5 Questions About How to Balance Multiple POVs in Your Story

The opportunities and pitfalls offered by multiple POVs are both the joy and the bane of the writer’s life. On the one hand, using multiple points of view to tell a story seems like it makes the job so much easier. No limits—woohoo! But on the other hand, once you start trying to juggle multiple POVs, it can seem like all these moving pieces only make things that much more difficult.

One of the most common questions I receive on the subject is simply: “How many POVs should a story have?”

To which the answer is that there really aren’t any rules. The truth falls somewhere in between the honest but abstract answers of “whatever is best for your story” and “whatever you can pull off.”

However, there are also some more specific, and therefore much more helpful, answers. In a comment on an old post, AZ Ali asked me:

I would really like to know how to balance multiple POVs. I understand that there should be one main character, but how do you balance character arcs? And in the Climax, who should perform the essential act to resolve the conflict? The main character even if it’s not in his POV? All of them together? Hope these questions aren’t too confusing, because I tried asking other people and they said it is completely specific story-based.

Since I know these questions are pondered by many a writer, let’s look at some answers, including one all-important principle that should guide every POV decision.

The Secret “Cheat” Answer That Helps You Decide All POV Questions

AZ asked a lot of good questions in that comment, but buried in the middle is the right question: “In the Climax, who should perform the essential act to resolve the conflict?”

Ding, ding. Da winnah.

Answer this question and you will gain 90% of the information you need to correctly decide all your POV questions for any given book.

The answer to AZ’s question is that the protagonist must perform the essential act to resolve the conflict. Or put even more straightforwardly: the character who resolves the conflict in the Climax must be the protagonist. Structurally, that character is the protagonist. If the rest of the story’s structure, up to that point, does not bear that out, then the story will not work. At best, it will feel disjointed and anticlimactic.

You can use this guideline in two ways:

1. If you know which character you want to be your protagonist, you can double-check the solidity of your story structure by ensuring this character is the one whose actions are central to the Climax.

2. If you aren’t sure which of your many characters is the protagonist, look to the Climax. Whoever decides the conflict is the protagonist.

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Once you know for sure who your protagonist is and how this person will play the deciding role in the Climax, you can build on this info to strengthen your entire story’s structural integrity—by making certain the protagonist is also the character whose presence and actions are central to each of the major plot points (Inciting Event, First Plot Point, First Pinch Point, Midpoint or Second Plot Point, Second Pinch Point, Third Plot Point, Climax). This is what will give shape and order to even sprawling stories with dozens of POVs.

Knowing the other characters’ roles in the Climax will also help you determine how their POVs should be structured—or if they should be given a POV at all. The Climax is where every piece in your story will prove itself either part of a cohesive whole or a random, ill-conceived loose end. This is never more true than of something as influential to your narrative’s shape and tone as POV.

5 Answers to Your Questions About Multiple POVs

Knowing how your story’s conflict ends will give you a huge clue into the right choice for just about any POV question you can conceive. But while we’re at it, let’s  take a look at the rest of AZ’s questions about choosing and balancing multiple POVs within a story.

1. How Many POVs Should Your Story Have?

As already noted, a common notion among writers is “the more POVs, the better.” But this is not a given. Not only can this approach quickly spiral out of control and end up being way more stress than fun, it can also mess with the story’s structural integrity if not handled consciously and skillfully. In fact, my rule of thumb is always “the fewer POVs, the better.” I’ve talked before (in this post: 10 Advantages of Writing a Single-POV Story) about how focusing your story down to the bare minimum of POVs can offer readers a story experience with much more cohesion and resonance.

In short, my first bit of advice is to staunchly resist all those tempting urges to throw in exciting new POVs just because. This is especially true for most one-off POVs, which only appear once or twice and/or randomly throughout the narrative. POVs will shape your narrative, whether you intend them to or not. They should be chosen and distributed throughout the story with care.

