"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Whose Story is it Anyway?

At a recent writing workshop I attended, the subject of multiple POVs came up. On my newest WIP, if you remember, I'm going with the dual POV, first person. At least thus far. Anything is game in revisions, right? It could be one POV third person by the time I'm done.

Anyway, one of my workshop buddies mentioned no matter how many POVs there are, there can only be one main character. It is one person's story. And he pointed to screen writing as an example. Think LETHAL WEAPON. Whose story is that? It's Mel Gibson's story.

Thinking about this philosophy and my own WIP, I would agree. Though I have two POVs, in my mind my female lead is the main character. The guy lead has his own story and I believe justifies his own POV, but it is her story for the most part. If/when a movie is made from it, she would be the star.

What are your thoughts on this theory? Can you dispute it? Agree with it? What multiple POV stories can you think of where you can pick one of the characters as the main one? If this theory is true, should we continue writing our multiple POV stories? What is the point?

And happy Monday! Look for an author interview and book giveaway with the fabulous Christine Marciniak and her debut novel WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA later this week.

33 comments:

Lia Keyes said...

My feeling is that the main character is the one who has the most to lose and is most changed by the story's events, whether or not there are other POV's.

Lady Glamis said...

PJ, I just did a post about this over on the Literary Lab. It discusses all my thoughts and ideas about this. And the comments section is great too. Hope it helps you out!

His or Her Story? Using Multiple Main Characters and Story Lines

Solvang Sherrie said...

I definitely think there is still just one MC, no matter how many POVs. The Artemis Fowl series often shows the perspective of both Holly and Artemis. Sometimes you get inside the head of other characters as well. But Artemis is the MC -- and sometimes you get to see how skewed his perspective is when you see the events through the other characters' eyes. That's always fun =)

Tess said...

If you do it well, there is no worry. The MC should be primary, but a second-to-MC can also have their own story line and POV, for sure.

Christine M said...

I have various views on this. And I think they may conflict with each other.
1) Your main character does not have to be your POV character (I'm thinking of The Great Gatsby here, in my mind Gatsby is the MC, but that is not the POV you see the story from)

2) If you have two people who have their own stories - both intertwined with the main event/theme of the book, then I would think you could have dual main characters. Unfortunately I can't think of a single darn example of that right now.

3) If you have multiple POVs and there is only one MC and story line, I think you need to be pretty sure that the other POVs add to the story.

I'll think more on this as I continue to wake up this morning.

Keri Mikulski said...

Yup, I agree. Every multiple POV book I'm thinking of, there is definitely one MC. I think it's the one the reader is most attached too. :)

Yes!! I love multiple POV because they get inside another character's head which to me, is why I read. :)

Good luck.

Danyelle said...

Yes, I think that most of the time there is one MC. I write in multiple POVs (depending on the story) because things happen that the MC isn't aware of, but that affect the story, and the reader would be lost not knowing. Like anything else, so long as there's a good point to having it, and if it works, go for it. :D

Kelly said...

One main character does seem to work the best. Good discussioN!

PJ Hoover said...

Interest theory and a good one, Lia. So it's not necessary the person even the author might think it is.
Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks, Michelle (one day I'll remember if you have one l or two in your name). I'll head over and read the comments. You always do such fabulous posts!

The more I think about it, the more I agree, Sherrie. I try to think of multiple POV stories, but it always seems to be one character to comes to the front.
Must read Artemis Fowl.

PJ Hoover said...

Hopefully I will do it well, Tess! That's the challenge I'm trying to present myself with. So does a second POV character need their own story then?

Chris, THE GREAT GATSBY is a perfect example I hadn't even considered in this post. You are totally right. and we need to continue thinking on the dual MC thing to see if it really does pan out. It seems like most books I always identify more with one.

Getting inside the character's heads is why I started my WIP as dual POV, Keri. It totally felt like the right thing to do. Which I love!

PJ Hoover said...

That's what I'm thinking, too, Danyelle. If there is a valid reason for the other POVs, then might as well give them a try and see how it works. It is nice to have insight into more than one person's head.

Thanks, Kelly! I also wonder more on movies. If there are an examples of two characters fighting for center stage in the viewers' heads.

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

beckylevine said...

Oh, man, now I'm searching my bookshelves for something that's not there. I KNOW I've read YA that has two povs AND two stories--that, of course, intersect. And I can't find any examples! Drat. I think either way can work, but I don't think that you have to necessarily go with one person's story only. If that's how your book is playing out, go with it, but don't feel like you have to restrict yourself.

Now what WERE those books?!

PJ Hoover said...

I agree that there can be more than one story, Becky, but I'm wondering if one of the characters still qualifies as the main one? And I know what you mean about searching the bookshelves. I think I have all these examples and then when I need to write them, they fly away.

