2 Main Characters?

by Mary
(NJ)

So I was indecisive if this would be a more character question or not, but I figured it would affect my plot more so here I am. Sorry before hand if I chose wrong. Is it possible to have two main characters? In the story I want to write, I am planning to hopefully switch between two characters for point of view. Each of these characters have a great influence on where the plot goes, are almost equally affected, the man a little more because of his position. If it is possible to have a cohesive story like that, how could I balance it to give both characters equal importance and not focus more on one than the other? Sorry if you've answered this before, I tried looking and couldn't find it. Thank you for any advice!


Answer: When you have two point-of-view characters, you essentially have two stories within the same book. (Everyone is always the hero or the protagonist of their own story.)

In most novels, one character's story is given more time and weight, so the reader connects with this POV character more than any others. Hence, that character becomes the main character of the novel. At the same time, how this character resolves his/her inner conflict is usually crucial to the outcome of the story.

However, there are also novels where the author creates more balance among the POV characters, so that one is less able to say who the main character is.

The advantages of a balanced approach, supposedly, is that different readers will identify
with different POV characters, so it is an attempt to widen the book's audience. Also, some readers enjoy the opportunity to learn about the point of view of a character unlike themselves.

For instance, it is quite common in romance books for both the romantic leads to be POV characters. The readers (who are almost always female) will identify with the female lead, but also enjoy the intimacy of knowing the male point of view too. (Whether most romances give an accurate portrayal of the male mind or simply one designed to appeal to the reader's fantasies is a matter of debate.)

The downside is that the more POV characters you have, the less of a connection there is between any of them and the reader. Even if each POV is written in an intimate way, the more frequently the story switches points of view, the closer it takes the reader to an omniscient perspective.

So to answer your question, you can do anything you like so long as you are happy with the effect it creates. The simplest way to balance the two roles is to give a roughly equal number of pages (or "screen time," to borrow a phrase from film) to each. Obviously, there will be points where the two stories intersect or merge, and you will have to decide whose point of view to stay with. (Don't try to do two points of view at the same time.) Usually, it's best to focus on the character who plays the most crucial role in the event at hand.

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