Character Perspectives

So, this is a bit of an odd post. Having seen a fair amount of praise for Marin’s Codex, one of the things that popped out at me was how some readers really seem to like the limited perspectives in the book. That is something I want to discuss, at least somewhat. I should hasten to add, all of this is my point of view and interpretation. Feel free to disagree with me, because I know that I’m not perfect! Far from it, in fact.

If people aren’t certain what I’m meaning, here’s the essentials of it. In Ancient Dreams and Lilith’s Shadow, I wrote the stories from the perspectives of many characters. Sometimes these are minor characters, often major. In Marin’s Codex, aside from the prologue and epilogue, the entire book is written from the perspective of Emonael or Marin, with no other points of view involved.

The thing is, some people don’t like the multiple perspectives. Some people love them. In the case of Ancient Dreams, I wrote that way because it was the way I have largely written for years, save that I didn’t go hopping from one character to the next in the same scene. The other reason for this in that particular series was because with Sistina’s immobility, otherwise many things that happened in the book would come literally out of nowhere, and be considered deus ex machina by many readers. I felt it was necessary, and still do.

On the other hand, Lilith’s Shadow was different in that I was simply editing and re-writing an older story for Born a Queen, which used my older writing style. This was not necessarily something that improved the book, I’ve come to realize. What might have happened doesn’t matter, though. The book we have is the book we have. Down with the Queen isn’t going to change this, because I already started the series the way I did. If I choose to start a new series with the same characters, I may choose to alter my approach. We’ll see at that point in time.

Now then, Marin’s Codex used a different style entirely, focusing on Emonael and Marin so heavily, and some of you may wonder why I chose not to use other perspectives. The simple answer is that for the story I was telling, I felt that other perspectives would hurt the story. This was about Emonael and Marin, no one else. To understand them I had delve deep into who the characters were, and that meant focusing on them more. This allows readers to get a deeper understanding of each character, and I think this may be where the different reactions of readers come into play. Some people look for the emotional connection, and it’s hard to create with the perspective of Ancient Dreams and Lilith’s Shadow.

At this point, some of you may be wondering what this might mean for my future projects. The simple answer is… I don’t know. I find that, overall, my writing style and methods are drifting more toward the style of Marin’s Codex. I expect that Through the Fire and Sisters of Radiance will be more along the style of it, at least. Other projects will vary based on what I feel I need for the story.

Really, that’s what drives me in the end. I do what I think is most important for the story.

13 thoughts on “Character Perspectives

  1. Just a grammar FYI its ‘deus ex machina’ not ‘dues ex machina’. Anyway. I love your books, both styles, I’ve read and reread them all at least twice. I love how you switch between the characters. It gives a much better understanding of the world and the story. Don’t get me wrong I liked how Marin’s codex focused on her and emonael but I only enjoyed it so much because I already had a basic understanding of the world that ancient dreams gave me. I think that whenever you create a new world write it like you always have, if you think a character needs more focus write it as a side story like Marin’s. Someone will always be unhappy no matter what you do, its the nature of humanity. But no matter what those with sticks up their butts say know that those of us who love your stories will always be watching and waiting for your next one.

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  2. *sighs* Spell-check told me it was dues. Might I say that Chrome’s spell-check isn’t the best? I’ll fix that momentarily.

    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the books, and I fully intend to keep writing however I feel works best for a particular story.

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  3. I think multiple perspectives are fine so long as you keep it clear who’s perspective it is. In read books with 15+ regular perspectives that was still clear and a good book. It’s mostly a matter of understanding who the one speaking is and keeping everything comprehensive.

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  4. I think you’re right. I try to keep it relatively clear within a few sentences whose perspective it is, without necessarily putting a caption of whose head we’re in this time. I always found those annoying when I read books… but I may need to think on that possibility.

    Back to writing, though!

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  5. A good method I saw was to use different pictures and marks, such as the symbol you use to separate sections of a chapter, depending on who’s perspective it is. It was not intrusive like slapping a name in the title but made it clear who was speaking of you were confused.

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  6. I think I’ve posted about this on your plot before, but I’ll just repeat? my opinion: I’m not the biggest fan of multi-POV, but usually that’s down to “one POV interests me, the others not so much”. In your novels, that’s not so much an issue, as the typical approach of multi-POV also means genuinely separate plot strings. So, for example, Arya POV is currently on a quest for vengeance, and Daenarys plays with dragons half-way across the globe. Although they are loosely connected and will maybe cross paths at some point, right at the start they have nothing at all to do with each other. Both have their own agenda and their own story and either POV could live without the other: if I don’t care about dragons, I can skip all that and still understand what’s going on with Arya.

    But in Ancient Dreams it’s much more (it’s of course a matter of nuance and not one with clear separation) “one story told from multiple perspectives”. This is not quite the same approach. If I skip chapters there, because one POV doesn’t interest me, I’ll probably be lost, because they all string into each other (except perhaps for the bad guy good division).

