've read, the more I realize that I really, really want my POV characters to interact. A lot. I want to see how they experience the same things differently and respond in totally different ways. I want to see them work together, create conflict together, and talk to each other. I want the changing POV to be a thing I have fun with as it's handed from one character to another, or as I use it manage secrets between characters and readers.

    When the POVs are disconnected, they feel like different books. And I used to think some would always just be better than the others. But the truth is I find myself only wanting to care about one story. I want to binge-read my novel, not toss back and forth between three or four different ones.

    Again, I know disconnected POVs are getting common in epic fantasy, and you should write the novel you want to write. But for me, the downside of having a book that feels like separate novels is a tough one to work around, as you've got to bring your a-game to each of the awesome character voices to compensate for how jarring it can feel. That is, you compensate for it being jarring by leaning into that feeling, and making the characters and their stories more distinct, instead of leaning on the story's momentum to steam through any weak parts. And there's also a pacing issue to manage. A character arc has setups and payoffs, where the setup is the "boring stuff" you put up with because it promises to pay off later. Going from character 1's setup, to character 2's setup, to character 3's setup.... can feel very plodding. Cutting from the middle of a warzone to check in on character 2's conversation can be disappointing. I think a lot of these stories find themselves spiraling the longer they go on because they lose track of what's at the core of the story. It's important to manage that.
     
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  19. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    We write urban fantasy and at last count for this WIP we have something like 7 - 9 POV's (I'm too busy to go count right now), all of which are connected. We believe that it's best for our process to tell the story from the perspective of the character with the most at stake in each chapter, and occasionally we'll split out a chapter into more than one POV because the stakes change.
     
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  20. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Hmmm....

    I go with a single POV for an entire chapter.

    There are four principal POV characters in my (now seven book) 'Empire' series, plus an assortment of...special cases. Sometimes the Four are together, other times they are separated (on occasion they are on different planets). Sometimes they describe the same events from radically different perspectives.

    The 'Labyrinth' series is a little different. 'Journal,' the first book of the series is literally just that - the journal of the central character, though the epilogue and prologue are told from a different POV. 'Seed,' the second book, has six POV's, one of them not human.
     
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