I'm having trouble deciding if the manner I have decided to narrate my story is too complicated or not.

I have a story set in a completely foreign and alien world (fiction story). I then uproot my main character from their place of birth to a completely foreign culture (to them). I felt if I just dived straight into the story, readers wouldn't be able to relate to the surroundings and settings. I also felt they would get confused if I give them several contrasting settings and cultures at once. I do know readers are not dumb and can adjust but I don't want to get side-tracked describing something when it will interrupt the actual story flow. I'd rather have the confused MC experience something new and then later learn what this and that strange feature/animal/plant etc was.

I felt I could use my MC's experience of culture shock to my advantage. So my reader learns about the world through their eyes, as they do. This would allow me to introduce differences/exotic features and have the Main Character's curiosity/misunderstanding/lack of knowledge mirror that of the reader's.

But I still had trouble with POV. I didn't want to write in the first person as I want to incorporate many different characters POV, so I have decided to write in the Third person. So I have been toying with a narration sub story.

So far, this what I have come up with:

My Narrator is having to explain their world and recent history to a New Arrival to the planet. This confused New Arrival would be a stand-in for the Reader. Everything is being 'dumbed' down and explained to them so that they can fully appreciate the current political and cultural situation. My Narrator is using the story of my MC's similar confusion and experiences of a new culture to slowly bring the New Arrival up to speed. My Narrator knows everything that occurred as it is all in the past, coupled with a tiny bit of applied phlebotinum. The Narrator is not reliant on the Authorised history books but actually does know what happened to each character.

So you will have an introductory few passages from the New Arrival's point of view, then he meets up with the Narrator. The Narrator starts telling the story in Third Person Objective style (ie no thoughts and feelings are mentioned of the MC, the New arrival is getting the slightly 'censored' version of the story). The writing then switches to the Third Person Subjective/Omniscient style (ie thoughts and feelings are mentioned for the several MC's, this is what really happened - as it happened). There would be an occasional interruption back to Third person Objective with the Narrator and New Arrival at certain story development stages.

I have intended there to be some curiosity as to who the Narrator and New arrival are in relation to the Main Story. As well as how the Main Character's relate to the New arrival and the Narrator. So there can/will be several 'easter eggs'? (is that the right term) and 'red herrings' hinting to who is who and what might happen to certain characters.

Is this feasible? or is it introducing too many different elements and POV's?

Or am I overthinking things again, and this is a completely normal setup?

3 Answers 3


If you are worried that it is too complicated, it is probably too complicated. Not there there is not a place for narrative innovation in literature, but the basics are the readers want to be immersed in the story and narrative trickery is likely to pull them out of the story.

There is an old saying in moviemaking that if you notice the cinematography, it is bad cinematography. Once you notice the cinematography, you are engaged at the technical level of movie making, not the literary level of storytelling. The same goes for narrative technique in prose. If the reader notices the narrative technique, it is probably bad narrative technique. And if it is complex narrative technique, the reader is probably going to notice, unless it is done really really well.

For an example of it done well, see No Country for Old Men. But even there, you definitely notice. But Cormac McCarthy is a genius and can get away with it. Most of us should probably stick to trying to tell an immersive story using the simplest narrative techniques we can.


As long as you make sure the POV transitions are smooth and clearly let the reader know that the POV has changed, (Have you had any trouble with that?) I think it will make for an interesting, intricate read. Since you seem to have it planned out in so much detail as well, I think you should go for it, and having "too many POVs and elements" really depends on the opinion of who's reading- no author's book can be suited to the taste of every reader. Good luck!


I understand your strugglings, but IMO it would be too complex ! Think about the reader, he will be, at least, as lost as the New Arrival, then you will switch to 3rd person objective, then 3rd person subjective, and "red herrings" on top of that !

No one will ever make the effort to read that til the end !

If you want to maintain the POV switching, you have to simplify : 1st person for all as in Faulkner's As I lay dying for example.

Experimentation is good, but not if it's to the reader detriment !

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