When You Have Two POVs, Who Is the MC?

For my non-writer friends who follow the blog or maybe even some newer writers:

POV = point of view       MC = main character

Now that we have that out of the way …. I read a post on Jami Gold’s blog earlier this week titled “Should Our Protagonist Be in the First Scene?” It was a great discussion of cases when you might make an exception and begin your story with a secondary character. But it made me think of a tangential topic related to last week’s post on revising one character at a time:

When your story has two POVs, who is the MC (or protagonist)? And as a result, whose POV should take priority for the first scene?

I suppose the answer to both of these questions is: it depends.

But I’ll tackle the MC question first. If the story has two alternating, equal POVs, then they should be equal protagonists. I found this concept very well illustrated in THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME by Jennifer E. Smith, which was a perfect book for me to read as I was about to tackle revisions. Each character has his/her own clearly defined issues and desires at the beginning of the book. Even while their journeys are connected, they are distinct. This is definitely the case in my WIP and what I had to work on as I was revising the male POV. However, there might be other books where the POVs aren’t equal. If the book is weighted toward one character more than the other, then obviously that POV is the MC.

If there is a clear MC, then really you’re back to answering the question in Jami’s post, and she’s already handled it excellently. What I was trying to wrap my head around was whether it was ok to start my WIP with the boy POV, and I think that’s because I was still stuck in that mindset that the girl was really the MC. But if I follow my own argument above–that the two characters have equal POVs and so are equal protagonists–then I can start with either character and I’m introducing the reader to one of the MCs.

So if that’s the case, then I’m back to the age-old question of where is the best place to start the story. Who does the reader need to hear from first? What information needs to be conveyed in that first scene to draw the reader in? Which character will have the most impact? I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this question. We’ll see if my critique partners agree once I finish these revisions :).

Have you ever struggled with multiple POVs and figuring out who’s the main protagonist? Or if they’re equal?

Responses to “When You Have Two POVs, Who Is the MC?”

  1. Michael Cristiano

    I faced the exact same problem when I was writing my first novel. In the end, I decided to open with both characters in the opening scene, but ironically they don’t have a scene together again until almost the end. I also found it hard to know which character to query with. I tried to query with both my main characters, but that got messy quickly. In the end, I chose to only query with one and now the whole release with my publishing company (promotion, marketing, etc) features just him. So now I guess he’s my main-er character :/ :p

    • Michelle I. Mason

      Oh, the query is a whole other issue! I have already played around with it a bit. I’ve often heard it’s best to just focus on one, and it sounds like that worked out well for yours. Best of luck with your release!

  2. Jami Gold

    Great post! As a romance writer, I have two MCs all the time. 🙂 And as you said, they each have distinct internal and external conflicts for their journeys. So where do we start?

    That’s when I have to step back and look at the overall STORY arc. That usually means that I’m looking at the beginning point for all those internal and external character arcs, as well as the plot arc. Which of those come first (and yet tightly lead to the others)? It’s not a cut-and-dry question. 🙂

    Honestly, as a romance writer, I usually default to starting with the heroine just because I figure it will be easier for my readers to connect to her. I have a story idea for my next novel that *might* start with the hero though, because starting with her *might* give too much away. So it all depends. 🙂

    • Michelle I. Mason

      I really like that question of the story arc. I’m at a very fluid point with my revisions right now. My character scenes are all divided out and then I’m going to sequence them, and I’m not sure they’ll all be in the same order they were in the first draft :).

      But, due to the nature of my plot, I have kind of the opposite problem of giving too much away. There’s one character who it would probably confuse readers to start with–unless I get to the end of these revisions and decide to do something completely different at the beginning. And I might!

      Thanks for stopping by! Especially since it was your post that inspired me :).


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