As I mentioned in my last post, I hadn’t plotted out what came after Born of Water, book 1 in my epic fantasy trilogy. That wasn’t a horrible thing, but I do think I missed a few opportunities to really weave the overall arc of my trilogy together. That is a mistake I won’t be making again!
But what would I have done differently?
The first thing that comes to mind is POV. The number of POVs climbs as the story grows. It starts with Water Priestess Niri for three chapters. Chapter four adds in Ria, five is in Ty’s POV, and chapter six in Lavinia’s. The POVs alternate between these four main characters until chapter 19 when a character introduced in chapter 15 becomes ‘a bit’ more important. Finally, in chapter 38, out of 41, we run into Zhao and his POV is introduced.
Even when I wrote Born of Water, introducing a new main character – one that was incredibly important to the plot in book 1 succeeding – so late in the book bothered me. But I couldn’t figure out how to remedy it. I’d known from the beginning that Zhao would come along and when it happen, I couldn’t figure out how to bring him in earlier or manage without him and have him join in the beginning of book 2.
Now, I think I could have had Zhao turn up in the marsh city of Ashi’Shinai. That would have changed his character a bit, as he hadn’t traveled at all when he met up with the group of five friends. But it could have added something else to the plot earlier. Happily, he gelled quickly with the group and book 2 started off great with him along (and book 1 ended well with him along!).
But book 2, Rule of Fire, also started out with a new POV – Sinika’s. Sinika is the “villain” in the novel. I absolutely adore writing in his POV. He’s smart, smarter than me, complicated and… okay, I’d go on but I’ll sound like a groupie. I never considered writing from his POV, or anyone in the Church of Four Orders, in book 1. Now, I’m kicking myself. What tension would that have added to know how the hunt for Ria and Niri progressed? Or would it have given away that Sinika’s advice in chapter 3 wasn’t as well intentioned as it seemed? I’ll never know, as I’m not going back to rewrite the whole thing. But I do wonder.
Chapter 8 of Rule of Fire introduced one final POV, Khodan’s. That made eight POVs through book 2 and 3, which is quite enough! I debated adding or dropping a POV in Spirit of Life, book 3. Rameth made a good candidate for an addition (as did Laireag, especially after his role in book 2). Including Rameth would have given insight to events at the Temple in the Clouds – the only insight! But not having that window also left a question unanswered… would they help?
This, of course, harkens back to the idea if adding Sinika’s POV in book 1 would have helped. Maybe I would have made the same choice even if I had known his POV would show up in book 2… or maybe I would have at least added it in half-way through book 1 after his confrontation (and revelation) with Niri. Knowing that he was working to escape and find her THEN would have been a dramatic end to the novel! As I said – missed opportunities!
With Spirit of Life – book 3, I decided to stick with eight POVs (not losing or adding anyone) and I think that decision paid off. Especially in the final, epic battle scene in Spirit of LIfe. The fight takes place over days and across a wide area. The characters are separated and experience different elements. The only way to give the events unfolding scope WAS to use all eight POVs, technically seven at that point… but I don’t want to get into that. By the time I was finished writing Spirit of Life, I was very glad to have all eight (seven).
And I wonder about other things I could have changed too. Ty and Niri fluxuate between friendship and something more throughout book 1. It is on the ‘more’ side of the line when she meets Khodan. Ty senses what Khodan – and more reluctantly Niri – slowly realizes: Niri and Khodan are drawn together in many ways.
Part of me thinks I would have skipped the whole relationship with Ty and Niri if I’d known what came after. But… it made for one of my favorite scenes in book 2 when Ty and Khodan have to rescue each other. It doesn’t go smoothly. Both Niri and Ty grow from their relationship. As far as character building goes, the idea wasn’t wasted. Besides this series is fantasy, not a romance! Occasionally relationships don’t work out and they aren’t the main point anyway, though I like the zest they add to the story.
What about you? Anything you would have changed in your series if you could do it again – or things you wished an author had changed?
AND – I finished my edits on Born of Water! I uploaded the new (and really improved version) and just dropped the price to… FREE! That should cascade through Smashword’s distribution network, but right now you can find Born of Water for free on Smashwords here! Come June, it’ll cost, so pick it up free while you can!
I think what constitutes as too many POVs boils down to two points:
1. How many POVs can the ‘reader’ handle? This is fully individualistic. One reader might be happy with a score of POVs in an epic fantasy novel, or trilogy, or longer series. But another reader might be pushing at their comfort zone with only two POVs.
2. The main point is how many POVs can the author juggle, and can they do it well? If the answers are ‘multiple’ and ‘yes’, then there’s nothing at all wrong with it.
In my current WIP I have two POVs, but three main characters. I’m considering giving the third MC her own POV chapter in the latter half of the story, but only if doing so makes logical sense.
Oh, and the epilogue is also in another POV, but an extremely limited one since the POV ‘character’ is incapable of sentient perception.
In my future project ( a currently shelved WIP) so far I have three main POVs, but a large cast of characters, some of whom are constant or part-time companions to the main POV characters. There’s plenty of room for isolated chapters to be in the POVs of lesser characters, especially in the cases of them serving as witness to the actions of major characters in terms of plot advancement.
I’m not surprised you’ve thought this through, Scott! I like the idea of two or three POVs, but… I can’t seem to limit myself to that number. I like to write in the character’s POV of who is most impacted by the events in the chapter. Which has led to many POVs (always multiple chapters of each in a novel. They are main characters). Happily, I’ve only had one complaint, so far, of too many POVs from someone who wasn’t primarily an epic fantasy fan. So I’m hoping that means it works. For the epic fantasy series, it really does pay off at the end.
I’m trying to be much more mindful if POVs in my dystopian WIP, and even have an indicator of whose the chapter is in at the beginning. Now that I’m writing a new epic fantasy trilogy too, I’m thinking carefully if a POV is really needed. One of the advantages to getting much of the series done before publishing is that I can add, or axe, things!
A good beta reader with a critical mind for POVs (who is also accustomed to epic fantasy) would probably help in that regard. My one beta reader is good, but we haven’t yet tackled the multiple-POV aspect.
In my current WIP it’s easy to limit the number of POVs to only two (maybe a third, and not including the weird POV in teh short epilogue) because for the majority of the story there are only my three main characters who are … let’s say ‘alive’. Aaaand there’s a good reason I do a POV change after a couple of chapters, too. 😉
Oh that is a teaser if I ever read one! 😀