Because there is no “right” number of POVs for any story, the decision largely comes down to your own desires for how you want to shape the narrative. Ask yourself:

  • What will additional POVs bring to the story?
  • Will the added POVs be just as entertaining as the protagonist’s?
  • Will the added POVs strengthen the story’s structural integrity (i.e., will they play an important role throughout the story)?
  • And (our money question) will the added POV characters contribute in a vital way to the Climax?

If you’re pretty sure you want to write a multiple-POV story, another helpful tool for determining which POVs to include is to consider which archetypal roles are integral to the storyform. Traditionally, the most “important” characters in a story can be ranked like this:

1. Protagonist

2. Main Character (if different from the protagonist)

3. Antagonist

4. Relationship Character (Love Interest/Impact Character/Sidekick)

If you’re passing out extra POVs, consider the above characters first.

You may also be dealing with a story that is, in fact, two (or more) stories running separately from each other for most of the story until (you guessed it) the Climax. This format may involve two or more characters who are on separate quests, a minor character who represents an important subplot, or dual timelines that feature either separate characters or the same character at different ages.

Once again, the deciding factor in which of these extra POVs/plotlines should be included is how they impact the Climax. If they tie in appropriately at the end, you’re golden. If not, you may want to rethink the unnecessary complications they create.

2. How Do You Decide Which POV Character Is the Protagonist?

We’ve already talked about the deciding factor in which character will be your story’s protagonist (i.e., the character who plays the deciding role in the Climax). But there are a few other considerations for your protagonist’s POV throughout the story.

For starters, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing a protagonist whose POV will be interesting to readers throughout the story. This is the character with whom you’re asking them to spend the most time, which means it needs to be a character whose POV is worth their time.

Not only should the protagonist’s voice as a narrator be the most engaging, but the protagonist’s action in the events should also be the most interesting. A young princess locked away in a tower while the war takes place somewhere else is unlikely to be the most engaging character to follow. In some measure, this once again comes down to your story’s structural integrity: the protagonist should be the primary actor in all the major plot points, culminating with the Climactic Moment.

One of the main reasons writers decide to add extra POVs is because they feel readers need to be able to partake in events at which the protagonist is not present—and therefore cannot narrate. Sometimes this is a legit reason. But if the new POVs don’t add to the entire story—not just on a plot level but also on a character level—then their inclusion is likely just lazy storytelling. There are many creative ways to write around scenes in which the primary POV character is not present.

3. How Do You Balance Dual-Protagonist POVs?

So what happens when you’re writing a story that features two protagonists? Is that even possible?

Most stories will eventually come down to just one protagonist—as proven by which single character ends the conflict. There are exceptions, such as romances in which two protagonists share the story (acting as one another’s antagonist within the story’s overall relational conflict) and mutually end the conflict.

However, even in stories in which a single protagonist ends the conflict, the story may require the presence of an equally important character whose POV is featured just as prominently as the protagonist’s throughout the story. These types of stories may include:

Whatever the case, “dual protagonists” are defined by the fact that both POVs are given equal precedence throughout the story, usually alternating one to the other. Structurally, you can approach this in two ways.

1. Use the same plot points to drive the plot in both POVs.

2. Choreograph scenes so each POV gets its own structure-advancing plot point at the proper time.

In the vast majority of cases, the first is preferable, since it contributes to a tighter story.

4. How Do You Balance Your Minor Characters’ POVs With Your Protagonist’s POV?

In some stories, the protagonist is clearly distinct at the primary narrator and is given the bulk of the story’s scenes—but the story also includes one or more minor character POVs. How do you balance these supporting POVs?

By now, you should know my answer is not to just stick ’em in wherever the fancy strikes you. It’s true you can do this (and heaven knows many authors do), but doing so weakens the overall shape of your narrative.

Ideally, you should include your minor POVs according to some sort of rhythm or pattern. They should appear as regularly as possible within the story. By this, I don’t necessarily mean as often as possible, but rather that they should appear at regular intervals. This allows readers to lean into the story’s pacing and should prevent them from being caught off guard when a minor character’s POV crops up again.