    On the plus side, this reduces the issue of “I don’t care about dragons, I only want to see vengeance quests” – since it’s all one story, I either like that one or I don’t (in which case I won’t read the novel anyway). It depends less on the individual characters. On the downside, this makes the POV changes feel arbitrary and, I have to admit, sometimes a bit cheap (in the “well, it’s difficult narrating this from perspective X, so I’ll just tell it from perspective Y!” – I’m sure there’s some literature experts somewhere who can explain why this is maybe not good, but just going by personal reading feeling it’s kinda in the same box as cliffhangers, overused tropes, and, yeah, deus ex machina moments and so on). Also, perhaps, because more likely than not with x quickly switching POVs you’ll have real trouble giving each character a distinctive voice, making them all kinda same-ish.

    So, yeah, I do think – even if it maybe seems more troublesome and constrained – that novels should try to stick to POVs that really matter. And then give those depths, interesting character developments, clear narrative voices etc. And maybe sometimes that’s just one POV, and sometimes it’s two or three, and sometimes even ten or however many, but I do think it’s one of the central questions to decide on how to go about writing a book and making sure that it’s also actually good. I don’t think it’s the type of thing that should be decided on a scene-by-scene/chapter basis, but otherwise it’s not so much a question of quantity of POVs than one of quality of POVs, which is kinda what you say, so I guess we agree. Kind of. ^^

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  7. With Through the Fire in particular, we’re going to be focusing even more on one character than in Marin’s Codex, I know. Now, there are going to be some other points of view, but for the story I have in mind that’s somewhat necessary. It’s going to be interesting to see how it comes about. Sisters of Radiance is much more the dual point of view situation that Marin’s Codex came from.

    But yes, I think you and I are similar in many ways, even though I obviously like multiple POV more often, but only when it contributes to the story. As an example… well, let’s use the Wheel of Time.

    I liked Rand. I liked a couple of other minor characters. By the time I was late in the series, I was getting pissed off because it felt like 99% of the book was focusing on the other characters, not the plot on the characters I liked. With both Spells of Old and Halls of Power, I was starting to get frustrated at times because Sistina couldn’t move. I wanted her in the story more, yet I couldn’t figure out a way how at times. It’s one of the reason I’m determined not to create an immobile character like Sistina in the future. It made it very hard for me to keep the focus where I wanted it.

    Okay, enough rambling. I need to work on Down with the Queen some more.

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  8. For me, Marin’s story is pretty much done. Her time as an angel or demon is… uninteresting to me as a story. I don’t want to humanize being one of them too much, especially being a demon, and there aren’t any specific events I find terribly interesting.

    Now, if you’re talking about Sistina, her future, and Emonael’s last, cryptic lines… those may one day get additional stories. Not a story centering on Sistina as a main character, most likely, but stories involving or surrounding her. A pre-prequel about Marin’s mundane life of research might be possible as well, but I make no promises. I want to write about stories that excite me, in the end.

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  9. I can understand wanting to keep it interesting. The story teller in me wants to know how and why. The big WTF happened between books 4 and 1. Obviously I love the series, you have a way of making me care about your characters and that care is left wondering. And I think it’s more of how she got there than what she did while there. Totally awesome having the 4th from emonaels point of view. My mind may be left eternally hoping but hope I shall.

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  10. Things like how did Marin become an angel and why. What did she do as an angel and how was she captured and why. As far as interest, all of it. What did Emoneal do to those who caused Marin’s death and how she became a God. And thank you for taking the time to respond to a nosey old lady with lots of questions.

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  11. So, since I doubt I’m going to write a story about it, I’ll give a vague overview of answers. I may one day write a story, so some details may change, but the essentials have been set in stone for some time. Some aspects of the following could be seen as spoilers for Ancient Dreams, but I think that it wouldn’t make much difference.

    Marin was a devout worshiper of Balvess, and her work researching magic was something that pleased him greatly, so upon reaching the afterlife she immediately became an angel, one of his most valued servants. She wished to live up to his expectations, so trained and learned more, including some of the art of enchanting, and was eventually bestowed the holy weapon of Balvess and became his loyal champion.

    Kathyria was the Demon Queen of Chains of the era, and she wanted a loyal second in command. The problem with most demons is that they aren’t terribly loyal, so she set upon the idea of capturing a loyal, powerful servant of a deity of light and corrupting them. Marin simply had the misfortune of being the target she selected, and they attacked a temple of Balvess when she was near to draw her into a trap.

    As for what Emonael did… much of it was quiet and boring. A noble’s carriage near the sea hit by a gust of wind at the wrong moment and launched over the edge of a cliff, a horse starting at an unexpected sound and kicking a mage in the head, a bit of poison in the right glass… she essentially wiped out the entire group who she blamed for Marin’s death within a decade, making almost all of it appear to be chance and happenstance. With such an unstable government, she encouraged a few of the nobles who weren’t as loyal to defect to other nations, and when the first seceded, others followed suit. Then it was the work of decades wiping out records of the nation one by one.

    Was it fire and fury? No. That would merely serve to sear those she wished to erase into the annals of history. She wished for them to be forgotten, and what better way than to make them one of the countless kingdoms which died through misfortune and mis-management? And with her spheres of influence and original copies of Marin’s Codex, it was all too easy for Emonael to gain worshipers of her as a goddess of knowledge. It didn’t take much work, with as powerful of mantles as she possessed.

    Also, don’t worry about asking questions. If I don’t want to answer, I’ll say as much. ^_^

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