Suspense and Points of View
Let’s say you’re working with multiple points of view in your story. Four of them to be precise. You’ve got:
Character A, the strong, silent type
Character B, the snarky wit
Character C, the graceful and kind beauty
The adorably problematic Character D.
I would argue right off the bat that you don’t need that many points of view in your story to begin with. But whatever. That’s a fight to pick sometime down the road. For now, let’s say that Characters A-D are just too important not to get their own voices.
In that case, don’t throw one of them into some kind of horrible plight and then desert them for 95 pages. Don’t even do it for 45. And depending on the situation, 25 might even be too much.
Yes, I’m back to harping on that fantasy book I’m reading again – the one I first brought up last week because it involved too much drama.
Oh, the drama!
It just does not end. Honestly, I’m finding myself less and less engaged with the story line and more and more detached from caring whether the main characters live or die.
But again, that’s a different fight, this one already picked. So let's get back to unproductive cross-character cliffhangers…
Forgive me if I come across harshly here. Since I’m still reading the story in question, I'm feeling a little cranky about it. Hence the reason why this argument is going to be so emotional to the point where it’s perhaps a little lacking on logic.
There is a logical case to be made, but I'm not in the proper frame of mind to find it.
Here's the thing: As the writer, you’re not being dramatic leaving such long-winded cliffhangers. You’re being melodramatic. And obnoxious. Not to mention really, really distracting.
Distracting in the sense that I, the reader, no longer care about Character B’s snarky witticisms when Character D was last seen surrounded by wolves about to rip his throat open.
For that matter, I’m probably not going to care much about Character B even if she ends up in a dangerous situation of her own 22 pages into her segment. My emotions and imagination are already too wrapped up in Character D’s predicament.
I’m already fully invested in Character D.
There’s no room left in my reader’s heart to care about anyone but Character D.
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO CHARACTER D?!?!?!?!?!
Is that what you really want to do to your story? Make your readers not care about whole entire chunks of it?
If the answer is yes, then by all means, leave me severely distracted for page after page after page. Otherwise, don’t.
Suspense is a double-edge sword that can be turned back on you, the author, all too easily. It’s not something you can just dump onto each of your pages with liberal abandon.
There’s an art to it. A subtly that’s necessary to make it truly work. A concerted effort you need to make to not leave readers stranded for 95 pages, wasting their time and your creative energy in the process.
Your readers are better than that. Your characters are better than that. And you’re better than that.
If you're going to work with multiple points of view in your story... please, please, please be better than that.