How having more than one character POV shapes a story

by | Feb 6, 2015

Last Updated:
May 27, 2017

If you’ve read my writing or perused my blog, you know I write utilizing multiple POVs. I’ve created many personal rules for POV use. The POV has to be a main character (no one time chapters in a character’s point of view and then the reader never hears from them again!), POV for a chapter is chosen based on whom the events (action or emotion) affect the most, and events are limited to what the character can see and hear (deep POV) which also affects word choice!

It is that first ‘rule’ that I’ve recently found really shaping the two novels I’m currently writing. Both are under the halfway mark, so the plot is still developing even though the one book is the final for a trilogy and the other is the first in a new trilogy.

How does my rule shape a novel’s plot?

Well it makes me careful about who I introduce as a POV character for starters. It has to be someone who will be interesting enough to be involved in the action for the entire novel… unless they die, of course! And they shouldn’t be standing next to another POV character the entire novel or their would have to be a strong reason to include someone whose actions would already be seen and whose thoughts could be shown in deeds or dialogue.

Third person limited POV gives you one characters thoughts and vision.

Third person limited POV gives you one character’s thoughts and vision.

Why would I pick that character’s voice to tell a part of the story? What are they contributing that someone else isn’t? Those are the questions that I ask myself as I think of including a POV. If I find a solid purpose to include the character, the next question becomes when.

In Born of Water, Zhao walks into the novel toward the end with a chapter immediately in his voice. He introduces himself. But earlier, Darag is introduced and getting to know the four main characters before the first chapter in his POV. Honestly I don’t know why the difference as both are complicated characters and from unique cultures. Darag is perhaps a bit more unique and complicated (he is older!) and Zhao is much more brash and rebellious. The introductions to their POV fit who they are.

Timing of character introductions and POVs plays a big role in Spark of Defiance, the first novel of my new epic fantasy trilogy, too but for a different reason. There is a lot going on in the plot and I want the first pieces to be solid before adding new elements. Those new elements often come from new characters. So, I’ve found myself pushing back the first POV chapter of a few characters. I don’t want to muddle the plot too soon or inspire action that doesn’t get touched on again for five or more chapters. The reaction I’m looking for from a reader isn’t “oh I forgot about that (or him/her)!”

For the Fight for Peace, the final book of my dystopian trilogy Friends of my Enemy, character POVs have gotten a bit more complicated. Even in book 2, I was challenged if I should include or drop a character or two that had been used as a POV character in book 1 and had really carried the story through. With a change in novels, even with a continuing storyline, there is a chance to change POVs. Which I did do with one character of a pair of friends, because after some major pondering about what their role would be in book 2, I realized the action and events would be unfolding around the previously non-POV character. And that is when thinking about characters and POVs started really adding to my plot.

A well developed character hopefully leads to a great experience for the reader!

A well developed character should lead to a great experience for the reader!

Because the story became much deeper and more complicated since I’d chosen to continue a character’s POV, and had to think of the reason they were that important to the storyline. It happened with another character too. Events I never would have considered, or thought of, without having decided to include those character POVs – and had to come up with a reason to use them for more than one chapter because THAT is my rule – became a major part of the plot.

I can’t tell you how much more pleased I am with the novels because of that!

How much happier I am with the storyline and plot is what really surprises me. Which is good because I won’t say it was an easy task. Each character POV basically shepherds a subplot through the novel, forcing me to consider new subplots or dropping characters. And since I believe subplots should feed into the overall theme of the novel and not just dangle, the end result becomes a much more complicated weave.

For the Fight for Peace, choosing to keep one character, Danielle, has led to a subplot that threatens to tear down a central character, one who is on the cusp of succeeding in bringing stability. Otherwise, why would I keep Danielle around? And really, it would all be too easy without her personal vendetta adding turbulence. That she learned the tools to make an impact in the previous book because of the character she is targeting makes it that much more fitting and believable. Almost like I planned it. Which from this point forward is what I’ll claim! 😉

Who would have guessed that keeping a character POV could enhance a plot into something really great?

Do you have rules for character POV or pet peeves as a reader?






Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

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Written by: Autumn

Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

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  1. Ally Bishop

    Great article, Autumn. One of the rules I suggest *ahem* when editing a manuscript is that if you are going to use more than one POV, each must have their own story arc–and you express that perfectly! That’s the key. And also ensuring that each POV has a unique flow and cadence that sets them apart (there’s a reason I only write one POV myself…and in first person, no less).

    Happy to share this article in my feed!

    • What a great way to say what I was trying to get at, Ally! Yes, that is exaclty what I mean. Characters whose voice appears only once or twice in a novel drive me batty – assuming they are still alive that is. Death is forgivable. 😉

      I’m so glad you liked the post and thanks for stopping by!

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