Big story, many character's POV

by John

Question: I'm writing a trilogy. It has one goal for the entire series. Each book, however, accomplishes just one-third of that series goal, making them sub-goals. I understand I need to have at least one main character in each book and that that character have four throughlines. But, if I want to add two-to-four more main characters and include them in each book, do each of they need four throughlines as well? Also, in working out a subplot, do they follow the same four step process of incident, collision, climax, and resolution, just it's shorter?

Answer: With a trilogy, it usually works to think of each book as both a separate story and also as one act within a three-act structure.

For example, the first book needs to tell a satisfying story, which means it needs its own story goal. However, the big change in the character's life that is told in that book will be the setup for the escalating conflict in the second book. The second book might end with a crisis that needs to be resolved in the third.

In terms of throughlines, if you think about the goal for the entire series, there will be one character who's decision at the climax will determine the outcome. That's your main character for the series. To give make your series a complete story, you will likely want to develop all four throughlines.

If you want to include other point of view characters, it is up to you how fully developed you want their stories to be.

You may want a main character throughline for a POV character who is fairly important. Or maybe you just want to give them a relationship throughline. Or just an impact character throughline. Not every
POV character has to have a complete story. Sometimes a subplot is enough.

Often POV characters can share an overall throughline, which helps to link the different stories together.

For example, I recently read a YA steampunk novel called The Friday Society. The story has three POV characters, each with her own MC throughline. Each has an impact character (a boyfriend), with a developed IC and RS arc. However, they are all involved in the same overall plot which brings them together as a team.

Sometimes, if you have two POV characters, each may be the impact character to the other. This often happens in romance fiction. It can also work with a trio of characters in which everyone is impact character to someone else within the trio.

To fully develop each character's story - with four throughlines - would be to create a number of mostly separate stories that just happen to share a story world. That's not always the best choice if you want a really tight plot, though it can work if you are more interested in exploring relationships.

The four-part or four-act dramatic structure can be applied to any size of narrative, whether a book, a subplot, a sequence, a scene, etc.

When teaching writing, I sometimes have people create 4-sentence stories in which each sentence is one act of the 4-part arc. On the other hand, with a tetrology, each act may take up an entire book.

That's the beauty of this basic structure: you can use it for almost everything.

Of course, some people tend to prefer a 3-part rhythm rather than a 4-part. In that case, you can think of it as goal --> conflict --> resolution. Again, you can apply this rhythm to any size narrative.

Comments for Big story, many character's POV

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Aug 11, 2013
RE: Your Trilogy
by: Todd Rogers

Hi there!

Thank you for asking this question. I have been looking for different perspectives on trilogy writing for awhile now to give me the ability to plan my best angle of attack that best tells my story.

If it is at all helpful to you in your writing endeavor, I would like to share the links to the two questions I asked regarding writing trilogies.

1) Writing Trilogies: Episodes, Books or Chapters?:

2) Is the Epic Sci-Fi Adventure genre dead, or Is There Still Room For It in Today's World?:

Good Luck!!

Aug 11, 2013
by: Glen

You are certainly free to share links to any page on this site. (Just please don't copy/distribute articles for commercial purposes.)

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