Thoughts on writing: Juggling Multiple POVs

red-pencils-1-1420604-639x487Most books contain one to two main POVs (Points of View) characters. Whether told in first person or third person (very very rare is second person used – I have never read a second person novel), having a solid POV is imperative to the structure of the novel. Most contemporary stories tend to be very closed world, where the focus on these one to two individuals is tied closely to the journey these characters take.

But Science Fiction and Fantasy are different in most regards and multiple POVs is the rule, not the exception.

It is easy to deduce why this is, because these worlds are typically not our own and to have a truly engaging world, it needs to be seen through many character’s eyes. Let me be clear, I know that there are many novels in this genre that are written via first-person and those stories detail the world in amazing fashion using that POV style and keep with a single protagonist. Those stories are great in their own right and those authors deserve all the praise they get. For myself, I hate writing in first person because I enjoy being in multiple character’s heads, but from the distance that third person offers.

The most engaging stories I have ever read invoke this type of structure – even if the multiple POVs are only three or four. My three favorite series (The Sword of Truth, The Shannara books, and The Wheel of Time) all juggle multiple POVs throughout the arcs of the story. And in my opinion, this is how the authors build the worlds the characters live in. Each character has a different view on the world around them and this shows the world, rather than telling them. It breathes life into these worlds.

And this is what I wanted to do with my fantasy series, the world of the Dies Irae. Now, the world of the Dies Irae does take place in our world, but two thousand years in the future after a major cataclysmic event. So the world is different than the one we know. And this means that there is still a world to build within my story. And to truly show how this world is different than ours, I wanted to use multiple POVs.

In the first book, I have two main protagonists that their POVs take approx. 2/3 of the book, but I also have 6 other POVs that finish that last third of the book. These other six characters are in different parts of the world (and while many end up with the two heroes) and they show how the events the heroes are going through also affect the world.

Book 1 – Longinus Unbound – is more of a straightforward story where the two heroes join to seek out a magical item. So in that respect, the world is more narrow. But these other characters all have their parts to play in the story. But when we get to book 2 – The Fallen – the heroes and other POVs get separated for various plots. I also introduce other POVs, specifically a young female character that becomes the third hero toward the end of the series. All told after four books, I have 16 POVs.

The interesting and difficult part of juggling all these POVs is that when multiple characters are in a scene together, which POV would give the best insight for the reader. This is why I enjoy the multiple POV use. If I was limited to just my three heroes, I would be saying the same thing over and over, or using the same deduction methods these characters have. By using different POVs for a scene, it gives more insight into the world and how people inhabit it – especially how a male might see the scene differently from a female, or vice-versa. And it also breaks up the monotony of writing in the same character’s mind.

But it also makes remembering every little thing in a character’s arc all that more difficult. I seriously don’t know how the masterful Robert Jordan was able to remember everything about the dozens of POVs he used in The Wheel of Time!

That difficulty is what makes writing a series with multiple POVs so gratifying when everything all comes together at the end.

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