Monday, February 3, 2014

The debate over the alternate POV story

The other day, I read an alternate POV story - that's Point of View for those of you who don't know. I had read the main tale and loved it, couldn't wait to read more about this character, etc. When I'd finished the novella, I felt strangely less than satisfied. The writing was great, as always. The character was fleshed out more, explanations were given for his motivations. Unlike some alternate POV stories I've read, this one didn't fail, per se, to engage me or make me think it wasn't worth buying OR reading. But it left me with this sense that the information could have been included in the main story. Would it have changed the reader's perception? Maybe. Probably. There are ways to weave it into the plot so that the effect is the same, even if you don't hear that character's voice. Otherwise, I guess it feels like a marketing/sales gimmick concocted by the publisher (even if it's self-published, a story still has to be marketed and sold.)

Now, here's the thing: admittedly, I have a biased opinion on this issue. I tend to write stories with more than one POV, I write in third-person most of the time and I'm self-publishing, so no one is looking over my shoulder to tell me that I can't do whatever I want. Heck, even Laurie, who is very frank about what she thinks works and doesn't, has never said, "Don't include that POV."

In fact, with Only One, she read the first draft, which was solely from Liam's POV, and said, "I wish I'd been inside Jenna's head." I often think that when I read a story in a single POV, too. And you know what? Once I got inside Jenna's head and wrote in her voice, it completely changed the story. If you read the first draft and then the published version, you'd see about 50% of the story was already there and that the plot hadn't changed much. The basic arc, from start to finish, was the same. But the pieces in between and how it all unfolded? That changed dramatically with each successive draft. And it turned out, we really needed to hear Jenna's POV. Until Laurie mentioned Jenna's voice, it hadn't seemed crucial in that story, but it was.

I can see the valueof holding back another POV in a story. Sometimes, stories told in first-person feel more potent if the reader is only in the main character (mc)'s head. Or, in the case with Back to December, which is only told from Emily's POV, there was a valid reason for that. Rob is a famous movie actor. At that point in their relationship, parts of him are unknowable, even to the woman he loves. You see more of him later, in Only One, because you're seeing him through the eyes of Jenna and Liam, his two best friends. But even then, you can't see all of him.

Could I write a story from Rob's POV? Sure. Will I ever do that? Probably not. If I'd wanted the readers to be inside Rob's head, I'd have written that into his story with Emily. And if I'm honest, a part of me actually likes that I'm the only person who really knows Rob Deacon. More importantly, I don't see any value in hearing Rob's voice inside his head at this point. I guess if readers begged me to show them what Rob did, said, felt during the other stories, I'd consider it. But outside that? No.

It's hard for me to imagine writing an alternate POV unless the story reveals things that just can't be told otherwise. With many of those stories out there, I've felt the other POV could have been folded into the main manuscript (this most recent one included).

I have a story, later in the Ward Sisters Series, which currently has 3 main-character's POV, and I keep debating whether I should cut one of them and tell it in another story. That character's story intertwines intimately with the main one, but he also has a parallel story that, for now, takes place predominantly off-stage. It's a few books down the line in this series, so I have time to think about what I'm going to do. But I wonder, what do other people think? Are there times when another POV in a separate story makes more sense to you? Or do you hate those stories and refuse to read them?

In this case, I'm not talking about a strictly alternate POV. Currently, the third character's voice is actually part of the story. But I could easily pull it into a separate manuscript, focus on the other two characters, and tell his part of the story in another segment of the series (with its own storyline). Enough happens with him in the timeline of the story that it would make sense. That would allow me to devote word count to the other two characters and then give him his say separately. It's a tough balance. By NOT including his voice, I'm afraid I'll paint an inaccurate picture of him. If I DO include him, then that changes the focus of the story to some degree. And then the other issue is timing; by including him in the same story, I don't spoil another one in any way.

Like I said, it's a lot to consider and I've got time. There are a lot of factors to weigh, including what the point of the other story might be (aside from giving his side) and there is still story left to write. But in that case, I'm considering a third, MAIN character, not a minor one. We're not talking about a couple segments or a secondary character. And I guess I prefer to write and read both main character's POV in the SAME book, rather than in two separate stories. Every time I read a 'told from so-and-so's POV' story, I think...why didn't you just put it in the book originally? To me, when I'm reading a story about another character in a series, that's not the same as 'Book One, told from Hero's POV'. If that character was important enough to have a voice, I guess I'm saying that it should have been included in the main manuscript. Otherwise, the story should have been written so that we got to know them via the main character. I'm certainly struggling with that balance myself. I'm curious how others make the decision to include or not.

What do you think? Do you have an opinion? Would you rather hear that third (or even second) POV in the main story? Or do you like having a secondary, companion novel/novella?

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