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  1. #1
    Wirt's Fourth Leg Cirias's Avatar
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    Viewpoints in Fantasy

    Just a post to get everyone's thoughts on a single viewpoint vs. multiple ones in fantasy. I personally enjoy Joe Abercrombie's style of making each of his viewpoint characters read differently to others, but didn't enjoy the huge amount of viewpoints on offer from the likes of Steven Erikson. In the past, I would write using multiple viewpoints but more recently have narrowed this down to just one or two well developed characters.

    So, your opinions?

  2. #2
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Hi Cirias--

    In my opinion, choice of viewpoint grows organically out of the story. The most famous American single viewpoint tale is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is told not only in single viewpoint but in first person as well. By using such a tight focus, Twain creates a somehow smart-but-ignorant, earnest-but-ironic view of his times... an impossibility if he'd balanced the viewpoints throughout the Mississippi Valley people of the era. But what if it had been necessary to keep us informed of parallel events and actions in different locales? There would have been no choice but to introduce multiple viewpoints or to move into omniscient.

    My current WIP includes multiple lines of action set in multiple locales. Although I'm not using first person, I'm using fairly tight multiple third person to accomplish this. It's more immediate that omniscient, but certainly allows a kind flexibility and brevity that could not exist within a single viewpoint -- simply because I don't have to show how my lead character came to know all of these details. In fact, he/she does not know; and this lack of knowledge provides the principal tension in the book.

    Many, if not all, of Shakespeare's plays use multiple VPs (consider Romeo and Juliet), and great dramatic tension is the result. As audience, we know the few magic bits of knowledge that would prevent the tragedy... but alas, the characters on stage are ignorant thereof. It's a lot like life.

    Is multiple VP better? Not at all. It's more flexible, though.

    -- WB

  3. #3
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    I think it depends on your skill.

    I don't even try using multiple viewpoints because I doubt I could handle it well.

    As a reader, I like multiple third person view points if done well, but I often find I have my favorite characters and get mad when I'm forced to leave them.

  4. #4
    I have a preference for 3rd person, and am fine w/ multiple viewpoints, as long as they don't jump from character to character mid-scene (omniscience only works if I can think like God which... I can't so I get mental whiplash when I read it). As a reader, I've actually stopped reading books as soon as I open them and see that they're 1st person, but I must admit that is changing.

    As for my own writing, I have completed one epic story that needed multiple POVs to tell it. I also completed a much simpler story focused on a central character. When I sent it out for feedback, one of the critiques was... this is just Anders (the MC) story, and if you're going to tell all of it in his perspective, it really should be in 1st person. I can't argue their points, and given the current markets penchant for 1st person, the only reason I did it in 3rd was (see above). I had to agree, and now, I have to complete editing it into 1st person. Which is more difficult than imagined when I started. Which means I wish I'd done it this way to begin w/. Which means... I need to get back to editing

  5. #5
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    It depends on the type of story you want to tell.

    If I were going to make a rule, I'd say that a single viewpoint is good when your story is about a person while multiple viewpoints are good when your story is about an event.

  6. #6
    Registered User Atw's Avatar
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    In terms of both writing and reading I prefer third-person / multiple viewpoint novels. It does vary, as people have mentioned. Some stories will suffer from more than one or two viewpoints, usually these stories have a tighter (and probably more personal) focus, and diluting it with tons of characters wouldnít work well.

    When Iím writing though, I like to use no more than four viewpoint characters, since I probably wouldnít be able to handle any more. And itís a good balance for say epic fantasy, where one often have armies and such marching around.

    Nothing wrong with first-person / single viewpoint stories, of course. I think I just prefer different storylines, opinions, character methods for dealing with problems, and wider view of events in the novel.

    Generally where most of my work is concerned itís rarely about how many viewpoints to put in, but rather who should occupy aforementioned viewpoints.

  7. #7
    Bewildered Visitor Wojciehowicz's Avatar
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    Third person omniscient is what I prefer. One overall viewpoint of the storyteller.

  8. #8
    Resident Gadfly Pugio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    If I were going to make a rule, I'd say that a single viewpoint is good when your story is about a person while multiple viewpoints are good when your story is about an event.
    You know I never thought of it that way but I really like that.

  9. #9
    lorcutus.tolere Gumboot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Window Bar View Post
    Many, if not all, of Shakespeare's plays use multiple VPs (consider Romeo and Juliet), and great dramatic tension is the result. As audience, we know the few magic bits of knowledge that would prevent the tragedy... but alas, the characters on stage are ignorant thereof. It's a lot like life.

    Um... plays don't have a POV. They might have multiple protagonists, but that's not the same thing. The POV of a play or film is the fourth wall.

  10. #10
    Magical Ninja TheIELighten's Avatar
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    I have finally nailed down my current WIP, which has six main characters, to one omniscient first person viewpoint, from a character who is actually the one telling the story.

    I do agree that the viewpoint for each story should depend on the needs of the story. We live for the story, we die for the story! *giggles*

  11. #11
    Creator of Worlds sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    I personally like telling a story from multiple POV's. In most cases I'll have one primary and a few secondaries. I'll change POV on chapter basis but sometimes will have section breaks that change in quick succession - especially during climatic scenes where you want to see the action from multiple people in quick succession.

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