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Thread: How many characters is too many?
September 17th, 2012, 02:50 AM #46
Tbh, I think head hopping it what people use to describe omni done badly - that is popping in and out of heads so fast the reader's neck gets whiplash. Or done confusingly, so the reader can't be sure whose head they are in at any given point. It's not moving from one head to the other that's a problem. It's doing it badly.
Omni feels like it should be easy, and it is easy, to an extent. It's harder to get right though, harder to do well.
Look at say Prachett. His Discworld books are all in omni, and it's something of a masterclass. You always know whose head you are in, and are always aware that the voice is of the narrator (a vital part of omni). If he switches from one person to another in a scene, it is done with maximum finesse, seamless, and it's not just a quick jump. It's never confusing (unlike that book I read where the POV shifted three times in two short sentences, leaving me with a 'huh? Who...what?' feeling. That's headhopping)
September 17th, 2012, 02:53 PM #47
That being said, you can do an omniscient format and not use head-hopping. You can do pretty much anything in omniscient. But you can use a more limited set of techniques -- third person limited -- or first person, etc., if you don't want to mess with omniscient techniques. There isn't one way that's better at handling big casts than another.
September 17th, 2012, 03:08 PM #48
I think Pratchett's a bit of an odd example.
He doesn't use chapters (in his adult Discworld books, at least) and tends to stick to a few PoVs for the most part. The reason it works is he gives each character a distinct identity and makes the fringe PoVs interesting and relevant.
Even with all the silliness and stuff, Sir Pratchett is an incredibly efficient author. The same cannot be said about Beardy Martin.
September 17th, 2012, 03:26 PM #49
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In the end, you have to do what the story demands in order to be told. And during the first draft, you just do whatever seems natural as it comes out. The end product, after revision, will likely have little resemblance to the first draft. Secondary PoV characters may get merged, deleted, altered, rewritten. Entire subplots will appear and disappear. It may change from 3rd to 1st, back to 3rd, limited, omni, or both. The main character you start with may even get dropped in favour of a character that at first seemed minor, but ends up being the truly strong character in the story.
In the first draft, just write what needs to be written. Others will tell you what's not working, and provided you're willing to listen and experiment, you will sort it out.
September 17th, 2012, 08:54 PM #50
Originally Posted by Fung Koo
September 17th, 2012, 09:01 PM #51
If you write omni, read it, research it. Know that you are basically telling the story from a viewpoint, it just isn't one of the characters (well, usually). Give your narrator a voice (even if it blends into the background, YOU should know the voice, voice is super important in omni, even if no one else ever sees it The narrators voice is what holds the whole book together.)
Same as other POVs . Be aware that it is, possibly, the hardest POV to pull off well.
September 18th, 2012, 03:01 AM #52
I think that a story can have as many POV characters as it can stand. That said, I think that every story has to focus on a limited number. I've been plodding through the unabridged Les Miserables. A huge cast of characters (not to mention any number of long side tracks), but over all there were a limited number that he dwelled on for any length of time. Others came an went as needed. Overall the exact number doesn't matter, it is how many are up in the air at any one time that you have to concentrate on. Not every POV requires that you concentrate, sometimes they can be just to provide information.
Great stories can have one POV character or twenty, but there are always going to be major ones and minor ones and a good writer will keep the balance to keep the reader's interest. I've heard a lot of people comment on Jordan and how he started to lose sight of the balance. He started with a large cast and he just made it bigger rather than letting some drop off when he added new ones. I have a friend who went on and on about this. Les Miserables is a good example of keeping the balance. There are a lot overall, but only a handful in any section.
September 18th, 2012, 11:34 AM #53
Again, processing multiple povs is not particularly hard for readers to do. If omniscient were hard for readers, Lord of the Rings wouldn't be quite the big deal that it has been. But if the OP is worried about having too many pov characters, I don't think the inclusion of an omniscient narrator as the way to structure that text is the direction desired. Third person limited would probably serve. For what Erikson was doing, however, nothing but an omniscient set of techniques was going to work. Big fantasy stories or SF stories can be done in any type of format. The choice has a lot to do with how the author wants to think about the story, and as Fung pointed out, you may end up completely changing formats between first draft and final.