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I have four friends who all have roles to play in my novel. Person A is why things start to happen to the whole group. Person B has protected person A his whole life but A never knew. Person C betrays the group later in the book and person D is currently betraying his friends but he doesn't know it.

Chapters in my book will be separated by whose view it is. I will demonstrate how i want to have it play out in my book.

Chapter 1 character A

Chapter 2 character B

Chapter 3 character C

Chapter 4 character D

Chapter 5 character A

Chapter 6 character A

Chapter 7 character B

The two perspectives that are most important are person A and B so i can't get rid of theirs, but i feel as if i leave the other friends out people will see them as not important enough. How can i show all four perspectives without confusing or overwhelming my readers with the switches?

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  • Why not give the four points of view a try, and see if it flies? – aparente001 Jan 28 '17 at 2:06
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That depends on two things. First is your audience. As a general rule, YA (Young Adult) books should not have multiple PoVs (Points of View), because the reader typically would be between 12-14 years of age and many cannot wrap their brains around the switching PoV. Some can pull it off, like in 3rd person naratives, but it's harder to do, and even harder to market.

For Adult novels, this is far more common. In fact, many adult readers enjoy the switching PoV because it offers a fresh perspective. Not all, so don't get it twisted.

However, like with all things, it depends on your skill as a writer. If you feel you can pull it off well, you can even write for children with multiple PoVs. It all depends on how well you know your target audience, and how well you can pull it off.

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    Excellent points - added to this is the only important question: Does the story you are telling need all four POV's to be told correctly? – Thomo Jan 27 '17 at 10:06
  • If you do go for multiple PoV in YA, it's a good idea to keep the narrator's voice clearly distinct. – Sara Costa Jan 30 '17 at 19:18
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Point Of View is nothing more than a perspective angle at which you show your story to your readers. It is for you to decide whether you need more than one, and which flavor of the POV to pick–first person, third person, etc. Ultimately it is your story which should factor into your choice and any so-called rule e.g. "do-not-use-more-than-three-POVs-ever", just like any other canned writing recipe ("show-not-tell", "never-diversify-dialog-tags", "if-your-first-novel-is-longer-than-100,000-words-you-are-doomed", etc.) is nothing more than a suggestion.

Chefs do not cook by someone else's recipes. Line cooks do.

If the events in your story require being viewed from different angles, you have to provide those angles; even if all of your characters are in the same room all the time, each person's reaction to the same situation will be different, based on their background and experience.

Another way of dealing with that would be telling the story from a single omniscient point of view, where you know what everyone thinks and feels, but it often results in a less personal feeling of the narrative.

The choice is always yours.

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To decide how many points of view (POVs) you can handle, you need to take into account the demands a new POV makes on you.

Each POV needs character and voice. When you have more than one or two POVs, then it's important that each one of the characters feels recognizable and distinct, with his own personality and voice that shines through everything they do.

If you don't manage this kind of richness, then multiple POVs draw attention to their sameness or dullness. If you've got good voice for some characters but not others, readers may enjoy some POVs and find others dull, or feel some of the POVs are a distraction from the "real" story.

Every POV needs their own plot arc. It's pretty much assumed that if a character has a POV, that's because their own goals and actions make a plot arc of their own. (It's hard to follow along with a character who doesn't feel like they've got a story, like they've got an arc that's headed somewhere.) So, more POVs means your story is going to be more complicated and multithreaded than one with fewer.

Keeping readers engaged with multiple POVs is harder. The more POVs you have, the longer gap you have between one and the other. Four POVs is likely to mean a four-chapter gap between one POV's chapter, and his next one. That can be hard to follow, or just feel choppy and disjointed. To accomplish this, you need to do really good work weaving the various POVs together, so the reader feels like all the arcs are moving forwards all the time -- or do some other authorial juggling to make the structure work.


In contrast to all these, multiple POVs can be a way to make your story richer, more varied, more colorful. It can make it bigger, with more characters who are truly key and get screentime. It can also let you tell stories with knowledge differences between the characters -- like the examples you give, of B helping A without A's knowledge. or C betraying the others.

