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Thread: How many characters is too many?
September 14th, 2012, 01:57 PM #31
Sorry if it has been mentioned, I just skimmed, but it would also dependent on scene/context. Someone like Steven Erikson who is weaving this gargantuan epic history has so many characters it truly is astonishing. In certain sequences he jumps from head to head to head to head to head to head to head you get the point, but always when there is a good reason for it (like seeing a cataclysmic event or whatever through a number of differing POVs so the reader gets a multifaceted view of whatever is going on).
Martin gives each POV its own chapter so it is relatively easy to keep track of stuff (much easier than Erikson at any rate, who often can start new sequences without revealing who we are supposed to "look through").
Personally I think the more, the merrier
September 14th, 2012, 04:34 PM #32
Erikson uses a third person omniscient format where his omniscient narrator can flick through viewpoints. Martin uses third person limited, keeping tight on one pov character per chapter. So that's part of it. If you do feel you need to have a lot of viewpoints on events in the story, third person omniscient can be a very useful technique for delivering multiple pov's quickly.
September 14th, 2012, 07:12 PM #33
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Hmm...I thought I posted in this thread earlier.
As long as the characters are interesting, I'll enjoy the book. How many characters did Sanderson use in Way of Kings?
I do hate when it takes a dozen chapters before an author goes back to a previous pov. That's just annoying.
September 14th, 2012, 10:12 PM #34
I think the best way to answer the question is with another question.
Does adding more characters confuse the story to readers by blurring the path too much?
And, does removing a character or characters clear up your story so readers follow it easier?
These questions will help to gauge the proper answer.
September 15th, 2012, 12:54 PM #35
September 15th, 2012, 05:09 PM #36
September 15th, 2012, 05:14 PM #37
September 15th, 2012, 05:14 PM #38
I am asking these questions to help new writers to have a strategy to fix a problem a writer may come across and needs help to solve.
September 15th, 2012, 05:55 PM #39
I don't think it is just a matter as 'as good as the author'
There are other considerations
The scope of the story
Whether you 'need' that POV - is it just gratuitous? Filler? There because you think they are cool/Or are they there because they need to be for the story you are telling?
Some stories work better as single POVs and some don't - it depends on the story. And, yes, the author that handles it
It's a whole complex mass to look at.
September 15th, 2012, 06:00 PM #40
September 15th, 2012, 11:28 PM #41
September 16th, 2012, 06:20 AM #42
September 16th, 2012, 11:34 AM #43
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When posters start to nitpick other's posts a thread is tottering on its last legs.
September 16th, 2012, 01:56 PM #44
Soooo, back to the thread...
This is something I was very guilty of in my earlier stuff, which I've now trained myself out of to the extent that I now only write in either third person limited or first person. How do you tell where the line is between an effective omniscient POV and "head hopping"?
September 16th, 2012, 03:13 PM #45
What you are talking about, though, is how do you handle multiple pov technique effectively and that depends first on whether you want to use it and have an omniscient narrator approach. You may not -- it may not work with your eventual style preferences. If you do, there are many uses for it. You can provide several points of view of say a big action scene like a battle without inserting section breaks in between them as you would do if you are using third person limited. That gives you a more seamless multi-person, multi-camera perspective. Multiple povs can also work well with a two person conversation in which you get both people's takes on a conversation in the same section. So, for instance, if you had a negotiation scene between a human and an alien, giving both their perspectives in the scene would allow readers to understand how they are analyzing what's been said and provide a lot of info beyond the dialogue, or beyond having one pov and then having to have the other pov provide info in flashback memory later. You could show how the two characters are completely misunderstanding each other as they talk. So for some purposes multiple pov can be a faster, more flowing narrative because it doesn't require the section breaks and big announcement therein of a change of pov.
One of the books I'm reading at the moment is Ari Marmell's The Goblin Corps and he uses omniscient multiple pov to be able to do big action scenes in which there are multiple characters in different locales or positions, specifically his squad of creatures. The narrative will ping pong, so if one character is attached to a rope lowered into a hole and others are up top holding the rope and a third is checking the horizon, he can just switch between them to integrate the whole scene. We get to know the characters just as well -- better in a sense since we're in all of their heads, not just a smaller segment of them, but he doesn't have to build separate action arcs for all of them with chapter and section breaks to do that. So it's an effective technique for what he's doing and omniscient techniques like multiple pov's are often used for satire because they can help in setting up a lot of action and humor aspects.
Human beings are perfectly able to process this info in text, in the same way that they can process jump cuts and split screens. The biggest issue is just making clear whose head you're in when you switch pov, which is done in relatively few words. You're just using the words instead of a section break to note pov change for them. Some readers, though, don't like the effect the technique produces. They just don't. That is, though, if they notice that you have it. A lot of people read third person omniscient narratives with omniscient narration and/or multiple pov's in a scene and they simply process the info without noticing the structure. I've had numerous conversations with people about omniscient texts they've read and liked that they're stunned to hear have evil head-hopping or an omniscient narrator, (or even a collective omniscient narration "we.") We are all very good at processing text and pov. How often you switch from one character to another involves what info you are providing, your goals for that section, what sort of pacing and action you're having, etc., so it's one of the many things that authors have to decide.
The OP, however, I don't think was concentrating on multiple pov so much as how many pov characters. And these questions are all related -- how many pov characters do you need for your story goals, how many times do you switch in a scene under multi pov for your story goals, etc. If Princeroth has six main characters whose viewpoint is tugging for attention (plus the occasional view from an antagonist,) it's not inherently unmanageable and can be done in third person limited format. But, depending on the narrative, an author might not want to limit pov switches to every chapter -- that may be too long and require too many extra chapters. So section breaks for the switch in perspective -- those couple of blank lines -- might be a more effective way to go, with more than one pov in each chapter. Chapter and section breaks can be used in omniscient formats as well to shift pov.