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839 Views 10 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Claudia King
I have finally begun reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series and wrapped up book one. Is the chapter style the author uses in this series very common? I have never read a book that does quite the same thing. I am definitely not the most voracious of readers and tend to take my time with everything I read, usually just a chapter on average a night, so maybe I have just not hit any other books setup the same way.

In general I enjoyed the chapters in this way with two small gripes. The first was that I simply did not like some of the characters. When I would hit a chapter with the point of view being from one of these people I didn't care to read more about it was somewhat annoying. At times it made me want to no longer continue, or at least procrastinate continuing my read.

The second was that often times the characters I truly wanted to know what was going on with seemed to take forever to get back to. This may have just seemed that way because I was forced to read more chapters about 'Sansa' when I really wanted to know about 'Jon', but.. anyway.

What do you all think of this chapter style? Would it work well with other genres? I am thinking of taking some writing out of the archives that I did back in high school and college and redoing it over time and wondered how well chaptering like this would do with the general reader.
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I think like anything, it's all a matter of how it is done. If it fits the story you are trying to tell, and you can do it effectively, go for it. I use chapters like that, or kind of similarly (not with the same zillions of copies sold net effect GRRM had... at least not yet, but I can hope, right?), and readers responded very well to it. So it can work if that's what your story needs.
How many 'main characters' or point of views does yours use? My wife is thinking of one that uses just two, alternating. Not sure how many GRRM had in game of thrones. A fair bit, though.
I often have 3-4 POV per chapter. The storyline is culminating from several locations, so that is part of it, but also I switch to be able to follow a differant character at one location.

I think there are a lot of Fantasy out there like that.

SO FAR, no complaints on it in my Dragons in The Mist sires.
Adam Poe said:
How many 'main characters' or point of views does yours use? My wife is thinking of one that uses just two, alternating. Not sure how many GRRM had in game of thrones. A fair bit, though.
In the first book, primarily it was two main characters (Him from the magic world / Her from sci-fi Earth), so I alternated that way. But in the sequel, I have chapters from several points of view, which allows the development of supporting characters and enables you (the writer) to move the cast around to different sets. The third, which I'm still working on, uses this even more, as the trilogy's story arc, complicated by the second book, has to be resolved. It's kinda like a sonata in that way, and the chapter strategy you are getting at enables you to really scramble things up before bringing it home. I love it, but I will say, it's a lot of work. I have another novel I finished recently that stays with one character all the way through, and I can't even explain how simple that felt by comparison. I'm actually kind of looking forward to my next opportunity to NOT have to keep so many balls in the air so to speak. It can be exhausting and very taxing, particularly as you manage the progression of time.

@ BJ Whittington, love your covers, especially the dragon on the second one. That's really nice work.
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The multi-POV thing is pretty much a staple of epic fantasy and a lot of sci-fi. Growing up I don't think I realized books could be written any other way.  ;D

I tend to use about 5-7 PoV characters (with books that are about ~150k words; I wouldn't use as many in shorter works), though I don't generally flick between more than 2 in a given chapter unless something really dramatic is happening like a big, multi-chapter battle scene.
I like to go with roughly 4 POV characters, but one of them is clearly the main character. Cutting away to others at the right moment lets you add in mini-cliffhangers, and readers knowing information that the main character doesn't have is great for building suspense.
I'm a bit more narrow. My first book had two POV characters, with alternating passages in each chapter. However, that was before I started my current series, which just does it all with a single first-person POV. (Given that it's a somewhat light-hearted fantasy mystery series, it wouldn't work otherwise.)

Ultimately, it's what serves the book that matters. Just don't spread too thin, or you'll find it impossible to really get readers to relate to your characters.
For the series of novels I'm working on at the moment, I decided to adopt the Martin device of sticking to only one POV per chapter. I tend to have about 4-5 POVs per book. The MC gets the majority of them, but the two secondary MCs have their own chapters here and there. Any others are sort of "guest POVs" and only get one chapter per book.
I absolutely love the chapter style used in ASOIAF.  It works so well for a story with such huge scope.  I am planning either a series or a long novel (historical) that will tell a rather complex and seedy story from four different characters' POVs, and maybe one or two more.  I am planning on using the same chapter-heading style to set up each chapter for the reader.
It really depends on the genre. It seems to be more acceptable for your fantasy epics a lá Game of Thrones, but just in general storytelling terms I have a lot of issues with the GRRM style of chaptering. It's not so much the shifting of perspective from one character to another, but the shifting of perspective between several very loosely connected storylines. I remember a lot of times in those books I'd find myself coming back to a place I'd completely forgotten everything about because it'd been so long since I'd been there, and for the next several pages I had to play catch-up and rearrange my brain for the segment of the story I'd ended up in.

I guess the argument can be made that this style favours the bigger picture over individual story segments, but in my opinion a story will almost always be better if you can connect all the threads to create a smooth, well-paced reading experience for your audience.

If I wanted to be just the teeniest bit snarky I'd say: There's a reason this style of writing isn't widespread across all genres. ;)
Not to say it's bad, but it's niche. There are strengths and weaknesses to it that will only suit a certain type of story.
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