Author Topic: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?  (Read 199 times)

Annmarie

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Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« on: March 16, 2019, 01:42:23 PM »
My next WIP has 4 povs so I'm constantly thinking about the best ways to establish the characters and arcs, and I keep changing my mind! Their stories are definitely related,  all in the same time-space (no jumping 10 years later or anything). Two povs are more important than the others, but I need all 4 for the story. This is mainstream gen fic with a strong suspense element.

What do you think I should be watching out for? Tips on how early to establish POV shifts, length of first sections for characters, how many character arcs a contemporary novel can carry well?

I have my preferences, but am open to hearing what you all think. Maybe that'll help me make some decisions.

Mrs N

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2019, 09:18:57 PM »
Our latest novel has 4 pov's. Done about a million rewrites.  But each chapter is a new pov. At the top of every chapter we decide what is the goal or reaction to the previous chapter involving that character. And each pov must have their own wants and goals specific to them. Hope this is clear. Writing on my phone...
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 09:26:19 PM by Mrs N »

Gyppo

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2019, 10:33:57 PM »
The important thing is to make sure the reader, even if half asleep and reading in bed, has no doubt about which POV is 'talking' at each changeover.

I've read several online books recently where you can get halfway through a scene before you realise you're attributing the action to the wrong person.  Very disconcerting for the reader.

You're the one weaving the web, so don't allow any dropped stitches ;-)

Gyppo
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 06:47:01 PM by Gyppo »

Jo Bannister

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2019, 08:57:45 AM »
Gyppo's absolutely right - you must make it abundantly clear, even for those reading with sub-optimal attention.

But I do wonder if it's either necessary or desirable to split your focus like this.  And then, it depends on what you mean by multiple POVs: are you just following different characters through different parts of the story, which seems perfectly natural to me but is frowned on as omniscient by some critics; or are you attempting to show the same action through the filter of different characters' understanding?

It might have been Stephen Hawking who was told by his publisher that every time he introduced an equation into his book he was going to lose half his readers.  The same applies to gimmicks.  A good story can be told very simply - it doesn't need clever devices to carry it.  And a bad story won't be saved by them.

None of which may apply to you and your story, so feel free to ignore me.  It's just something to bear in mind.

Annmarie

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2019, 02:40:09 PM »
Definitely will be clear about whose pov it is at any given moment. I hate it when books make that hazy. And I know focus is an issue for me, so I'm seeing if I can do this without the book sprawling.

The funny thing is I have several false starts with one or two povs, and it just doesn't fly that way. The prism has to shift more than that, if that makes sense. It's not omniscient, but various people in 3rd limited who are thrown together to solve a problem they all have. So they're definitely part of each other's stories, just different shades of it. And I can't combine a couple of characters into one for other reasons.

I have high respect for books that change pov. I know it makes the book "bigger" and harder in a certain way. My first had 3, and it worked out, but it took a lot of work to balance things correctly. 

Jo Bannister

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2019, 05:44:56 PM »
Sounds as if you know exactly where you're going with this, and have figured out where the pitfalls are and how to avoid them.  Best of luck with it.

Annmarie

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2019, 07:50:47 PM »
Thanks, Jo. I'm pretty intimidated by my own vision, I guess. But being terrified seems to be part of what attracts me to these challenges. Or else why do I do this to myself? :D

Gyppo

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2019, 10:45:32 PM »
As Jo's sigfile says...

"If this was easy, anyone could do it."

Michael Marnier

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2019, 06:35:27 PM »
Just read this thread now so my comments may be unnecessary.

I write my action adventure tales mostly in first. It allows me to show the wry, sarcastic side of my ex-Navy SEAL main character, Charley Manner, with his narration along with his dialogue. In DEEP STRAIT, I tried adding some scenes from his war dog's POV. Great fun. Many readers sent me positive feedback and want to see more of Spirit. The pic attached is her slashing at would-be kidnappers when they tried to abduct a young girl.

Of course, the story is impossible to write entirely in Charley's first since several scenes, such as back room plotting by the villains take place without Charley present. Third person POV is mainly adopted but even there, I sometimes use the first POV of the antagonist as he commands the scene, dominating over his thugs.

In any case, given my limited experience as a serious writer (okay, maybe not so serious with my sometimes over the top action adventures), I try not to stress about structure and rules, other than maintaining clarity about who is narrating. Close attention to proper scene breaks or new chapters is paramount as others have said.

Hillwalker has published an ambitious project in his novel, TALLAHATCHIE LIES, in which he repeats many parts of the story in subsequent chapters as seen by a different character. It gave the reader an interesting re-look at what actually happened as recalled by more than one character. Not easy to do (for me) but he pulled it off well, IMO. Might be worth a look to see how he did it.

Good luck, Annmarie.
Trouble on the Straits
Action-Adventure on the Florida Straits


Annmarie

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2019, 06:07:42 PM »
Great, Michael, thanks for your perspective.

After digging further into my book, turns out the protag wants to tell the whole thing in both timelines. So I guess I have to let her. First person present in one, first person past in the other.

Live and learn...

Gyppo

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Re: Multiple povs - what to watch out for?
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2019, 07:12:26 PM »
Our characters can teach us a lot if we listen to them ;-)