5. How Do You Structure Multiple POVs?

At this point, we know the Climax determines which POVs are the most important, and we know the protagonist’s POV should figure prominently at all major structural moments within the story. We also know it’s best if the supporting POVs feature at regular intervals throughout the story and that it’s preferable if the protagonist’s structural beats affect the other POV characters or, at the least, that the other POV characters are given corresponding beats of their own.

More than that, it can be helpful in choosing and regulating the balance and flow of all your POVs if you look at their placement in your story’s structural spine. List your existing scenes and examine how the POVs are distributed. Ideally, they should be uniformly represented within each structural section (i.e., comprising about an eighth of the story—or the space between each of the major structural beats). This may mean each POV shows up once per eighth (or at least once per quarter), but whatever the case, the distribution should be as even as possible. You’re rarely (if ever) going to want the bulk of a character’s POV scenes showing up in the First Act and then disappearing until the Third Act.

Once again, what is most important is that each POV either impacts or is impacted by the story’s major structural moments. If that is not true of any POV, then that POV can probably be removed without affecting the story.


If you think of multiple POVs as strands in your story’s overall tapestry, you can sense both how much complexity they can add to your story and also how many complications they can create for you as a writer. When deciding whether or not to include multiple POVs, remember your story’s structural integrity should always be the bottom line in determining what to include and how to include it.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you written stories with multiple POVs? How do you determine which POVs deserve to be included in your story? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. I use multiple POVs in my current Trilogy. My story is a legal thriller, and in addition to the MC’s POV, I include POVs of the other major players.

    Naturally, like most writers, when I first tried to use this technique, I did it badly. When I was critiqued in peer groups, the words, ‘head-hopping,’ were thrown at me. Since I had no idea what that meant, I looked it up and realized I needed to come up with a strategy.

    Some of my favorite authors use the multiple POV outline in their work. I studied Jodi Piccoult, and found that she told different characters stories and observations about the same things with chapter changes. Other writers use breaks in scenes.

    I opted to use the scene break between the POVs. I use the ~&&&&~ between the scenes and make TRIPLE sure that the POV is only ONE character’s perspective.

    Deciding whose POV to use came easily because I knew from my character arc worksheets who were the strongest players.

    ~Mustang Patty~

  2. This was a very thought provoking article as I had never considered letting the antagonist be POV. I write the Jane stories in third person because it allows me to get Jane into a dangerous situation then, at the next chapter break, switch to a character who is worried about, or even searching for, Jane.

    It’s always her story, she is the protagonist, but there are several other characters supporting her, and they do become POV when I want distance from her to worry the reader.

    Arthur, the antagonist, on one occasion, tells Jane why he thinks he is right and she is wrong. I did this from Jane’s POV because I wanted the reader to feel Jane’s terror as Arthur is trying to justify to himself what he is doing, so that he can get into a state where he can torture her. (In fact she stops him before anything happens.) However in the next one I’m now considering getting into the mind of the creepy Dr Kent as he plans his unpleasant experiments.

    Another thought is that at the end of TttS Jane had destroyed the antagonist’s stash of nuclear weapons before he can use them, at the cost of taking the spaceship too close to the sun. She can’t get out and doesn’t think rescue is possible. However I want to invoke the DRG (Dying and Rising Goddess) mythology, and one of her colleagues manages an outrageous stunt to rescue her. I wonder if I should have switched to his POV?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Antagonist POVs can be tricky. The character has to be as well realized, interesting, and sympathetic as the protagonist. I’ve read far too many antagonist POVs that bored me. I just wanted to get back to the characters I liked.

  3. Gary Myers says

    Thanks for another great post!

    So far, my sweet spot has been four POVs: protagonist, antagonist, and the two most significant supporting characters. This might result from my own limitations regarding the number of distinct voices I can create and maintain. I often THINK I know which supporting characters will have POVs, but have found they often change as the story is revealed to me.

