We need a hero: Choosing the main character in a manuscript with multiple POVs
There isn't enough room for all your characters in a good query or synopsis, so how do you pick one?
Thank you to everyone who attended my querying masterclass last weekend at “The Shit No One Tells You About Writing”s annual retreat. There were a lot of wonderful questions, but this one stuck with me from the Q&A Zoom tab:
In order to write a great pitch letter, query, synopsis, or even a proposal, it usually works best to hone in on one or two main characters. But how do you do that when you have multiple perspectives in your book?
Multiple perspective narratives are loved by lots of readers: Jonathan Franzen, Emma Straub and Anthony Doerr have all had bestsellers recently that hop from head to head. And while I am bad at writing these kinds of books myself, I’m good at helping writers understand how to pitch them. Accordingly, we’re going to look at three descriptions for successful multi-perspective narratives that elevate 1-2 people to “main character” status for marketing reasons. These examples are from novels, but multi-POV narratives aren’t unheard of in nonfiction—the main character will either be the person you are profiling (reported nonfiction, biographies) or it will be yourself (memoir).
Let’s get into it.
The Adam and Eve narrative: Identifying the principal two people that all the other characters are related to
Let’s start with with I’m calling “The Adam and Eve” narrative for projects involving the tracing of multiple people backwards via DNA.
Below us sits the descriptive copy for Yaa Gyasi’s fantastic debut novel, Homegoing. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about because that rectangle will do it for you, but basically, we’ve got a DNA story here that starts with two half-sisters who are separated in their youth because “of forces beyond control” and then tracks the different paths of their descendants: