How to handle aspects of multiple POV characters

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Inksword
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How to handle aspects of multiple POV characters

#1 Post by Inksword » Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:28 am

So while picking away at my current projects, I've been thinking about another one I want to potentially do in the future. A story in particular I'd love to bring to life in a new format is bringing a tabletop campaign I played with my friends to life as a kinetic novel. Pros, it's already finished and has unique differentiated characters already for the most part, considering there was five seperate PCs played by five different people (six in "season two.") There's no central protagonist, as every player had their moment in the spotlight and character arcs and near death experiences.

However, there are some challenges.

1) Every character had an intro session that was a shorter session that was just their character and how they got dragged into the campaign. They were really good character introductions, but I can't imagine having 5 seperate prologues play out before the meat of the campaign starts.
2) This was a horror/intrigue campaign, that meant a lot of characters ended up keeping secrets from each other. Trying to maintain the mystery would be fun, but if all characters are POV characters, then the reader would be in on all the secrets if it played linerally through all of them at once or in third person omniscient. There is also one or two characters that never really had HUGE secrets like the others, and I wouldn't want their "route" to seem less fulfilling/revealing because less unique information would be given out.

I haven't quite figured out how it would be handled yet. My best solution so far would be to have a character select at the start menu for what character's POV you want to follow and only reveal what that character directly experiences. To try to give enough replayability for five characters, each one would have their secrets but also (character good at empathy would read more emotions off the npcs, the fastidious character would have a notebook with detailed notes to reference, things like that.) I still worry about having five separate prologues, and finding a balance between the routes being similar enough that on replays people don't have to re-read every single interaction, but also unique enough to reward the players for choosing to replay all the routes.

It seems like a lot of characters to make fulfilling (though I'd be up for the challenge) and I think it'd be a bit long of a novel to hinge on players replaying it five times. I'd be cool with having them exchange tidbits in forums and stuff, but I don't think that should be my first solution. I could lean into it hard though and there might be some novelty to taking that to the extreme and only letting players play a single route so they'd have to talk to other people to get the other details haha.

Thoughts? Advice? Black magic rituals I should attempt to divine a solution?

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Re: How to handle aspects of multiple POV characters

#2 Post by Mammon » Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:08 am

1) If it's interesting and makes for a good written story, then go ahead and make 5 prologues. Rather that than rushing into a story with all five combined but none of the personalities fleshed out well.
2) Perhaps instead of revealing all the mysteries, keep these vaguely worded in the prologues and make the two without much secrets the main POV's. With a campaign turned story, I can imagine the POV switching way too often and too incoherently otherwise. As long as either of those two is present for the scenes of the other three, those scenes can still be played out just like if either of those three were the POV.

What you suggest later can also work, to make a separate story for all 5 to be selected in any order. That should mean that there are four unknown secrets when you first play the story, meaning there's no problem of the reader knowing all the secrets already. That plan might have the problem that the reader won't play the game more than once or twice depending on the story, considering that they already saw how things ended up and can probably already guess the player's motivation from the end results. Also, don't underestimate how much work it would be to write out the same story five times, be wary not to make the task too big.
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Re: How to handle aspects of multiple POV characters

#3 Post by runeraccoon » Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:06 am

Make different POVs unlockables, perhaps?

As soon as event A is done, player can unlock the retell of said event back in the home screen from another character's POV. They could choose to save the game and see the extra, or they could continue to play the main timeline without being hindered. This works especially well if the game is really long and have a good pacing, which means that replaying might be too time consuming. I saw this work in dating sims, actually. It's too tedious to replay all those grinds just to replay with different characters.

I really like the idea of different prologues, though! The narration will surely get significant impact based on the flavor of the prologues. I'm just not sure about how it fits in "unlockable extra POV" method.

I'm not much for a mystery game, usually I finish one playthrough then go look for spoilers to see what's in the other routes. So I don't know what to feel about having to play 5 times of the same timeline to unlock all the secrets.

However, that individual gameplay in the POV is sort of intriguing. Another suggestion would be having different POVs for different episodes before the grand final. So the plot is continuing forward, but the players can get into the head of various people. Sort of like "pass the baton" in the POV, especially if their spotlights are in different stage of the plot. With enough build up of character 2 in character 1's POV, the spotlight could still work.

And how would it feel for the players to experience character 3's near-death experience, but the episode moves forward to be told in character 4's POV's urgent arc?
Pure evil. I'd personally love the suspense.

This could also be combined with unlockable extra POV method if someone's arc doesn't have enough closure, yet the pacing requires the story to move forward.

Anyhow, looking forward to the progress. :>

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Re: How to handle aspects of multiple POV characters

#4 Post by Inksword » Wed May 02, 2018 5:46 pm

Wow, I somehow missed the responses in this thread until now. Thank you both for responding!

I think part of the problem is that I'm so invested in all the characters that I feel reluctant to neglect their individual povs for any large length of time. So that leaves the unlocking and limiting to one POV by default sit poorly with me haha.

I think ultimately I'm going to make all the prologues playable/readable if the player wants, and then making the player have to choose what POV to read that chapter in. Whether they're stuck with their choice and can't revisit the chapter until the end or have the option to re-read immediately if they want I haven't decided yet, but seems like something easy enough to change on the fly compared to actually, you know, writing the thing. The majority of the story would be written third-person distant, getting into third-person limited/deep for the unique parts that dip purposely into the POV character's head. That would allow a majority of the story word-wise to be shared between characters and giving bits to skip through on re-reads, while also giving the unique character perspectives to be mixed in. Hopefully that's the solution that will help everything stay moving and interesting.

Thank you both!!

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Re: How to handle aspects of multiple POV characters

#5 Post by Katy133 » Sat May 05, 2018 8:16 pm

This video essay by Taylor J. Williams has some very thoughtful words on this subject:



Basically, when you're writing the script, think of the plot and focus like this: Imagine a 'X'-sided dice that is re-rolled every scene. Each time, it lands on a different character, showing events unfold from their point of view. Everything they see in that scene, we see. Everything they miss, we miss. Repeat the process until the curtain lowers and the story has ended.
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Re: How to handle aspects of multiple POV characters

#6 Post by shina69 » Tue May 08, 2018 6:25 am

Katy133 wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 8:16 pm
This video essay by Taylor J. Williams has some very thoughtful words on this subject:



Basically, when you're writing the script, think of the plot and focus like this: Imagine a 'X'-sided dice that is re-rolled every scene. Each time, it lands on a different character, showing events unfold from their point of view. Everything they see in that scene, we see. Everything they miss, we miss. Repeat the process until the curtain lowers and the story has ended.
Thank you for sharing this.
Very insightful.

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