These are the considerations you need to weigh against each other. Ultimately, you need to decide whether the added richness is worth the extra complexity, and whether you have enough material to sustain a multi-POV book for its entire length.

Another option that might be appropriate is using omniscient POV -- where you don't have any one POV character, but instead a single omniscient, omnipresent narrator voice, who can dip in and out of all the characters' POVs and knowledge at will. This has its own challenges (particularly, it's not very popular these days), but it effectively lets you skip between POVs constantly, and might be a good solution to the problem you're facing.

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Point of view is nothing more than it says it is. The place where the story is viewed from. In movie terms, it is the position of the camera. To have a single POV is equivalent to shooting an entire movie from a single camera angle.

It is a constraining thing to do. Generally it is easier to show different parts of the story from different points of view, just as it is easier to shoot a movie from different camera angles.

Don't confuse POV with character, and don't assume that the POV is at the center of the action. Again, POV is a camera angle, and the camera angle is opposite to the center of action, shooting the action. The POV is thus opposite to the thing you want to focus attention on in the scene. (This is why first person narration is such a difficult form, and why, contrary to popular belief among aspiring writers, it does not create more intimacy with the character.

If you locate the POV in a character, of course, you have an additional complexity to deal with, which is that you are not only seeing the scene through their eyes, but interpreting it thought their desires and experiences. In some senses, this is a dual POV, like a split screen with one view on the action and one view on the character's reaction to the action. This creates a tension between the action you are showing and the character's interpretation of that action. This can be a powerful narrative technique, but it is more difficult to pull off than a more straightforward neutral POV.

So, have as many POVs as it takes to tell you story, but if you get into the POV of a character with a stake in the outcome of the scene they are witnessing, think through very carefully how the dynamics of what they are seeing and how they are reacting coordinate to create the effect you want for the reader.

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This isn't a full answer, just some thoughts and ideas that may help you make a decision.

First of all, I often use different PoVs when writing. Do keep in mind that I prefer narrators that are limited to the knowledge (and only have mind access) to one single character. In that sense, adding chapters with different PoVs is useful because:

  1. It allows the reader to learn things the character has no knowledge about
  2. Better understand the personality and motivations of other characters

I typically have one or two main characters (A and B) and several secundary (C, D, E, F). Let's imagine one main character for an example. I can have chapters that go: A - A - C - A - D - A - A - D - A.

I particularly enjoy setting a secondary character as bitchy and then getting inside their mind and revealing their human motivation, thus making them less bitchy while cutting down on the righteousness of the main character. (Because, let's face it, we often see people around us almost as evil antagonists when in reality they believe they've got lots of good reasons to get on our case. And sometimes they actually do.) It's also a good way of explaining misunderstandings (A talks to B on the phone in one chapter, then in the next C is telling D about this conversation he overheard and what he concluded was happening).

It's also a great strategy to create tension if you have two or three characters running around eachother to achieve something (e.g. A is having second thoughts about going out with B, C is getting ready to break into A's house, B is eagerly getting ready for the date when A phones to call it off (cue reaction), C approaches the house, ...). Although in this case, short chapters or sections within a chapter work best.

Another thing I do is have lots of people be present for certain plot points so then I have to decide which character PoV would most benefit the reader. Sometimes I'll have an event start with a character's PoV then create a pause that allows me to skip to another character PoV. Each are experiencing the same event but can give wildly different interpretations (say: A is a romantic girl loving her sweet sixteen party and the attention her soon-to-be boyfriend (let's call him B) is lavishing on her; while C, apparently partying normally with his friends, is cynically seeing B making cold moves to seduce A. Later on we may even find out B is honestly fond of A.).

From your description, I get the impression A and B are the protagonists and C and D can make do with less time under the limelight. I wouldn't start off with four chapters, four PoVs. I'd try to have A - A - B or A - B - B. This would avoid the dizzying effect of getting inside a new character with every chapter. It also allows the reader to settle before jumping to other PoVs. That way you have the basic PoV you always come back to and the others that pop up are just 'voices on the side', if you will.

No matter what, do make sure their voices are clearly different.

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