Monday, December 6, 2010

Rethinking My POV Characters

If you read my previous post you would know that I had been planning at least two central point-of-view (POV) characters in this second fantasy novel I am writing. I described the first one last time and I promised to describe the second this time. I was excited that day because I had just come up with the idea of that second character, and I felt that this new character helped me to resolve the very issue that was my greatest weakness in my first book -- there was no immediate connection of my characters to the antagonist, so conflict and tension (at least through the first third of the book) always felt too remote.

Well, I have had time to think and ponder and mull over and stew and whatever else we writers do when we are building our stories, and I have come to the conclusion that I may not need this second character to be a POV character after all.
His name is Villem Tathis.  He is the third son of a minor noble, meaning that he has been raised to become a knight. At some point in his young life (he is 17 when the story opens) he realizes just how unfair the feudal system is, i.e. that only his oldest brother will inherit the small keep and town that his father owns, and he will get nothing but his war horse and gear and perhaps a marriage to the daughter of another minor noble. His bitterness grew to the point where the magic of the spire forces him to live in fear and weakness. Like most such people in the Known Lands, he can't live for long that way, so he sets off to join the army at East Gate (many able-bodied men who can't handle the magic of the spire go to East Gate since it lies outside of the spire's area of effect). I figured this made him a perfect character to start off 'bad' and later be redeemed, all the while giving readers the close connection to the primary antagonist, Prince Darus Kaldarion (who, like the others, spends his time with the army because he is affected badly by the spire).

There are two problems that I thought about over the weekend. One is that there are only a few natural scenes early on for this character, and his major storyline doesn't begin until the last third of the book. The second is that if I find ways to force him to have a full number of chapters throughout, I believe it will make the book too long, especially for it to maybe fall into the Young Adult category.

So, I am now thinking of sticking to the one POV character of Imric. I haven't ever written a story solely from the viewpoint of one character, so this should be challenging for me!


  1. I've only written from the viewpoint of two characters as well. But if he's absent for much of the story, then following him might not be a good idea. At some point, readers will ask "Whatever happened to...?"

  2. I generally write with two points of view. But something that struck home recently was to write from the point of view of the person with the most to lose. It'll create more empathy and tension that way.

  3. If you do include him, and can keep it not too long, you will have solved your YA publishing conundrum, as books like Eragon and Ranger's Apprentice seem to do very well!

  4. he sounds like an interesting character though! you know, it might help to write the scenes you would have from his POV anyway, as a way to explore the flip side of your world. you may discover more depth that way- that you could apply somewhere else. :)

  5. Victoria, I was thinking about that, though it's an awful lot of work for something that won't be seen. It does bring about more ideas and help to flesh out the world.

  6. my crit partner does it for some of her more difficult scenes... i tried it for a character i was having difficulty rounding out and it's really helped me with understanding him.

  7. There are challenges to just one PoV, but there are ways around it. Perhaps through letters or news from travelers? it's true that multiple PoVs bulk up a story quickly (and TOO MANY make it so the reader doesn't have the same delight in 'reveals' that come, though usually to me it is only omniscient that is enough to actually spoile it)

    I'm not sure though, that I would worry as much about balancing... if you had one PoV primary and another that was only every third or 4th chapter I think the reader can still feel connected. I think you should figure out if his story really adds to the overall story to make your decision. (or maybe write it with him and then figure out if there is a way to communicate the same stuff without those scenes or not. (ha--saw you just got similar--I know it seems like more work, but I think doing that work, even if you don't end up including it, will make the final better)

  8. My novel is strickly 3rd limited to a single character. I've run into some plot and character issues sometimes b/c of it. I've found that writing from another characters perspective, just as an excercise in creative thinking, helps clarify what I need my POV character to see and feel.

    Sometimes I write the scene - or even the chapter - from a minor character's pov, or from multiples.

    Believe me, it helps.

    You'll know onces you've started integrating this new character pov into the story if it is going to work, or if you worked out all the kinks in the storyline.

    The important thing to keep in mind here is that you are being flexible, and willing to try new avenues to progress the story.

    Good luck Ted.


  9. Thanks. In my first book I never really questioned my POV characters, with the exception of wanting to also include my wizard but eventually ruling him out due to word count restrictions. This one is evolving constantly in my mind, so I may have to just try it a couple different ways and see what ends up feeling right.