Multiple perspectives

by Hamed Alqerawy
(Saudi Arabia )

Question: So ... I've been working on a story for quite some time now. I crafted a plot that satisfied me, made the characters as interesting as possible, and finally made what I considered a perfect ending.

The problem is ... There's really no such thing as a "protagonist" in my story. It would be more accurate to say that I have SIX main characters, and each one of them views the world in a different way than the others do. I had considered writing the story in the third person, but it turned out VERY badly. because one of the themes for the story was how people don't share the same opinion and see the world in their own way. And I also wanted to portray how the fear of death affects how characters think and act, in other words, I needed to give the reader a window to view all of the main characters' inner monologues and how they changed over time.

The question is : is it okay to write the story in the first person, and have "perspective shifts" in which the narrator is a changed ?

If so, should I inform the reader that the perspective just shifted so that they don't get confused ?

Thanks in advance :)

Answer: When you have multiple main characters, and write from multiple points of view, what you essentially do is create multiple stories within one novel.

A little technical background: Dramatica theory says that there are four throughlines to a complete story. These are...

The Overall throughline or main plot.
The Main Character throughline, which shows the arc of his/her inner conflict.
The Impact Character throughline, which shows the arc of the impact character's influence on the main character.
The Relationship throughline, which shows the arc of their relationship.

In novels told from multiple points of view, each POV character is the main character in his/her own story, and has a main character throughline. You may or may not develop the three other throughlines for each of these stories. Or you may just develop one of them and leave the others as partially-developed subplots. It's your choice.

In some multiple POV novels, the stories are so unconnected that the book feels more like an anthology of interwoven short stories. The only connecting element is that the characters cross paths now and then, or live in the same community, or perhaps are related (as in a multi-generational story).

In other novels, all the POV characters share one overall story throughline. (The challenge here is that, by definition, the main character's choice at the climax determines the outcome. So you have to decide who makes the choice or whether the outcome depends on every main character's choice.)

When your narration switches to a new point of view, it's very important that your reader knows right away the switch has happened. Readers always want to know whose viewpoint they are in. Generally its best to switch only at chapter breaks. At least mark the switch with some kind of clear break in the narrative. It also helps to orient the reader in the new point of view. Give information or clues right away. Each POV character should have a unique style of storytelling as well, to help the reader spot the switch.

Never switch points of view within a scene. It breaks the reader's illusion of being the main character.

Comments for Multiple perspectives

Click here to add your own comments

Aug 09, 2013
thank you :D
by: hamed

thank you for taking the time to answer my question.

the thing is ... the novel i'm working on is basically one big story viewed from different perspectives, an "event" happens and it can ruin some people's lives while others find it to be a blessing, so having a "main character" and "side characters" kind of ruins the whole thing, because the reader will subconsciously sympathize with the character they spend most of the time with and think that the other characters are "wrong"


no perspective shifts mid-scene... noted.

again, thank you for taking time to answer my question, it really means a lot to me that the person I look up to is giving me his attention :)

Aug 10, 2013
by: Glen

Bear in mind that it can often work to have the main character learn about other characters' perspectives from what they say and do.

Also, readers don't always agree with the main character. Few people think Ebenezer Scrooge has the right attitude in the first few pages of "A Christmas Carol."

Oct 30, 2013
by: Anonymous

I'm having more then one main character/Pov in my story-but I don't want them to be all good guys-I want some of them to be bad-is that possible? And could I have one of my main characters/Pov be the archetype emotion n another the skeptic-how does that work? Please help me-I really want to write this story.

Oct 30, 2013
by: Glen

Any character can be a POV character, including skeptics, antagonists, or emotion archetypes. The only challenge is that you can make a villain more sympathetic than you intend if you write from his/her point of view.

Oct 31, 2013
Thank you!
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the response.This really helped to clear things up for me:)

Jan 16, 2014
problem with my character and sequencing
by: Anonymous

i'm working in a challenge mentor gave me the plot and he make me to do the while thing.the story is with four characters like two couples.the two couples don't know each other and leave separate lives. i don't know how to make the story it also okay that at the first chapter i will introduce the 1st couple then at the second chapter the other one?is it okay to merge the separate scenes/events of the couples story in a chapter?

thank you and hope to here from you soon..

Jan 16, 2014
by: Glen

The key is to be clear which character's point of view you are telling the story from at any one time and to not mix points of view.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Character Invite.

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero