I am writing a fantasy novel with multiple points of view throughout. I plan to have the narrator sound differently for each character's perspective. For example, one character will focus more on descriptions, another dialogue, one more sentimental, etc.

The effect I am aiming for is to get the reader closer to each character. That they get a unique view of the world from each of them, possibly even reinterpreting the world, such as when one character may find something beautiful, another finds it boring.

I am concerned the conflicting narratives may cause confusion.

What are the pit falls and dangers with this kind of approach? What kind of effect would this writing style suggest to a reader?

3 Answers 3


The biggest risk is that you may lose the main characteristic of the narrator out of sight: to tell the reader what is important.

There is nothing wrong with changing the point of view and paying attention to different kinds of details is certainly a nice way to illustrate the change, but if you lose yourself in endless descriptions of the surroundings to illustrate that your character is not one who speaks much, but one who observes, you might forget to describe what is happening. Just like focusing too much on the dialogue may make you forget to describe the room your character is currently in.

The easiest of the things you listed is to have one character describe something as beautiful and another to describe it as boring, maybe because he has seen the thing so often that he doesn't care about it anymore. In this case you are describing the same thing from two very different points of view. That means you are doing the same thing in both perspectives, you just use different words and show different feelings. That way it won't happen that you forget to describe important stuff. In these cases you just have to remember that your reader will probably only want to read a description of the same beautiful/boring/normal/big/... thing so often. If you do this once or twice your reader will quickly understand the difference between your characters.

Your readers won't be confused by changing the narrative as long as you don't change it two or three times per page. For example changing the point of view every other chapter is normal in some books and your readers will have a mental break in that situation anyway. Quite the opposite: your readers will enjoy to have different points of view and to experience the story from different angles.

The biggest problem is to lose yourself in details just for the sake of showing a different point of view. After that comes the risk that some of your readers may prefer one point of view over the other - which is normal and shouldn't concern you too much as long as you don't explicitly try to make an obnoxious character. Changing the point of view suggests to a reader that there are different paths of a story that regularly converge and then split up again. They are part of something bigger, but leaving one out would leave the reader with only a part of the world explored and a part missing to fully understand what is going on. In mystery you might want that - in fantasy you often don't want that.


For first person narration this could work well, with the narration of each character contributing to the character's definition and development.

It's trickier with third person narration, as you would effectively be introducing twice as many characters - the character involved and a narrator with a different style for each - even if The Narrator (deliberate capitals) is taken as being the same person.

It could be done as a device to show how people sometimes behave differently when they're around different people, with the changes in approach of the narrator being significant over the story arc - an interesting idea if that's what you had in mind.

If you're looking for in an example, Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting is the one that I would usually mention.


If I understand you right, we're basically talking the difference between third-person omniscient and third-person limited writing styles.

Third-person omniscient is the story-teller voice, the 'Little did he know how much he'd regret taking that sweet roll' voice.

Third-person limited is a pretty common style and my personal favorite to read. Third person, but from a point of view. 'He saw a young man holding a sweet roll, thought about it for a second, then pushed the young man down and took his sweet roll. He didn't even feel guilty as he walked away, his face stuffed with the saccharine dough.' The narration follows the thoughts of the viewpoint character.

Biggest thing to keep in mind is that (imo), when narrating like this, you shouldn't switch out of this mode to explain or point out something that the POV character couldn't know. I.E, in the above, you would have a more difficult time illustrating the thief's impending troubles because he stole that sweet roll. You're stuck with his perspective, and unless he's prescient, he would have no idea that it would come back to haunt him.

This can be gotten around by having the POV character find some item or piece of news that he doesn't understand, but that the reader might be able to interpret in some way because they read another POV character's chapter.

In the above story, you could set up that sense of trouble by having another POV character in a previous chapter point out to someone that the young man was actually the Daedric Prince Sheogorath. This way, the reader understands that the thief just stole the wrong sweetroll, but the thief is still left blissfully unaware. (These sorts of inferred connections are the things that delight me as a reader, being told stuff flat-out, not so much).

When you do switch perspectives and therefore narration, it should be after an extended page break or chapter break. Switching perspectives mid-paragraph, or mid-page can be bewildering, and is my least favorite thing in the world to read.

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    That's great! (I appreciate the reference to Elder Scrolls, too) but I'm curious. You say "Switching paragraphs ... mid-page can be bewildering", would you mind elaborating on that? Is that always a bad thing, or can it be done well? What if the two characters are in the same scene, observing the same things, but I wish to show you how the other is thinking? Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 15:44
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    @ErdrikIronrose If you want to do that, you must be 3rd Omniscient, the narrator knows what all characters are thinking. The danger of this is that once you show omniscience, you can't keep anything about a character secret from the reader, which does not make it impossible for Char-A to deceive Char-B, but is more difficult for the author since the deception will not be a surprise to the reader, and it is more difficult for the reader to sustain belief when Char-B is missing the now-obvious signs of deception.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 15:55
  • @ErdrikIronrose You have three options (maybe more). One, switch perspectives. I've seen it a lot, I just dislike it personally, and like Amadeus said, you're now an omniscient narrator. Two, go back in time in the next chapter (or page break) from the other character's POV. This can be jarring and interrupt narrative flow, but can work well in many cases. Three (and this is what I'd do), in the next chapter, switch POV, and have the character reflect on the conversation. "She couldn't believe he was so rude. She'd need to speak with his superior..."
    – SethWhite
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 18:53

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