important povs

Introduce Important POVs as Soon as Possible

important povsBy the time readers get through your first couple chapters, they will have made an emotional and intellectual investment in your main characters—your important POVs. If they’ve read this far and plan to continue reading, they’ve found the characters introduced in these chapters to be worth their time and attention.

Now… imagine their annoyance when, deep into the book, the author suddenly plunges them into a strange character’s point of view.

This is what happened in a fantasy I read recently, and it very nearly made me give up on the book. I followed the author’s main characters through several hundred pages of adventures, only to be ripped away from them and plunged into a lengthy subplot that featured an entirely new cast of characters. In essence, the author was forcing readers to begin a whole new story in the middle of his book.

Introducing a new POV late in the book (occasionally) works for short scenes if the point is to offer an outside perspective of the protagonist. But when the characters your readers have grown to love are suddenly nowhere in sight, the author risks serious backlash. Readers may skip ahead to regain contact with familiar characters—or they may give up reading altogether in their frustration.

The first few chapters are the place to introduce important POV characters. Coherent framing and foreshadowing demand the author use these chapters to guide readers’ loyalty and help them understand which characters rank high in the story’s hierarchy.

If you’re feeling tempted to add an entirely new POV character late in the book, pause to ask yourself a couple questions.

  • Is this new POV absolutely necessary?
  • Could you introduce this character’s POV earlier in the book?
  • Could you work this scene into a previously introduced character’s POV?

Consider carefully so you don’t run the risk of annoying your readers.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you ever been tempted to add a brand new POV late in the book? 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.

Comments

  1. Ellyny Daniels says

    I found this article refreshing, as I am currently in reflection while working on my first novel and have two Major POVs (they are love-beset Protagonists), with the first POV introduced in chapter one and carrying the next few chapters, while the second POV (who is referenced in the previous chapters) tell her side, and then switch back and forth between them every other or every third chapter.

    By the middle of the book, both POVs find themselves in parallel situations (imprisoned) and the 1st POV makes a hasty escape (in an fast pace action sequence—not a lot of detail will be given on how he is able to escape, its just go! GO! GO!

    Then the proceeding chapter is from a 3rd (yet to be heard from) POV, who is the loyal sidekick of the 1st protagonist. His narration will detail the plot points of his master’s escape, leading up to his sacrificial death while aiding his master.

    Will this be to jarring for a reader: Having the sidekick step into the limelight and reflect upon the UST between the two protagonists while being a hero?

    After this chapter, I’ll resume the 1:3 ratio between the two POVs, but truly feel the narrative would have more emotional persuasion if it comes from the loyal servant’s perspective.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      If I’m understanding correctly that the third POV from the minor character isn’t introduced until late in the book, then, yes, I’d have to say I recommend against it. Readers will have no investment in the minor character’s perspective by this point in the story, and chances are high they’d much rather see the action (and reaction) straight from the protags’ perspective. Plus, if this is the first time this POV shows up, you’re also running the general risk of jarring readers with the surprising inconsistency, since they’ve thoroughly settled into the main POVs by now.

      It’s always best to stay in the main characters’ POvs whenever possible. They’re what readers care about most. But if you do decide to go ahead and include the minor POV, I would definitely make sure to introduce it early and use it consistently throughout.

  2. Abbie Wilkes says

    I know I’m super late commenting on this post, but I am currently writing a novel where I go from strictly the protagonist’s POV for the first 1/4 of the book, then working in two supporting characters POV’s around there. There is another main character who is referenced during that time, but not met till the 1/4 mark and is given no POV till nearly 1/2 of the way in. Is that too late to add a POV? She is crucial to the plot in the second half of the book but did the reader does not need to see through her POV till later, as the beginning is more about the main protagonists’s struggles. She is privy to events the min protagonist can not possibly be present at but adding scenes with her POV at the beginning seems contrived when she doesn’t need to be there till later. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Can you add a POV that late? Yes. We see it done with some frequency. Do I recommend it? No. It’s never going to be the best route to a tight, coherent narrative. Remember, characters–and specifically POV characters–are what drive and focus your story. If you have to fragment the POVs that late in the story, you have to question whose story this really is.

  3. K.D. Mejia says

    I loved the video and completely agree with everything you said! I did have a question and really wanted to know your thoughts. How do you feel about starting the chapter 1, and maybe even chapter 2, with a character intro, but from the narrators p.o.v., and then chapter 3 is the beginning of the story? Thanks for the video and can’t wait to read and hear more!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Although there are exceptions to every rule, I always recommend beginning the first chapter with the protagonist’s POV. Usually, that’s going to be your best hook and will help you avoid what essentially amounts to having to begin the story twice.

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