Main character

by Jesse Rush
(California)

Question: I would like a suggestion on what point of view a book should have when the whole story is across a 10-year timespan and there are many important things that occur around the world.


Answer: Only you know your story well enough to make this choice. But there are several possibilities.

The obvious choice is to have a character who plays a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the whole story arc, and would therefore be the main character. Even if he/she isn't involved in the beginning of the history, he could narrate what happens before his arrival using information he has gathered. As long as he addresses the reader from the beginning, it will be clear the story is being told from his point of view. Closer to the climax, he could switch to telling his own part in the overall history.

You could use an omniscient narrator in such a story, but the danger is that the reader would latch onto a different character early in the novel and be disappointed when that person turns out not to be the main character.

You could also have a main character narrator who isn't involved in the events of story but who resolves his personal dilemma in the present by telling the story of what happened (an example of this would be the musical Man of La Mancha). Sometimes this is called a "frame" story because the main character's story sits outside the main story. Also, it's a slightly weaker structure since the main character may not directly affect the outcome.

You could also simply decide to have a number of separate but loosely connected stories, each with a different main character, within one novel. It's a little trickier, since the reader won't have a central figure to relate to, but it is often done. The result resembles an anthology except for the thing that connects all the stories. An example might be The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or Ursula K. Le Guin's novel Always Coming Home. In this case, you could have either a character narrator or an omniscient narrator.

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