Multi-POV Web Serial Advice/Feedback

In developing the plot for my series, I thought of other stories that I enjoy. Game of Thrones, Black Sails, Westworld, etc...all have story arcs woven within the fabric of a large, overarching theme. The momentum swings between story arcs in a compelling way that moves the overall story forward...all while providing a rich, detailed world to immerse yourself in.

In writing Mists of Kel Doran, I see the scenes playing out much like a movie or TV series, with the attention bouncing between a few narratives, each with their own arc, tied to a larger story. It only made sense to narrate from a multi-pov, third person limited perspective.

Having recently completed the first episode, however, I've noticed somewhat of a trend. While I've received very little feedback as a whole, what I HAVE received has had a common theme...too many points of view. It's true, in a couple chapters, there are two perspectives shown, each separated by a fairly obvious break; but by and large, each chapter is from a single point of view, with each chapter in a 'rotation' of 3 parts of the same overall story.

So I guess the question is, does multi-pov fair well in the Web Serial format, or should I consider a more traditional approach to publishing? I set out with the full intent of publishing online, gathering a following, and allowing the story to develop...but if the average web serial reader prefers single POV, I may be fighting an uphill battle.

I'm just a new writer looking for a little advice on the subject. I'd greatly appreciate a few volunteers reading my series to get their take on what I'm trying to accomplish. I received a few reviews early on, but I was only about 4 chapters in and have done some fairly major rewriting to streamline things since then. I know it's asking a lot, as it's about 2 hours worth of material, so I'm not necessarily looking for folks to post reviews...I just want to see, from other authors, if I'm going the wrong way with this, or if I just haven't found the right audience yet.

Thanks in advance for your time.

Mists of Kel Doran, Episode I

NAH has three perspectives and, really, three different stories (I'm also writing third-person limited). I've generally received positive feedback about having the different perspectives and people can generally see what I'm trying for with them: which is having the characters contrast with each other, with each providing context and perspective on each other. They each link to the plot in a different way but they also illustrate the wider thematic ideas of the text.

Multi-POV is more difficult than single POV. It requires a set of skills that you don't really learn doing single POV -- especially in the single connected second-by-second plotline that most serials tend to run. For example, with different perspectives, you need to know when to cut away from each one. Preferably, you'd do it with something dramatic. It's like cutting between plots in a TV episode. As an advantage, though, it allows you to cut around some of the more boring parts of any plot. I'd say it requires much more plotting and outlining than writing single perspective for that reason -- you need to know when to cut and why you're cutting.

I'm not sure if multi-pov does any better or any worse than singular. But I think it might require people to keep track of more things in the story, as opposed to a single POV story. My first thought would just be that web serials trend more towards YA stories than something like Game of Thrones.

I'd certainly argue against changing perspectives mid-chapter. I haven't read Mists of Kel Doran yet but I'd be happy to provide some feedback on your use of multiple perspectives, if you'd like.

All of my stories tend to be at least from two PoVs because exploring different characters' interpretation of the same events is something written stories does in a way that other forms of storytelling can't do nearly as well. There's nothing about the webserial format or webserial readers that makes single-PoV stories better or more popular.

Like Rhodeworks said, handling multiple PoVs is more complicated than writing a single PoV. It sounds like you're sticking rather rigidly to the rotation between the three PoVs in your story. If people are complaining (and keep in mind that the most vocal readers are not necessarily representative of the majority of readers), it is possible that this rotation doesn't suit the flow of the story, causing you to move on to less interesting/relevant areas when the story might benefit from sticking to the same PoV for longer. It's important to realize that you do not have to, and generally shouldn't, give equal time/length to all PoVs.

Switching PoVs should always be timed to match the purpose of the PoVs. For example, one of the main reasons I always have at least two PoVs is that I like to explore character relationships from both sides. For this purpose, switching PoVs mid-scene is not only appropriate, but sometimes necessary. If, however, you are telling a large-scale story and your PoVs are switching between characters that are nowhere near each other geographically and not near to interacting with each other temporally, the timing of PoV switches will likely be much further apart and only after a satisfactory chunk of plot progression has occurred in that PoV.