    An exercise I feel helps me is to write a few sentences or short paragraphs about the events of each plot point in each character’s POV (even if they would not be present or even aware of them in the story). Comparing and contrasting these accounts side-by-side for each plot point helps me to differentiate the different characters in terms of what they would notice, how they would feel, and what they would think and do. Looking at each character’s accounts longitudinally helps me bring out any changes reflective of their respective arc.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Writing “samples” in each character’s voice is a great exercise, not just for determining POVs, but just for truly getting to know a character.

    • Hey Gary, that’s a neat exercise. We should be summarising our scenes anyway, but next-level auditioning them from different POV perspectives is GOLD. thanks. And KM, I love this post. Actually I love them all. You’re GOLD too. X jay

  4. So, with a story involving dual-protagonists (in my case sisters) would it be better to have them both react to the same plot points? i.e. have separate plot points that they react equally to (since they are not in the same place for 90% of the story). The way I have it structured at the moment is they kind of bounce back and forth, for example, the first plot point mostly affects the MC sister, while the first pinch point mainly affects the protagonist sister… when they come together in the climax to defeat the antagonist, they work together with the MC sister eventually being shocked at the actions of the protagonist sister (and it’s also at this point where their character arcs intersect, the one being positive, the other somewhat negative). My question is, is it folly to wait until the climax to make it clear which of the sisters is the protagonist and which is the MC? Will it feel like a betrayal to the reader if the brash, outgoing character is in the end supplanted by the quiet, mild one? I give them equal “screen time” and they both get their resolutions, but you’ve told us before to let the antagonist drive the plot and this is where he’s driven it 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s less about readers “finding out” which character is the protagonist and more about readers feeling like the story has a strong sense of continuity in its momentum. How different characters interact with structural moments will be very subjective to each plot, but generally it’s best if separated characters withe equal screentime each have a complete structure of their own.

      • That makes sense. In the planning and outlining phase, I had a strong sense of which character was the most interesting and compelling, but as I’ve gotten into the drafting phases, the climax and resolution that needed to happen just didn’t fit with her character, and her sister (who was originally meant to be a minor character) has grown to fit that role. But she’s not quite compelling enough to be the main character throughout the whole story. She’s more of an observer. This post (and your reply) has definitely helped me sort through a lot of those questions! Thank you so much!

  5. As a pantser, I tend to want to get into everybody’s business, or at least their minds (omniscient 3rd person POV), leading to accusations of headhopping! Still, I’ve found that, like you said at the beginning of the article, the story itself usually dictates the POV(s) needed. If the story is better told using one POV, then do so. One person’s POV can be either comical or tragic if done well. For romance, though, I find the story vastly more interesting if told through the eyes of both protagonists, and more fun for the reader when deciding which one to root for! In fact, I hate to see the latest trend toward ONLY writing in a single POV. Can anyone say, “I am not a robot?” Another great article, Weiland.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Dual POVs is pretty standard for romance. Most romance readers expect and want that, so it’s never a bad choice.

      • Ohh, I actually love single POV in romance, ’cause I like to keep guessing at the Hero’s* actual feelings. I love getting most of his feelings through subtext. For me it adds an extra layer of excitement.

        I get thrilled whenever I discover a romance that’s written in single POV.

        *most romances are told from a Heroine’s perspective, but I’ve liked the reverse as well (ex. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell).

  6. I’m reading Scythe (https://www.amazon.com/Scythe/dp/B06XH98TTZ/ ) which is wildly popular. I’m not that far into the story yet, but it seems to include “omniscient” as one POV. One group of characters (who I guess are the bad guys) are seen through the POV of characters that only appear once in the story. (I think I’m safe saying that because they get killed.) Interesting choices.

