How can you write a book from the point of view of a character who is not the main character and introduce the main character later on, who you want the story to focus on? How do I do this in an organic and yet plot twisty way so that the audience says wait he's the main character?!

If you need any more explanation let me know.

6 Answers 6


False Protagonist

The trope you are trying to use is called false protagonist. Searching this term will provide some famous examples of how it has been done, but basically:

  1. Begin as the false protagonist
  2. Introduce the real protagonist as an alternate POV
  3. Get rid of the false protagonist POV (usually by killing them)

I don't know. Maybe the first line could be 'Call me Ishmael'. There is no requirement for the narrator to be the main character. Character focus often shifts in emerging plots.

Personally, I try to write in an interactive, three-dimensional style. A recent work features a narrator (a white girl) telling the story about the problems her mixed-race sister had growing up in a white world. Half way through the novel the narrator realises - the story is not about her story, it's about her.

  • My idea was that the person who you think is the main character dies at the beginning of the book. Nov 23, 2019 at 23:56
  • This is not novel or unusual: Sixth Sense, Lovely Bones . . . these characters are already dead,
    – Surtsey
    Nov 24, 2019 at 0:08
  • 1
    That's not what he means; he means the supposed main character dies at the beginning, and then the story changes to focus on the actual main character. Which also isn't novel or unusual, I think Game of Thrones did the same thing, but still.
    – F1Krazy
    Nov 24, 2019 at 0:36

I’ve seen quite a few books use this, where the POV switches from character to character every chapter.

So maybe put in like “part one, part two” if you just need to switch the POV once as well as the name of the character that the POV is switching to.

Or if it switches multiple times possibly do it every few chapters. It doesn’t really get more simple than that.

Maybe after the switch provide a small introduction just to say, “hey guys I’m not the guy but I’m a different person”.


What Hink said.

I once outlined a short story based on the assassination of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano. The story is true, but I want to create a POV of an unknown character that played a huge role in the hit, but in all actuality John Gotti was the main character.

I did this by creating a fictional FBI agent who lead a surveillance team. The story is told through his point of view, but in the end switches to Gotti's for the final scene.


There are actually a few works that come to mind where much of the twist is that the "main character" is not the main character of the story.

Perhaps one of the best examples is the Japanese film "The Hidden Fortress" which is an epic period piece about a war between feudal Japanese states... from the point of view of the comic relief. Naturally it played up many of the genre's staple characters as very sterotypical and the real pov characters having a comedic misunderstanding of the set. Hidden Fortress is, among film buffs, important as the dynamic of seeing major events in a drama was the basis for George Lucas making R2-D2 and C-3P0 the focus characters in his first Star Wars film... when we first meet them, they have as much clue as to why the Empire is shooting at them as the audience.

The "Buff the Vampire Slayer" had a similar episode titled "The Zeppo" (season 3) which is done in the style of the show's big season ending finales or major season plot game-changers... but from the point of view of the comic relief Xander, who is out of the loop and stumbles upon a much sillier evil plot that, if sucessful, could result in the big problem that Buffy is dealing with getting much worse. There are a few moments where the audience is given a staple element of the big episode, only for Xander's problems to be seen going on out of Buffy's out of context to the scene (one of my favorite moments is that Xander tries to inform Buffy about his problem, only to stumble in on Buffy her boyfriend Angel going through some dramatic agnst over the seriousness of danger both will be in fighting (it's to a parody level of the previous two seasons real drama between the two)... only to realize Xander is in the room and put a pause on the tense moment to address what he wants... but Xander almost realizes that it's one of those episodes and casually excuses himself with out mentioning the issue.

A more dramatic version can be seen in Star Trek: TNG episode "Lower Decks", the plot of which is a fairly tame episode of TNG but it's told from the point of view of a collection of Ensigns who have no idea what's going on, rather than the typical senior staff of the ship we follow. The locking out of the loop is played for drama as the ensigns are being assigned tasks that they realize paint a picture of some serious concern, but all but one have all the pieces to put together what's going on.


I'm not sure if it matches what you mean, but if you need a one-off throwaway POV, it's a great case for a prologue.

In the Harry Potter series, about half the books actually start with one of these, taking on the POVs of Vernon, a caretaker and the prime minister respectively before ever getting to the main character's POV.

Most of Dan Brown's books follow a similar pattern, but usually focus on a character whose death sets the rest of the plot into motion.

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