Thanks!

Christine M said...

PATRON SAINT OF BUTTERFLIES is a recent YA with 2 main characters and 2 1st person POVs.

PJ Hoover said...

I thought of this one, Chris. But I think the one MC is ... let me check ... Agnes. What do you think? There are two fabulous POVs, but she is the character that left the more lasting impression on me. Your thoughts?

Christine M said...

Pathetically I don't remember either name - but at the time I thought the two stories seemed pretty equal.

Carrie Harris said...

I think Christine's got a point with Gatsby. I immediately think of the Sherlock Holmes books, in which Watson narrates but Holmes is definitely the MC. Of course, that's not a multiple POV (which scares me to even think of writing), but it's still interesting. :)

Trisha Pearson said...

I never thought about it, but I guess most POV books usually do have one MC, the person who's story it really is. I can only think of one exception, and that is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.

Miriam S.Forster said...

Hmm... I think you're right. Most novels I can think of have only one MC. A great example of this is the Magic or Madness trilogy. There are three POV's over the course of the series, but the story starts with the main character's problem and ends when it is solved.

PJ Hoover said...

Don't feel bad, Chris! I had to look in the book :)

It's very interesting, Carrie, and not done much at all in YA these days. Hmmm...maybe next :)

I never read the Traveling Pants series, Trisha. But it's about four girls, right? Does any one of them stand out as the "main" one?

I started Magic or Madness, Miriam, but need to finish it at some point. Interesting that it diverges but comes to completion in the third book.

MG Higgins said...

My friend and crit buddy C Lee McKenzie handles double POV in her YA novel SLIDING ON THE EDGE really well. There's one MC, and one way we know this is because the book opens with her story and the majority of it is told through her eyes. The story is about the relationship between the MC and her grandmother who are personality opposites, and it's good to get to know them individually. It makes their eventual coming-together that much more poignant.

PJ Hoover said...

It sounds like a fantastic book, MG! I'll have to check it out. I wonder if in cases where there is one main character but two POV characters, the first to be seen is normally the main one.

Robyn Campbell said...

There is only one main character. There can be other characters that are almost as vital to the story as the MC. But only one MC. Period. I think. :)

PJ Hoover said...

Exactly my thoughts, Robyn. I think :)

T. Anne said...

PJ, I've only read the revolving POV stories where each MC gets a chapter in rotation. I did read a story once where the narrator was omniscient and telling what the two MC's we're doing at the same moment in time. It was different from third person (or perhaps it just felt different. The title of the novel was "April and Oliver"

PJ Hoover said...

That seems to be very popular, Anne. the back and forth narration. It makes me think about the other ways things have been done recently.

Rebecca said...

I have no problem with a book that has shifting POVs, like with 3rd person omniscient (though, in that case, one could argue that it's not really the characters' points of view, but the author's--same with 3rd person limited).

I do believe that in most stories, there is one main character, though of course a book needs layers--story from the other characters' lives to give the book depth and flavor.

I can think of several stories told in third person with shifting perspectives and only one main character. Eragon (Eragon), The City of Ember (Lina more than Doon, I think), Inkheart (Meggie).

Then there are the stories that are a bit different, like The Book Thief, which is told from a POV other than the main character's.

I think, in general, it is true that there can only be one main character. But then again, it is hard to pick out one main character from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or The Fellowship of the Ring.

Nora MacFarlane said...

I agree. I like multiple POV stories, and I enjoy the story arc for each character, but I want just one MC.

PJ Hoover said...

I know what you mean, Rebecca. I seem to gravitate toward one character normally in multiple POV stores. Though yeah, LOTR - no idea. Ditto Narnia. Very nice examples!

It's getting that arc right that is so important, isn't it, Nora!

Thanks, everyone!

Christina Farley said...

I see what you mean. But I wonder if different readers could connect with a different characters more.

PJ Hoover said...

what a great point, Christina! Different people picking different main characters in a story. Love it!

Iapetus999 said...

I've been thinking lately what the problem with the show Heroes is. It should be better than it is. I came to the conclusion that the problem is that there is no true hero on Heroes (except maybe Hiro). There's a decent villain, but no one hero is The Hero.
I know this is typical of TV drama nowadays, they spread the love around. But in Hercules/Xena/Buffy/Angel etc, the hero was clearly defined, even when certain episodes depicted other character's stories.
If they concentrated one season on one hero, I think the ratings would go back up. But they spread everyone too thin.

The point of all this is: don't dilute your hero. Make them strong, give them a voice, and tell their story. Plenty of time for the other characters in the derivative works.

PJ Hoover said...

I felt this way in a recent book I read that had many POVs, Andrew. I didn't really care about any of them. I wasn't even sure which one I should care about the most.
Thanks for visiting!