  7. Harald Johnson says

    Excellent post! Regarding this: “More than that, it can be helpful in choosing and regulating the balance and flow of all your POVs if you look at their placement in your story’s structural spine.” — What I’m doing with my latest time travel novels is: I start off each Part (4 Parts in 3 Acts) in the POV of the Antagonist (or Ally). And, because the Protag is 1st Person, I differentiate those 3rd Person POVs by italicizing them (they’re short scenes) so there’s no confusion. Works for me!

    BTW, I just finished Michael Crichton’s “Next” where he has both a transgenic chimpanzee and also a parrot with their own POVs. And those are the best scenes!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Quirky or gimmicky POVs don’t always work, but when they do, they’re usually a ton of fun!

  8. Over time, I’ve learned that POV decisions are among the most crucial a writer can make. In fact, one of my crime novels was bogged down badly because I’d made the wrong choice of POV character. The big issue was Why is the MC doing what she does/not doing what she doesn’t if she knows about the crimes? And how do I keep her knowledge from the reader until the climax? I finally got the bright idea to tell the story from the POV of the criminal. It solved a huge number of problems. In particular, by turning the tale from a whodunit to a more interesting willtheygetawaywithit? To say nothing about the fun it was to write the tale from the POV of the bad guy with all his flaws on display!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Done well, antagonistic POVs can offer a lot of chewy stuff. I’ve seen them done poorly so often that I generally dislike them, but it’s all about execution.

  9. WIP has 2, this was always part of the plan. But as the story grew during its revision, POV 2 actually got a significantly longer time in the spotlight than I’d planned. (And here’s the funny thing, I think POV 2 might be my personal favourite character of all. Now I’m slightly wishing I could have him from the start)

    And there’s briefly a third late into it, because this character’s POV was necessary to complete it but they’re located somewhere else at the time.

  10. Thanks, K.M. This is extremely helpful. I’ve actually moved on from the WIP I had the question about–because of too many POVs–but I don’t think I’ll ever write a single POV book.M.

  11. Hi,

    Great post. Very enlightening.

    I’m working on a series with six women, each with her own book, and conflict. Currently, I’m revising book I. In this book, I’ve used the POVs of the other five women in various ways because I want the reader to hear how her friends support her, push her to change, and to give the reader a peek at the individual characters and their coming conflicts. Their POVs are sprinkled throughout the book, sometimes appearing only once.

    I have NOT given the antag because she doesn’t change as much as the protag. I haven’t given the romantic lead a POV because I see him more or less as a catalyst to my protag.

    However, in Book II of the series, I DO use the romantic lead’s POV as well as the antags POV. I want to create a consistent read for my readers. Have I made a hash of it?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      IMO, it’s difficult to do that many POVs well without making the story seem scattered. This is not to say it *can’t* be done, but I would closely evaluate what each of the POVs is actually bringing to the story. Ask yourself what would happen if you deleted the minor POVs.

  12. David Hall says

    Dear K.M.Weiland,

    Always love your podcast.

    Your remarks about POVs are spot-on.

    And they come just as I’m finishing a book “Oath of Office” by Marc Cameron (A Jack Ryan novel).

    A book review by Michael J. McCann reflects my thoughts perfectly:

    “Consider how it begins. In the first 100 pages there are 25 shifts in point of view among 17 different characters. Seventeen characters! Twenty-five narrative breaks, an average of one every four pages! Even while this sort of storytelling method is common to military and techno-thrillers, 17 separate points of view in the first 20% of the story strikes one as head-hopping to an unacceptable extreme.”


    Reading the book, I got so weary. I thought I was getting old.

    Take care.

    David Hall

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds exhausting. :p

      • Gary Myers says

        It does indeed, but while it didn’t work for David, it evidently did for some. Here’s the cited reviewer’s conclusion:

        “It’s pure entertainment that will keep you turning the pages until the blood’s all spilled, the bad guys are no more, and there’s nothing much left to say other than, Yes, Oath of Office does indeed tell a darned good story.”

        This makes think that either there was some method to McCann’s apparent POV madness, or there must be something else there so good to overcome it.

