5

Consider placing the second book of a SF/F trilogy into the point of view of a secondary character from the first book. Good? Bad?

This seems like a workable idea to me, interesting, expand the world, fresh new ideas, insights into other characters. It allows the time to be run out further, the 'trilogy' could take ten or twenty years to resolve and the protagonist of any particular book could be any age.

But maybe it's a really, really bad idea.

Is this sort of POV shift workable in trilogies? Are there significant disadvantages to changing POV in a second and third book? Perhaps I should conceptualize the story as a series rather than a trilogy to start with.

Thanks in advance if you have thoughts about this.

  • Are you thinking about changing the protagonist, or merely the POV? – Arcanist Lupus Mar 12 '18 at 4:07
  • @ArcanistLupus I have two protagonists in the first book (alternating POV) and two main secondary characters. I'm thinking of 'promoting' one of the secondary's and keeping one of the main characters - and demoting the other main character. – DPT Mar 12 '18 at 5:06
  • why do I have the starcraft & starcraft brood wars campaign in mind when reading this? – gl_prout Mar 14 '18 at 8:55
5

It depends on your character arcs

Switching POVs to a secondary character is actually incredibly common in romance series. Each book completes the romantic arc of a single couple, and then the sequels pick up secondary characters from the earlier novels and give them romantic arcs as well. There are, of course, plenty of romance series with multi-book character arcs as well. But the "new POV for each book" model is alive and well.

If your POV's character arc is completed, it makes sense for them to pass the torch onto another character, so the readers can follow this new character and watch as they develop.

On the other hand, if your POV's arc is not completed, then switching over to watch it be completed in third person will probably not win you favors among your readers. Watching character arcs from third person is a well established technique (eg. The Great Gatsby, Sherlock Holmes, Trinity, The Master of Whitestorm, etc), but switching to it part way through a series is likely to disorient your readers.

2

It's not a bad idea, especially across books. Consider a story like Roots, incredibly successful, but it has to cover a few centuries!

Obviously that story has to change POV characters all the damn time, but it is done successfully, and the "thread" used is: Follow a child/teen until they have a child, then skip forward ten or fifteen years. Rinse, Wash, Repeat.

Your thread does not have to be genealogy, of course, but it would help if you had some kind of thread and plausible reason WHY this next character carries the new flag. For Roots and following an ancestral line, the reason is obvious, but absent that you need a different good reason. In the first book, you need to make her stand out somehow and be memorable. Super competent, courageous, self-sacrificing, funny. Perhaps she does complete a partial character arc that puts her in a new position, of wealth, power, ability, fame or responsibility, one that is an interesting start to a new character arc.

You may have done that already and not have to change a thing, but my point is I don't want to pick up the second book and say, "Allison? Who the hell was Allison?" You want the reader that bought your last book to say, "Allison! Awesome, I love her!"

2

My understanding is that this is the staple of how romance series execute. You create a group of people and your meet cute couple hours it off in book one. The you pick a new mc from that group for the romance thread, but continue to evolve the world and events that surround everyone. Romance authors use this to explore different personas and plot threads within similar contexts; but it also let's them foreshadow and set up interesting hook-ups, for want of a better term, that you wouldn't believe until it happens.

What this comes down to is that romance is usually the story of how people get together. Also, you standardly take a character through a development arc. Often times you'll see authors play Lucy and yank the football to reset their characters, sometimes unfairly. Just think of serial TV, where every season feels the same. Romance has a harder time pulling this if, so they learned that the reset often paid off less than shifting to a new POV.

What you get by shifting is largely a new character to develop while your former characters tend to be background characters, or their new responsibility drags them away from pro-activity so you don't want to spend all your time with them.

Of course, many trilogies in the fantasy/sci-fi genres choose to take a character along the arc in the space of three books, so a reset is not needed. But it does happen, and the books that do it don't feel stale the way some others do. It's neither good not bad on it's own, but either way requires skill and success. And if you do switch mcs it should go without saying that the new needs to be at least as interesting as the old.

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