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How do you decide on POV character?
Posted: Saturday, April 23, 2011 4:52 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 244

Okay, so I've been thinking lately.  The book that I have been revising is getting majorly mixed reviews.

And it's gotten me to thinking.  I think that I've got the wrong MC in my book.  The wrong POV character.  When I got the idea for the book, I got the MC.  He's an airman, a NASA trainee, an only child, etc.

But even when I was writing the first draft I had the recurring thought that it should be a different character's story.  So I decided that's what needs to happen for the next revision.  Basically a rewrite of the entire thing, from a different POV, and losing a lot of the events and even characters from the original.  Corollary to that this book then needs to be the third book of a series.

But even as I make the decision and brace myself for all the work (especially where it's the third and so I shouldn't even do the rewrites until I'm agented and possibly have a book deal for it), I question what's leading me to this decision.

So, how do you pick the MC and the POV character?  Do you always have to have them be the same character?

Jessie Kwak
Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2011 7:23 PM
Joined: 3/29/2011
Posts: 25

I've had that happen before, partly because I got so much more interested in a second character than I was in my main character.

I read a good piece of advice once: Your POV character should be the person who knows the least, or has the most to lose. Basically, whoever has the highest stakes in the story.

For me, that involved rewriting significant portions of my novel. Sounds like you're looking at that, too. Good luck!
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Monday, April 25, 2011 6:52 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 412

I've kinda had that happen before. most of my stories start with a little mental glimpse, like watching a tv show, day dream style. I don't always know who the main character is at that point, but once I plot it out, I always know. Never had it change on me like that.
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 8:03 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 244

Jessie, going by that advice I should stick with the current MC. Because he's the one that knows the least. But the MC I'd switch to has more to lose in some regards. Argh.

Alexander, I always have a character in mind when starting a work. I can't imagine just starting in on a project not knowing who. (I'm a pantser with a dash of plotter so there's no outlining and only a very rough sketch of a plot when I start, usually.)
Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 8:53 PM
Joined: 5/4/2011
Posts: 9

I always know who my POV character. Well, before I start writing, I do little scenes, little vignettes to help me figure things out. But I know whose story I am telling and that person is usually the POV character.
Ellie Isis
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 1:26 AM
Joined: 3/4/2011
Posts: 58

I'd say it's the character who suffers the most who should be the POV character. That character will provide the most emotional impact for the reader.

And I had a similar thing happen with a series I was working on. I wrote an entire novel from one character's pov, because I felt the series needed to be written chronologically. But he wasn't the character who interested me the most, nor was he the one I could identify with the most.

So I wrote another book, from my favorite character's pov. That's the one that got me an agent.
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 9:47 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 59

I tend to choose the character who can offer the most insight into the story. This is usually the main character as well, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. In my current story, there isn't really any main character, but my narrator is the one with the most involvement in the major story lines, as well as the one most worth listening to. Mostly because he is a mute, so his character comes through a lot in his writing. It lets me write in an interesting way, if I use him, and it lets me cover the most ground.
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 4:01 AM
The classic story begins with a character having a predictable life, be it good or bad. Something happens to upset that and the character is adrift, and trying to regain control.

Think in terms of tripping on a hill. You run to try to catch your balance, but have to keep running faster and faster just to keep from falling. Decisions become more important, the stakes get higher, and you have no choice but to continue to run until you either fall or recover.

If you have such a person that’s your focus character. If not, you have a chronicle of events.

I mean no insult by this, but from my POV is you’re not certain of who the story is about you have a problem.

Here are several tricks that may help decide:

1. What’s the story about? By that I don’t mean the plot, because that’s the flow of history. I mean, what does it mean to the character? Is it about growing up? Learning to trust? Being careful what you wish for? If you cannot define it in twenty-five words you may have a chronicle rather then a story.

2. Blurb the story in two sentences, one a statement and the second a question. i.e:

Chuck has met a beautiful woman, who seems to have supernatural powers, claims to be an angel, and is willing to teach him to use those powers so he may help her defeat Satan—an angel himself. Will Chuck and Cassia be able to raise and equip an army that can defeat Satan, who has had 2500 years to prepare for the confrontation?

The story isn't in the plot, it's in the human reaction to the events in it—the struggle to succeed.

What is Dancing With the Stars but a dancing contest? They could take the best dancers in the world and pit them against each other and ratings would be poor because we don't know the people. But place someone we know (or think we know). in a stressful position and interest rises. Give us an underdog going above and beyond what both we and they think is their best, and you have fascination.

Jay Greenstein

Foreign Embassy

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