As it’s New Year’s Day, I thought I’d talk about introducing new POVs in a story and when’s best to do it.
Now, you can keep characters to separate chapters or switch for different scenes. That’s going to be another post on the pros and cons of that. But both of my top favourite authors switch POVs within chapters, so I’m used to lots of changes.
Starting with the protagonist makes sense unless it’s a prologue, in which case, choose the best person to prepare the reader for the main event. In my multi-POV book, the protag gets the prologue simply because it works best and shows her life before it all went wrong.
In my latest WIP, it’s all single POV except for the prologue. But it shows something that the protag can’t show and doesn’t know about until later. So that one-off POV sets up exactly what I need to for the reader to know what I want them to know.
What I find better as a reader, is to get just comfortable enough in one character before I change to another. Two chapters is usually enough or one if they’re quiet long. I want to feel and care for that character and use them to understand the world and situation around them.
Introducing the second and third POV is not so different from the first. You want to ground the reader in a new mind asap and make it clear we’re now in someone else’s head. If you’re in 1st POV, chapter titles or subtitles are good, and for 3rd, use the character’s name in the 1st sentence for clarity. I know I mentioned it not being as important for 1st POV in chapter 1, but the ongoing characters need to be clear instantly no matter what form of POV you’re using. If they’re surroundings and general situation is different from the previous POV, then use it to transport the reader to a new life too. The whole point of multiple POVs is to give the reader a more dynamic experience of a bigger world. So show that through your characters asap.
Introducing a fourth, fifth, etc. By this point, you should have established the world situation, so you can leave most of that out unless it’s completely different again. Also, with these characters, I tend to expect to see less of, so delving deep is not as necessary unless you want to show the reader more. That’s subjective and depending on how much characterisation you want to show. I love characterisation, so I’ll take it all. But multiple POVs all with backstories can get in the way of the present story for some readers. I’m not one of them. I want these little tidbits especially since some might overlap with the protag’s past or clarify mutual or contradicting goals for the present.
Ask your critters or betas about how well you introduce characters and if they have a favourite. Then use that to help decide if you’re throwing too much information at your readers or not enough.
So there’s how I like to be introduced to a new characters. I want to know why I should love or hate them. I want to question how I should feel about them sometimes too. I want them to surprise me. And I want to know all their secrets so I know when they’re about to be set free and cause chaos. I want to live the story with each and every one of them even if I have a favourite.