The hard part of Multi-PoV is that you need to have clear voices for all your characters. If you can keep each of them interesting and engaging- and most importantly keep the *plot* on-track... then you should do fine.

That said... the above requirements are hard as hell to make work. Took me, like, a year of constant practice to get it right.

And as one of your prior reviewers... you don't keep the plot on track. You jump all over the place, introducing characters by some random, nebulous decision-making process when you *really* should only introduce the characters in order of when they matter to the plot. Simply put: no other criteria matters than "will this advance the story here and now".

Defining "advancing the story" can get complicated- foreshadowing, flashbacks, providers of context... so many things can be considered advancing... but that's another subject entirely.

Anathema has had 3 POVs from the very beginning and no one (in several hundred comments to date) ever said they'd prefer a single POV. Some readers disliked one of the POV characters (according to personal taste, there was no trend) but no one thought the story would work without them.

So if you're getting those kinds of comments, it could be that...

-Some of your POVs are less interesting than others

-Maybe one or more of the POVs don't really feel 'necessary' for telling the story

-You really do have too many POVs. Personally I feel the limit is 3, though George R.R. Martin made more than that work.

Thank you, Rhodeworks...I would certainly appreciate your feedback.

Okay, so, here's some very quick notes. I went through the chapters of the first episodes, basically just skimming for viewpoints. Here's the thing. You say that there's a rotation of three and it's done in a rotation but just skimming these chapters it feels pretty clear that there are way more than three viewpoints and it didn't feel like there was a set rotation. As far as the total number of viewpoints, I identified approximately fourteen in the chapters of the first episode. Additionally, the points where you switch to other perspectives doesn't feel well-considered. For example, Taryn's ship is getting raided by pirates... but then we jump back to Ava and, strangely, some new people before seeing more of the pirate attack.

You can't just jump viewpoints from 'exciting thing' to 'boring thing.' In my experience, novels which feature multiple perspectives tend to have each plot follow the same dramatic timing. All plots build up and explode at similar times, even if they're not directly related. This is why it requires much more plotting than single-perspective. You don't get Character A doing slow boring stuff while Character B fights for their life. Otherwise, the reader spends time going 'who cares about A? I want to go back to B!'

Similarly, it's a bit weird that the ship is boarded, then we spend two chapters of time elsewhere, then come back to Taryn just as the ship is being boarded. It's basically freezing time so the plots can catch up to each other. Again, not a great sign.

I feel safe saying that the three viewpoints you consider primary are Taryn, Ava and Amoran and co. So this immediately makes me identify unnecessary perspectives. This includes the very first chapter, the stuff with the 'young boy' who I don't think even got a name, and the times where you seem to unconsciously slip into the perspectives of other characters. For example, in Chapter 6, ostensibly a Taryn chapter, we end up just kind of shoved into the mind of a fellow named Jorel. You have to stick to those three, if your intention is truly for third-person limited. You have to keep the camera on their shoulder and be constantly asking yourself, like, how does my viewpoint character know this? What's Taryn doing while Jorel and co. spend multiple paragraphs talking about things?

While I didn't read in-depth, I didn't get a sense for how the plotlines intersected at all and there seemed to be little that the additional perspectives added to other chapters. You mention Game of Thrones, Black Sails and Westworld -- but those are TV series, not novels. What novels do you read that demonstrate the sort of stories you want to tell?

Oh, and drop all the usage of 'the young boy', 'the girl', whatever. That's for an omniscient, impersonal narrator. Your first three chapters essentially open with 'the woman' and 'the young boy', 'the young girl', and 'the blonde girl'. But only one of these, Ava the blonde girl, goes on to be a perspective character. So why even have the others? You can't just jump from omniscient and impersonal to limited and personal.

