I'm writing a novel with several POV characters, one of which is the director of an intelligence agency. So far, the entire story is told in third person subjective. Each scene is told from the perspective of one of the POV characters.

I realized that an additional subplot consisting of several scenes is needed to tie a few things together. This subplot is a mission ordered by the director but not carried out by her. It's not realistic that she could monitor it in real time and none of the agents involved in the mission can plausibly be introduced earlier in the story. It is important that the scenes have a real-time feel to them as the main storyline is up against a ticking clock.

It feels excessive to introduce a new POV character (the agent conducting the mission) for only a few scenes, yet it would feel odd to tell that part of the story in third person objective.

What is your advice for telling this part of the story? Will it be jarring to have a few scenes told from an objective perspective? Will it be excessive to introduce a new POV character for this portion?

4 Answers 4


This doesn't have to be a problem at all. A "B" plot is an opportunity to enhance the main story by setting it off with something that feels a bit different and gives the reader some variety.

It's generally not a good idea to underestimate readers. Most of them are perfectly capable of understanding that, in this book we're gonna follow along with more than one character. (Some have handfuls of them and do fine.) However, it's also nice when we make things easy for the reader. Dropping in very occasional references to ground the reader can do this. A few random suggestions as to the type of thing I mean:

  • Maybe the chapters with the B mission simply feel different. The pacing might be a bit different due to the timescale.
  • Perhaps the lead agent simply has a different personality to your main protagonist or speaks differently.
  • Is the weather different?
  • Maybe there's one plot in Shanghai and one in a small town in Russia, or a farm in South America.
  • Perhaps the action is of a different type. An action-oriented mission versus, say, a hacking plot or getting financial evidence can be a nice contrast.

If you avoid being clunky and obvious about it - please avoid starting each chapter with "The agent said, through his ski mask" - and keep your references to ones that also advance the story, you should avoid any confusion and keep things moving along nicely.


Since your story is in third-person, I think you're fine for that handful of scenes. Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope mysteries are set up like this: 95% of the scenes are from a specific character's POV, whether main or not, and a few scenes here and there are third-person objective. It works fine.


If you need to introduce a new character to move the story forward, do it. Picking the flavor of POV is secondary, you can be either objective or subjective, the choice is yours only, and only the time and your alpha readers will tell, if you were right. The only advice is—do not abandon that character, when his or her task of progressing the story is done. Make sure they either stay in the picture or exit meaningfully. My preferred method would be killing them, of course, but it's just me. :-)


If you are basically giving exposition in these extra scenes, it is an opportunity to switch styles. Instead of yet another POV character or just omniscient narrated events, perhaps these scenes are written as an after action report, given as newspaper clippings, or some other manner that clearly distinguishes them as separate from the main narratives but still conveys the necessary information. They could make for a good way to signal breaks/transitions in the main storylines if they fall into a three act structure. If they need to be more immediate, perhaps audio dictations, transcripts of phone conversations, or emails would feel more immediate than an AAR clearly written after everything has unfolded.

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