        I’ll add it to my reading list – but after the pandemic so Amazon drivers aren’t diverted from more important deliveries!

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Yes, I figure now is the perfect time for me to actually make a dent in the books I already own. :p

  13. I’m a multiple PoV writer. I can’t help it. It started when I realized my antagonists were paper-cut-out bad-guys and I wanted to give them more depth. It grew from there, especially when I noticed many fantasy writers also had their stories told from multiple points of view. Using these writers as both inspiration and as models on how to structure and balance various points of view, I have done pretty well at telling a story from multiple angles. The novel I’m working on now has 6 point of view characters. It’s more than I usually do, but in reading your post I think the 2 most questionable ones are still important. One of them contributes to the pinch points and the climax. The other one needs their point of view so they don’t show up at the end as a deus ex machina.

    Something else to consider when deciding whether to add another point of view character is their goal, motivation, and conflict. If a character doesn’t have their own goal, motivation, or conflict, it might be a good idea to consider removing their point of view from the story.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Something else to consider when deciding whether to add another point of view character is their goal, motivation, and conflict. If a character doesn’t have their own goal, motivation, or conflict, it might be a good idea to consider removing their point of view from the story.”


  14. Robert Plowman says

    Hi KM,
    Great post. One quick question regarding this line: “There are many creative ways to write around scenes in which the primary POV character is not present.”

    I have struggled with this in my own WIP. Would you consider posting an article expanding on this?


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I offer some solutions in this post on head-hopping.

    • I learned how to do this many years ago by reading John Blaine’s “Rick Brant” novels. Rick has a sidekick, Scotty, and at several points they get separated. Then Scotty takes over as POV for a chapter so that you can worry about Rick.

      I’ve used this is my own novels. Jane is the special agent, but she is backed up by Ian (who really fancies her but is much too professional to say so) and Annette, who sees Jane as a sort of big sister. When Jane is in a dangerous situation I can make the tension worse by giving one of these a chapter.

  15. This may be my favorite of your articles (until the next one comes along). I’ve never been a fan of multiple POVs. When they became the norm in romance novels, I lost a lot of interest. I get that some folks want to know what the hero (as opposed to heroine) is thinking too, but I prefer that the writer show what he’s thinking by his speech and actions.

    Someone once asked me, “How do I balance the POV of a minor character with that of the protagonist?” I had to ask, “Why would you want to?” She said–as you mentioned–that there were things going on that the protagonist couldn’t see or wouldn’t know about. I felt that the writer should have her find out somehow, if it’s that important. I don’t know, following EVERYBODY’s thoughts just seems like a lazy way to do it.

    I do have a few dual-POV novels that I liked well enough to be won over. My favorite is “The Man in the Brown Suit” by Agatha Christie. But then, we’re talking CHRISTIE. She separates them chapter-by-chapter, and one of them is an unreliable narrator, good grief. A novelist friend is using dual POVs (or maybe dual protagonists?) in her WIP because the structure of her historical novel is to show how the two women’s lives are mirror images although they’re in different social classes. Both POVs are third-person close (and separated by “Part 1, Part 2” etc), and it seems to be working fine.

    Thanks for giving me so much to think about.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I realized a few years ago that, as a reader, I much prefer limited, or even single, POVs. This has made an impact in how I approach POVs in my own stories.

    • I wish I’d read you post, before posting mine. You put it so much better than I could. I totally agree.

  16. Very inspiring, thank you! I was on the fence whether or not to give my protagonist a POV (as she’s a woman I almost felt I was doing her a huge disservice by denying her a ‘voice’) but now I realise she can be just as powerful a character even without the reader being inside her head.