For example, Chapter 3 opens on the sandy-haired little boy who is so sad because he saw Ava (what), then we get a jump into his parents, then his sister ('the little girl') runs about and bangs her head. After 350~ words, we get introduced to Taryn, whose first act is to be thwarted by a little girl and then smile and nod like he's some kind of anime protagonist. And he kind of continues throughout the chapter to just not do anything. Why is this guy one of the viewpoint characters?

Just about any book on writing is going to say that if you're doing third-person limited with multiple perspectives, you need to identify the perspective in the first paragraph and, ideally, upon the very first line.

Wouldn't it be much more interesting if the chapter opened on Taryn assessing the girl's injuries, maybe having a joke about how she should watch where she's going, then maybe the father could think Taryn hit her or something but Taryn could either slip away in the crowds or calm him down. There! Taryn's doing things and it shows us elements of his character. Like, it feels like Taryn is standing there, waiting for the plot to happen. This chapter should open on Taryn's shoulder, and not jump around the shoulders of another family. It should never waver from Taryn's shoulder. When we are with Taryn, the text should never refer to Taryn as 'the young man', because no one ever thinks of themselves that way.

Thank you, Rhodeworks...I greatly appreciate it. That was exactly what I was looking for.

To answer a couple of your questions:

I had this issue with my serial as well. Eventually, I realized that most readers would find it hard to get attached to the characters and that the plot was too scattered. Don't know how far you are in your story but I would have one MC and then have your other protagonists become side characters close to the MC. You can involve the MC in all the side character arcs to get the full story of those characters.

If you're going to jump around the heads of various characters, but don't want to go all in on the third person omniscient, just make sure you use scene breaks.

Also, early on, it helps if you stick with a couple of characters just to lay the foundations. IIRC A Game of Thrones usually introduces viewpoint characters through an established PoV before following them. The Starks are introduced all at once before each of them gets a chapter of their own, then Tyrion at the feast the Starks hold, etc - by the time a character takes control of the viewpoint, we "know" them.

:). Sounds like I need to start small and branch out rather than start separate and bring them together.

You can still do that, you just need to be wary about how much you're throwing at the reader at once.

A good example of a novel that starts with a large cast of individual characters who come together over time is The Stand - but also note how deliberately it's paced. It's effectively made up of three acts, each with a different focus: the first about the spread of the plague and its affects on society, the second about the suvivors coming together, and the third their conflict with the villain.

That sort of storytelling requires revision, though. You'd need to at least rough draft everything out in advance, then rearrange and edit scenes in revisions to enchance/maintain pacing.

It might be that you focus on one character, complete the first "episode" of their story, then move on the the next, tell their episode, and so on, until they come together. If you want to cut between them, though, it might help to have some kind of connexting thread - either another character or event, or a common theme - that serves as a lynchpin. In the Stand, for example, the threat of the plague - and its apocalyptic aftermath - links all the disparate viewpoints and pulls them together (literally, in the end).

I have multiple POVs, but over the course of the series, I basically handle it like this.

1st POV (prologue chapter) introduces one of the main characters, and one of two POVs for the first arc.

2nd POV (CH#1) - main POV, does most chapters, switching with 1st when appropriate.

As we get to know other characters through 1st and 2nd, when appropriate, give them POV chapters, as we've already got some kind of baseline as to what to expect, and it also lets you see the differences in how a character is perceived, versus how they perceive themselves.

Thanks Stormy, your suggestion is similar to how I've decided to restructure things.

I'm adding a couple chapters in the beginning to create 'ties' between a few of the main characters, then branching out as their stories diverge. I'm also grouping a couple chapters together to provide a little more continuity to their stories, rather than the rigid pattern of bouncing from one scene to another. And lastly, I see the 'head-hopping' in some of my chapters...but I believe I can correct those mistakes.

Hopefully it will provide a better reading experience. I've got a lot of material to put down on paper, but most of that doesn't matter if I don't get the first impressions of my story solid.

Appreciate all the advice :)