SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Writer's Room => Chapter Books, Easy Readers, and Middle Grade (MG) => Topic started by: mark.holtzen on May 16, 2015, 09:28 AM

Title: 3rd Person in MG
Post by: mark.holtzen on May 16, 2015, 09:28 AM
I have a question about 3rd person POV. My protagonists are a small crew of characters rather than one person. I know its not done TOO often and I’m wondering how many POVs is too many? I’m sure all kinds have worked in the past, and I know it’s up to what works in the case of a particular book, but in my case I have five in my little band of kids – one disappears early in the story and the other I thought I’d leave as a side character for the others to describe from their POV. Not sure if I should just include all four from the beginning for consistency. Currently three feels like the right number.

I’ve been rereading Penderwicks as well as Mysterious Benedict Society to see how those authors pull it off. Birdsall seems adept at moving from head to head of four sisters seamlessly, all without it getting overwhelming and keeping a distinct family voice. In M.B.S. he does a nice job creating more distinct lines between characters. I'll keep thinking and toying but would appreciate any discussion.

Any thoughts out there?
Title: Re: 3rd Person in MG
Post by: olmue on May 16, 2015, 09:44 AM
My impression is that third person is the most common POV in MG and that multiple main characters is common enough not to be surprising. I do think that keeping it to three POVs is the way to go if one of them disappears early and another is more of a side character. (I remember reading a book with four MCs once and halfway through, the author magically sucked two of them off into limbo; which helped, because there were a lot of characters to keep up with in that particular narrative, but it was also odd to be invested in these characters and then have them drop out midway through.) Three feels doable, though.

Your comment about distinct lines feels right, too. Even in third person, giving each kid a distinct outlook will definitely help the reader keep them straight. And really--it's more than just about keeping them straight. You want your reader to care about them, and for that, the more individual they are, the better.
Title: Re: 3rd Person in MG
Post by: Melody on May 16, 2015, 12:09 PM
I think the challenge with a switching POV, whether in third person or first, is to make sure your reader knows who is "speaking". The most common form I've seen is a switching POV from chapter to chapter. You may want to have a reader critique your story for this once it is finished. Have them see if they can keep track of who is who. If the POV is clear to your readers you should be fine.

Edited to add: And I think olmue makes a good point. The more distinct each POV is, the better.
Title: Re: 3rd Person in MG
Post by: Vijaya on May 16, 2015, 01:05 PM
I concur with both Olmue and Melody for their reasons given.

What does the story require? More POVs isn't necessarily better.

Title: Re: 3rd Person in MG
Post by: mrh on May 16, 2015, 01:15 PM
Be careful that all the POVs are necessary. Through draft after draft you may think they are, yet editors may disagree *and be right*. The fewer POVs, the better.

Assuming you truly need two or three, based on my experience I'd alternate them and make the switches at the chapter breaks. I'd also make sure each character had his/her own character arc and split the POVs evenly. Books that totally smash these conventions, such as WONDER, are rare exceptions.
Title: Re: 3rd Person in MG
Post by: mark.holtzen on May 22, 2015, 06:06 AM
Thanks for the help everyone. I also read Orson Scott Card's section on POV. Though I'm not a fan of what headlines he drums up in the news, he has a helpful section on that topic.
Title: Re: 3rd Person in MG
Post by: SarahW on May 22, 2015, 09:49 PM
When I switch POVs, I typically devote a whole chapter, with the MCs name as the chapter title. Hope that helps.