  17. I’ve did something similiar when I had a scene that felt forced. I roughed out a second version of the scene written from POV character’s fiance’s perspective. Looking at the same events as the POV character saw, given what she knows about what’s going on and her background, let me figure out how she would interpret and react to what she saw happen. After I did this I realized that, though the events she witnessed may have been the same as what he saw, the meaning she would have ascribed to them would be completely different. Then, I rewrote the scene from my original POV character’s perspective and incorporated the insights the exercise gave me. The result was a scene that flowed better and had the kind of dynamics that you see in real life.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is a great trick. Even if you don’t include the secondary character’s POV, just writing a scene from that person’s perspective can help you flesh them out.

  18. Tiffany Smith says

    I have known for a long time that my PoV usage is off-the-walls. I read one of your other PoV posts where you said the fewer PoVs the better; sorry, but I have at least five main-character/protagonist PoVs. They’re all separate, parallel plotlines, except one, which is structured more like a romance (I think, I don’t read or write romance) except with two characters getting over their obstacles to becoming friends (instead of romantic partners).

    After reading your post, it dawned upon me that my Fiona’s entire PoV, arc, and plotline could be cut without affecting the story almost at all (and, if I’m being honest, probably-maybe make my story better). Short version is, she’s captured by bad guys, and her arc is about trusting in the world’s Higher Power that he’s doing what’s best for her. There’s very little plotline, and her arc is almost identical to Tiffany’s, so the theme doesn’t lose anything except redundancy. And without putting her PoV in, I could turn it into a mystery-story for the Forgal-Vriré parallel as they try to find out what happened and rescue her, tightening up the narrative without long segments of Fiona brooding. I don’t want to delete it but it’s getting more and more appealing to my sixth story-sense the more I think about it.

    But she’s been Tiffany’s co-protagonist for the last four books of the series! She has her own villain that she needs to defeat for her arc, and that villain IS important to the rest of the story – but I could easily just make the villain into somebody that the rest of the characters can just as easily defeat (and taking away Fiona’s arc doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a grudge against the evil undead that imprisoned her!) but still.

    My story-sense is punishing me for not wanting to delete Fiona’s PoV-arc (although she could easily jump back in as a minor-PoV character after she’s rescued, because she does have things she needs to work through). It would objectively be better for the story. But (no offense) relying on objectivity too much has delayed me finishing this thing by months. (I rely on your arc-formula too much, in a story that wasn’t initially designed around that, so the plot-theme part of the holy trinity of writing has a terrible relationship.) I might just cut it out of frustration (and if that gets the job done, it works, I suppose. There’s no way this story is ever gonna be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be because it’s just practice and I want to move on with the plotline than stick on this book I’ve been struggling with for the last year.)

    But I still have four parallel threads that need PoVs. Tiffany trying to put down her undead sister, Fiona dealing with existential crisis, Forgal and Vriré dealing with needing to work together to overcome obstacles, and Trahearne figuring out that yes, he is capable of taking on responsibility. That doesn’t include Sieran, I decided, since she’s too minor and her problem doesn’t change (she is of the stubborn opinion that she is not trustworthy to make big decisions, because of brainwashing from her former-ish employer, despite being smart and easily capable of making said decisions if she isn’t told how important it is)… but she WILL get coverage in the next book when she’s not so minor.

    And don’t even get me STARTED on the headache that was trying to figure out Trahearne’s arc. This book is messed up, period. I need to move on already, freak.

    Okay, I’m done ranting, and the problem with Fiona will probably end with me taking her out, since my story-sense wouldn’t stand for it to be otherwise (although I’ll probably put it in as deleted scenes, if such a thing exists in fanfiction, to appease the part of me that hates the kill-your-darlings rule.

    Love your blog,
    ~~Tiffany Smith

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Honestly, I relate. My characters aren’t cooperating too well right now either. 😉

  19. Kris Moller says

    K.M. Thank you for this golden post! It comes at exactly the right time for me. I am writing a prequel and struggled with the protag / antag and the relevant POV. I have rewritten the final chapter three times now.

    As I read the article, it felt as if it was written specifically for me; as if you were looking over my shoulder! Even down to the eighth balancing etc. etc.

