Choose POV Characters to Make the Most of Conflict in a Story
“It was a sunny day. Nothing happened.”
Boring, right? Stories are about conflict. Unless your characters have obstacles to face, there’s just not much to tell.
It stands to reason, then, that for maximum interest you’ll want to tell your story from the point of view of the character who has the most at stake. Which character has more to lose?
Ah, but that’s not always an easy question. Let’s consider a few simple stories.
In The Three Little Pigs, we hear the story from the oldest pig’s point of view. He certainly has a lot to lose. Because his brothers are lazy, most of the work falls to him, and if the wolf succeeds in blowing his house down, they may all be eaten. BUT are there other possibilities? The mother pig may lose all three of her children if they fail to make wise choices, and the wolf might starve if he does not find a way to “bring home the bacon.” How would the story be different if told from the perspective of the mother pig or the wolf?
From Cinderella’s perspective, life was full of obstacles. Her father died. Her stepmother and stepsisters abused her. She had no hope of going to the ball. Then she lost her glass slipper. How would the story change, though, if we considered one of the ugly step-sisters’ perspectives and obstacles? She moved to a new neighborhood when her mother remarried, and her new stepfather promptly died, plunging the family into poverty. Cinderella is amazing–so amazing that the step-sister’s self image is devastated. Worse, her own mother seems ashamed of her, always pushing her to be someone she’s not. Her mother is counting on her to get the prince to fall in love with her at the ball in order to save the family’s fortunes, but she knows there’s not much chance of that. Might she even have a love interest of her own? Someone her mother doesn’t know about or doesn’t approve of?
Can you see how you could change the point of view of a story to emphasize other aspects of the conlict?
- Choose a story you are familiar with and analyze the point of view. What does the POV character have to lose?
- Now pick a different character in the story. Think about what that character might have at stake.
- Rewrite the story from the new point of view.
Be prepared for some surprising twists!