POV

by Ash
(Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

First question: How can you show the actions of multiple people without straying from one singular POV?


I'm writing a TV show and planning on having around 5-7 seasons, but I feel like my problem can translate to novels. Every season focuses on the POV of a different character; however, I want to explicitly show the actions of multiple characters while still feeling like the POV of the show is through one specific character.

I don't want to go with an omniscient perspective because I want to filter the story through the eyes of whoever's POV is in charge. The first season's main character is a young, naive guy who sees the world through black and white. The last season's main character is a con artist and murderer. If I have an omniscient perspective, I feel like I can't show the progression through the moral gradient.

Also, second question: Is it okay if I have a more interesting plot that I reveal half-way through the season? For example, in my first season, I'm focusing on a guy who's adjusting to living with his step-family for the summer; however, his step-uncle is a vigilante who's slowly killing off a group of cannibals in town. This is revealed halfway through the season. Is this okay, or is it better to show the more interesting plot throughout the entire season?

Thanks, and have a great day!
-Ash

Answer: You have to remember that every POV or main character is essentially the hero of his/her own story. It's hard to have a progression throughout the series if you keep switching main characters because it can feel like each season is a different show. You can lose those viewers who became attached to the first main character.

I experienced this myself recently with the TV series, Scream Queens. The series began from the POV of a freshman student on a mission to investigate the deep dark secrets of a sorority where her mother had died giving birth to the freshman many years before. I liked the freshman character and her sidekick/love interest, a reporter for the school paper.

But the series soon shifted to the POV of the leader of the sorority, a far less likeable character. The freshman girl
moved into the background, and I lost interest in the series. It just wasn't the same show.

This is the challenge: viewers need a main character they can emotionally attach to, but once attached, they don't want to lose that character until the end of the series. Otherwise, it's like a bait and switch.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with having multiple POV characters. But a more standard approach, which is quite effective, is to tell their stories in parallel rather than one at a time.

For instance, it's fine to begin the series with the young naive guy. But I would also include in the first episode at least one scene from the POV of the uncle.

A couple of possibilities...

a) Show he's a killer right away, which will create suspense. The viewers will keep watching to see how the uncle will be a growing threat to the main character's world and how the MC escapes.

b) Show the uncle doing something mysterious, so the viewers will keep watching to find out what's going on. (And reveal him as a murderer later in the series.)

Either way, introducing the uncle early will let the viewers know upfront what type of story they are in for. You want suspense/thriller fans to latch onto the series, so you need to promise them that type of story right away. At the same time, you don't want to attract viewers who aren't into suspense, only to disappoint them when the series turns in that direction.

Same thing if you have other POV characters. You can keep the naive guy as the main character, giving more screen time to his POV, but letting the other plots develop in parallel, introducing them in the early episodes and returning to them as the series progresses.

Another example that might help: think about the Smoking Man in The X-Files. Early in the series, we were introduced to the character and had a scene from his POV. Gradually we learned more about him and had more scenes from his POV. Late in the series, there was even an entire episode from his POV that filled in much of his backstory. But he never replaced Fox Mulder as the main character.

Best of luck.

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