Series Issues (Point of View changes)

I’ve decided now that I’m reading books as a writer that series present their own special challenges.  (Turns out the plural of series is series.  Who knew?  I was just going to leave it that way because serieses certainly didn’t sound right.  But then I caved and looked it up.  And it turns out I would have been unintentionally correct!)

I just started the second book in a series and the author’s change in viewpoints really threw me.  Not because it’s done poorly – it’s not.  But because, having just read the first book, I wasn’t expecting a viewpoint change.

The first book was written in third person from the perspective of one character.  (I really hate writing about points of view, because I always think I’m getting it wrong…basically, the book is written with he/she not I and shows that character’s thoughts and feelings.  You never dip into anyone else’s head or know anything that’s happening outside of that character’s perspective.)

The second book is still written in third person, but so far it has used the perspective of at least four characters.  For each character it stays within their head for that scene.  (For the most part.  I think there was one little head hop in one scene).

Having just read an entire book that focused on one of those characters it was jarring to me to suddenly move into the head of one of the other characters.  It’s not that the writing itself is done poorly, it’s more that the transition from the last book to this one threw me.

If both books were stand-alones, it wouldn’t even be an issue.  But because they’re part of a series and have the potential to be read back-to-back I think it does come into play.  It’s something I, as a potential author, wouldn’t have thought about until now.

I think if the author had written book one from Character A’s perspective and book two from Character B’s perspective, it would’ve worked fine for me.  But to write book one from Character A and then book two from Characters A, B, and C just throws me out of the story a bit.

Part of it was that I didn’t know that was going to happen.  The first chapter still started with Character A, so I found myself playing catch-up when the next scene was from Character B.  Especially since B had been in the first book, just not as a viewpoint character.

I understand the author wanting to provide more depth for the other characters. Or maybe wanting to challenge their writing abilities by writing a multi-viewpoint novel.  But, having felt this disconnect from the reader’s side, I think if I’m lucky enough for my book to lead to a series (it’s a stand-alone that is meant to be part of a larger story arc) that I’ll try to maintain the same approach to viewpoint in any subsequent novels.  (Which for me means not dropping into first person POV at any point and maintaining multiple story lines with multiple points of view.)

Having experienced that disappointment with the character change in book three of that other series a few weeks ago, I think I’m really starting to understand how difficult writing a series truly is.  It seems like it would be easier because you’ve grounded your readers in the world and have more space to explore a story arc, but there are a lot more moving parts/issues to coordinate.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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One Response to Series Issues (Point of View changes)

  1. I think it’s definitely hit or miss with POV changes in series. Some work and some don’t. I just finished reading Moonglow by Kristen Callihan and the reason I didn’t like it is because of the POV. I liked the chemistry of the MCs in the first book. The second book focused on minor characters from the first book and I didn’t like them at all. I’m assuming the third book is going to be about completely different characters and I’m not even sure I’m going to read it now. It’s a shame because I LOVED the first book so much.

    Great post.

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