I'm writing a young adult fantasy with two main characters. Right now, I'm planning on writing it in 3rd person limited from the point of view of only one of the main characters. (Depending on how it goes, I might also add in the other main character's POV, but that's beside the point.)

All of the conflict that arises in the novel stems from a single villain, who has been masquerading as an ally of the main characters. I plan to keep the readers completely in the dark about the villain's true nature until the time is right and he's outed to the public -- I'm hoping it'll come across as shocking, at the very least.

My problem is this. I ran my plot idea to a friend of mine, and she said that my novel would be really confusing and frustrating to read if I only kept to a single character's POV. This is because many of the villain's actions affect the main characters in ways that seem to be unexplainable. For example, one of my main characters is someone who would never, ever try to kill someone. The villain manages (through the use of magic) to make that character kill someone. The main character does not realize that they were being swayed by magic.

With my current plan, readers will not know why the main character killed someone. I'm expecting them to be in the same position as the main character -- very confused. After all, they just did something totally out of character that even they can't explain. So readers can only suspect the reason behind it (until the villain is outed later in the novel and everything is explained). I will definitely give clues leading up to the villain's discovery, but nothing concrete.

My friend suggests that I switch to my villain's POV from time to time. For example, I could show him setting up the magic that would be used to get my main character to kill the person. However, I'm hesitant to do this because it would mean that my readers would definitely know the villain's true intentions. I wanted to keep his villain status as a surprise until later on. The confusion that emerged as part of the villain's plans was meant to be part of the story, something that would be explained when the time is right, but now I fear that my story will seem too confusing if I only stick with my main character's POV.

So, here are my questions. When would it be appropriate to switch the POV from my protagonist to my antagonist? Do you think, in this situation, doing so is a good move? Should transparency of plot be prioritized over shock factor/a surprising plot twist?

  • 1
    If the antagonist is one of the main characters' allies, who do the main characters think is their opponent? Your friend's reaction sounds a little extreme unless it's because you don't have a visible antagonist at all in the story, and its just a set of bad things happening without apparent cause.
    – mwo
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 23:06
  • The characters know that there IS a villain because bad things have been happening around them thus far, but none of those bad things have affected them directly until this part. They've been trying to find the villain for a while.
    – Summer
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 2:40
  • Sidenote: I once had an acquaintance that turned out to be a murder. It was totally unexpected (of course, no one with self-preservation would hang around a potential murderer unless for very specific reasons). Once it had happened I went, hm ok, so that happened (I didn't witness it) but my thinking was more along the line that I don't know what happens in some peoples minds, and didn't I notice some strange things about the person, but never that it couldn't be possible... I think the last one may depend on what country we're in and what level of trust people have in the justice system.
    – Erk
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:23

3 Answers 3


It would entirely depend on the story you want to tell.

Single POV

If you are focusing more on the character development of your MC throughout the story, then definitely keep it from their POV. In order to get the reader to connect and empathize with the character, it would be better for them to experience the same confusion/ shock that is felt by the character as they are coerced into murder.

If you are going for the single POV angle, make sure that when the MC does the thing out of character, the reveal is made quite quickly afterwards. This will mean that the reader is confused for a short amount of time, and rather than having to adapt their opinion of the character as someone who is a killer (however hesitant they may be), and then change it back (oh, he was good all along) it will be more of an out of character occurrence that is given a reason as opposed to character development that is then retconned for the purposes of a shock reveal.

If the reader needs to know what the villain is doing and how and why he is doing it, then the only way you can do it when telling the story through the eyes of the MC is through an exposition dump at the time the reveal is made. This can be pretty boring for the reader to endure the entire "haha! You thought this was happening all along but actually it was this instead!" Not to mention they will feel cheated if they have been lied to for the entire story.

Dropping clues and setting up this reveal will get around this issue, so long as the groundwork has been laid correctly. Then once a single reveal has been made (you're from that country? It all makes sense now!), the reader will immediately understand the motivations of the villain without having to explicitly state everything.

Multiple POV

If your story is more focused on what occurs from the events that take place, then having the story from multiple POV's might be better. Telling the story from only one perspective means that the reader can only know what that character knows, therefore if there are extra events that the reader should be privy to then they may need to see it externally.

Going for the multiple POV angle, the villain will need to be a more well-rounded character. The reader needs to want to know about the villain, and why he is doing the things that he does, rather than just reading about someone for the sole purpose of developing the story for someone else.

If the villain parts are just chapters to continue plot points left off from the MC, they will become chapters the reader needs to endure instead of enjoy. It's difficult to read about a character with no redeeming qualities just for the sake of progressing the plot for a character that they want to read about.

Taking the reader out of the MC's experiences and putting them back in will cause them to feel less of a connection to that character, especially if they are seeing that character through the eyes of another (the villain).

In addition, having extra exposition from another point of view will mean that the reader knows more than that character, and they will feel less connected because they will understand what is happening to that character externally.

However if both characters are developed simultaneously, then the story can work to be more tragic, for example if the villain doubts that they are doing the right thing by fooling this other person. Then rather than having the "shock reveal", you can have the shock when he inevitably goes through with it rather than succumbing to his doubts.


I think the most important point here is write your book, not the book someone who has only heard a plot summary thinks should be written.

It seems to me that you have given very good reasons to stick to a single POV here. Personally, I generally dislike books with multiple POV, and while I do think it can be done well, it's unlikely to be done well in a book where the author has only chosen to do that on someone else's say so. In this case, the sustained mystery of the out-of-character actions seem like a major part of the book.

On the other hand, it might be worthwhile doing this as an exercise. Even if you don't include any of those sections in the final book, it might help make your villain more three-dimensional and believable if you (the author) spend some time in his head.


Remember, writing isn't about getting everything right the first try. Write your first draft the way you planned the plot. Keep your friend's advice in the back of your head. After finishing your first draft give your it to one or two trusted alpha readers. If they find the story confusing or boring try to work in a second POV character that might be - or might not be - the antagonist. Or maybe there is another problem with the story structure that is not the lack of a second POV. In this case, work on the problem your alpha readers detected and don't try to force a second POV into the story.

Just because multiple POV characters are 'In', since Game of Thrones, not every story needs them.

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