Thursday, February 2, 2012

Who should tell the story?

For all of my first draft of my YA fantasy, The Prophecy (then called The High Prince), it had three point of views. One of Anastasia, the protagonist, one for Aaron --Anastasia's love interest and side kick, and one for Jaylen --who happened to be a Faerie princess banished from the Realms for her own good.

But while rewriting the book, I decided to cut Jaylen's pov. Oh yes, she's still in the story, but she no longer has her own chapters from her view. Why? Well its YA and married and is 21. I decided that most of my readers may not exactly be able to relate all that well with her.

Well that got me thinking, who should tell the story?
The simple answer is: whoever's point of view best gets the story across. But when deciding this important choice think about this:
  1. The POV doesn't always have to be the protagonist. 
  2. In fact, it doesn't always have to be the protagonist who tells the story. The villain could just as well tell the story. Or in fact, both could. That'd be interesting. 
  3. You can always have more than one person telling the story, although its best to not have too many. At most, I'd recommend three. But then, do whatever works best for you. The most I've seen is five. 
But I like her!
Jaylen's one of my favorite characters. She's interesting and adds to the story. But she doesn't need her own point of view. Her story is not the main story, its a subplot. She isn't allowed to go back to the Realms until Keenan (the antagonist) is dead. And he won't die until Anastasia and Aaron defeat him. But they can't unless Anastasia can get her powers and memory back. 

In short, even if you like a character, they don't need their own point of view. If you can't tell the story without their own voice, then keep them, but if you can tell the same story just fine without them, then you don't need them. If you really do want to give them their own voice then, consider writing a spin-off or sequel for them. Jaylen gets her own in The Sayari, based on from her teenage years. 

If you have multiple view points...
One of my favorite books with writing advice is Elizabeth Lyon's A Writer's Guide to Fiction. In her book, she suggests that:
A simple answer [to multiple view points] is to assign as many third-person, subjective viewpoints as possible.
(To learn about more third-person and subjective viewpoints, read Point of View) I disagree with her here. While writing third person for multiple viewpoints may be easier, I think that one could just as well use first-person as well as third.

But although I disagree, she points out that the more different viewpoints you have, the less room there may be for full character development of the protagonist. Also keep in mind that if you choose to tell the story from a point-view that's not the protagonist, that it is the protagonist who ultimately wins or loses at the end. Not some other character.

If you have co-protagonists, Elizabeth Lyon also points out that the two will have to have the same motivation to the goal, and will both have to fully grow by the end of the story. Even if they both lose.

Who's the protagonist?
An excellent question, young grasshopper. Not only should the protagonist be the character who you care about the most, but who's story has the most stakes at risk. In other words, who has the most to loose? What character does everything seem to happen around or to? Most people usually know who the protagonist is, but in some cases, they're not sure.

In The Prophecy and The Sayari, both stories have two multiple viewpoints. In The Prophecy, the protagonist is Anastasia as the story revolves around her. Anastasia has the most to loose. Either she can gain her powers and memories back in order to defeat Keenan or she cannot try and slowly lose the ability to remember anything and die a slow, painful, and mental unstable death. But there's a twist to that I'm not going to say. You'll have to read the story.

Anyways, in The Sayari, the story is about Jaylen and how she has to try and get her mother and the Archduke of the Dark Realm to stop fighting so she can go home. But the story is also written in the viewpoint of her love interest, Iris (yes, he's a guy. I know, Jaylen has a "guy's" name and Iris has a "girl's") who desperately just wants his father's love and respect for him and his twin sister.

But in Night Lies, I have three. The story is really about Xander (although I actually like Lieu's story better...I'm kinda thinking maybe the story should be about her because her story seems to over power Xander's) but Lieu - his love interest, and Faith - his little sister, each get their own viewpoints. I had to add their story to Xander's as well because I felt that the story wouldn't be as complete without their viewpoints as well.

In short...
  1. The POV doesn't always have to be the protagonist. 
  2. In fact, it doesn't always have to be the protagonist who tells the story. 
  3. You can always have more than one person telling the story.
  4. Even if you really like a character, you don't have to give them their own viewpoint if you're already having the protagonist have their own viewpoint. 
  5. The protagonist should be the character who:
    1. You care about the most.
    2. Who has the most to gain or loose. 
    3. To whom everything seems to happen or revolve around.
Elizabeth Lyon's A Writer's Guide to Fiction
This blog.



  1. Great, informative, helpful post! The most POVs I've ever seen done well in a book is three. The series that springs to mind is Hilari Bell's Farsala trilogy. And when you get into Inheritance, you have Roran's storyline, Nasuada's, and Eragon's.

    I like the names that you use for your stories, by the way. Especially Jaylen.

    And I also enjoyed this sentence, for whatever reason: "An excellent question, young grasshopper." :)

  2. Thank you! I read the first book of the Farsala trilogy, but I wasn't thrilled with it. It was really cool, but I never really wanted to read the rest. My mom did although and said they weren't that good. I like how after Eragon, the author decided to give you more than one point of view. I think it added a lot to the story. I especially enjoyed the ones with Saphira's viewpoint.

    Thanks. I love her name too, I think it fits her really well because she never acts like how a lady "should".

    LOL. :) I think its a famous quote from something, or at least, my stepdad uses it alot.


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