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On Writing as a Reader

Anonymous asked: “I wanted to introduce a new villain from another villain’s point of view, but I’m on chapter 20 of my story – is it a bad idea to write from both the protagonist and villains viewpoints until they meet each other?”

It is so easy to fall into these kinds of discussions as writer – “what’s a bad idea?” and so on, but really, I’m going to take a moment to talk about all of this as a reader. Readers have much more definite answers. 

If you’re writing from both the protagonist and the villain and switching between the points of views, you should have parallel plots – or two stories running side by side. Even if it’s the villain, if you’re giving him a consistent point of view, he deserves some kind of story or individual plot line that acts as more than just his relationship to the protagonist. If your villain is just there to provide information on his whereabouts until he meets the protagonist, I would cut it. It sounds harsh, but the protagonist doesn’t know any better – why should we? 

Know too, I haven’t read your story. I don’t know what you’re doing exactly with your points of view. I’m speaking generally and speaking as a reader. Really what I am trying to say is that as a reader, it doesn’t matter that the villain is a villain, the villain is a character who needs dimension, wants and desires. If he is given the same weight as the protagonist, the reader will expect it. If his POV disappears as soon as the protagonist meets him, they will wonder what happened. It is a matter of knowing what expectations you set up for a reader and what’s appropriate to follow through on. 

Another thing, if you are introducing a new character late in your story – what does that character add to the story? It can be hard for a reader to become attached or even sometimes interested in a last minute character. They already know everyone else. If they are not adding anything, I don’t suggest including them. New characters late in a book can be distracting and even annoying – readers want to know, “who is this person and why should I care about them?” because often they’re standing right in the way of the end when the conflict really comes to a boil. 

Take all this with a grain of salt. While as writers, there aren’t going to be “wrong” moves – there are some things that just annoy readers endlessly. If you wouldn’t want to read that in a book, I suggest that you avoid writing it. Let what you like about reading help direct you in your writing. It will be how you know a “bad idea” from a “good one.” Only you can really know what will be right or wrong for your novel. 

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