    One read is not enough. Will definately use this from here on as a guide.

    Thanks again!


  20. Aidan Ryder says

    I’m writing a story in which the two main characters are Death and Life incarnate. It’s rather complicated, but it’s necessary for the story to switch between the perspectives of the two.
    I think they are both the protagonists, because they both resolve the conflict (while being unaware that the other is doing so?) but I’m not quite sure how to balance it… I have a theme for both characters and both perspectives that ties in with each other but they are different themes.
    Will this just confuse people? It really is necessary to write it this way.
    I would explain more but I have a policy of not talking to much about my stories online because I don’t want the ideas stolen.

  21. I’ve used two POVs in my first two books. The secondary POV is used to fill in back-story on either the protagonist or antagonist. In both cases, they secondary POV followed a different timeline that intersected with the main timeline near the climax.

  22. Andrew Kennard says

    One good example of a book with two protagonists (and two POVs) is the third book of Brandon Mull’s Beyonders series, Chasing the Prophecy. The two protagonists leave on separate quests, following the words of a prophecy given at the end of the second book. The characters and the side characters they are each with go through different trials, but they work toward the same goal of following the prophecy to defeat the antagonist, and they both have to deal with making sacrifices for a small chance of success.

  23. K.M. thank you for this great post! Only one line is confusing me. It is the last line from point 2.
    “There are many creative ways to write around scenes in which the primary POV character is not present.”
    What kind of creative ways can tell scenes where the POV is not involved?

  24. Fantastic article! Loved that you addressed this topic. Do you have any tips for attempting to write dual protagonists that are truly equal in every way? That is they both perform the essential act to resolve the conflict, they’re both the MC and protagonist, and they’re equal in theme, character, and plot. It’s just that they’re two very different parts to a whole type thing. Thanks for the article!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In that case, I would make sure to indicate their equality throughout the structure, via an equal (or roughly equal) number of POV scenes and either separate structural throughlines, or shared emphasis within each of the major plot points.

  25. Really informative, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.
    I have no idea if I’m the only one doing this (I’m new and I don’t know any writers) – I tend to absolutely geek out over the characters I’m creating. It’s turning to a problem. I’ve started building character sheets (please don’t laugh) with their levels and attributes and motivations… as if they are part of a D&D session. I’m mainly doing it cause it brings me a great deal of joy (even knowing almost none of what’s on those pages will make it to the final draft). So when a conflict happens, those pages tell me who’s more likely to win, in what fashion, who’s gonna react in what way, or even the way they express themselves due to their intelligence and wisdom levels… in other words, I love experiencing the writing process as a game. Not knowing what’s gonna happen is thrilling to me. Because of that, I have no idea who’s gonna resolve the conflict in the Climax. Because of that, I’m pretty sure, I have no idea which one is my protagonist… as I said – it’s a problem. I could outline it now, and build a skeleton, which I could flesh out later, but I kind of don’t want to. For purely egoistical purposes, I need it to happen organically, I wanna feel it for the first time as I’m discovering it. Am I a lost cause? (you can be brutally honest).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally fine to “discover” it all in the writing. You will likely have to go back and do some editing once you finally see the whole picture. But you may also find that your instincts are sounder than you know!

      • Thank you for the time you are taking to answer my silly questions! You are being very helpful.
        The way I look at this growing jumbled blob of text right now, is the same way I’m looking at the character sheets (thank you for not laughing). I won’t even bother editing it. Let this sub-first draft (zero draft, sub-zero draft?) be its own thing. I’ll just rewrite everything once I reach the end of the story and use it as a fundamental for the first draft, once I know who’s doing what, who’s resolving the conflict etc. I think I’ll have a better understanding of the structure (it wants to fit in), even if that means – the faith of some of the characters changes drastically in the first draft (if he dies, he dies!).
        I realize it’s maybe twice the work, but I kind of wanna travel this long path and use the raw, instinctual level value that I find along the way in the finished piece.

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