Anyway, today I decided to try a blog about something that I find amazing when done right, but agonizing (for both the reader and the writer) when done wrong. And that is multiple points of view.
There is both a good way to do this and a bad, and I’ll try to help you distinguish the difference between the two and learn how to improve your own work when writing multiple perspectives.
So below I’ve compiled five points you’ll want to keep in mind when writing alternately between two or more characters.
- Make it obvious which character is narrating. This step is extremely important, because if the reader doesn’t know who’s telling the story, they’re likely to get confused. Reading is supposed to be more or less effortless, and the story should flow. Confusion as to which character is which will just slow that flow and therefore disturb your story. To prevent this, particularly if the writing is in first person, I suggest putting the name of the character at the beginning of each segment of narration. This will help the reader remember who is telling the story. If you’re writing in third person, try to include the name somewhere near the beginning just to stall confusion. I’m not saying this is always necessary, of course. Sometimes, if the writer is attempting to create confusion as an important element for the story, it is good to keep the narrator a secret. Just be careful not to let the characters’ storytelling blend together; this leads to the next point.
- Ensure that the different voices are distinguished. Even with just one character, the narrator should have a special voice of their own. If your writing is in third person, the story will be told as if someone is watching the character, perhaps even hovering over them, but even then the voice should be distinguishable. Consider if the narrator speaks formally, or humorously, or even casually. (By this I do not mean what the narrator is writing about. If you choose to write humorously, for instance, this does not mean you are writing about humorous occurrences. It means you are writing using a humorous tone. Perhaps by making partially disguised wisecracks.) Then keep that way of speaking through all the writing for that character. If you are writing in first person, the narration should reflect the style and personality of the character. I’ve read too many books where all the characters have the same voices, and I feel like it’s always the same narrator. So do your reader a favor and develop your characters diversely. It will take time, but it will make your book so much more enjoyable.
- Try not to write from too many perspectives. I’m currently beta reading for a lady with eight perspectives. (If you’re reading this, you know who you are. 😉) Now, this can be engaging and exciting if the plot is widely revolved around many different characters, the writer knows how to move the plot along in a balanced way, and especially if the writer follows step number 2. The one thing worse in point of views than writing everyone with the same voice is writing everyone with the same voice when every chapter is a different person. Not only is this difficult to follow, but if you are a good writer in other ways, your reader may grow attached, or just accustomed, to a certain style of writing, and switching around a lot can uproot their connection with the first character, focus them so much on adjusting that they don’t notice the plot as much as you want them to. That said, alternate perspectives can always be done successfully, just like anything else, if the right amount of time and effort is put into it.
- Only switch point of views when it’s necessary for your story. Sometimes it can be fun to switch things up and randomly write from a different perspective. Now, like all of the above, there easily is a successful way to do this. What I’m saying is to be very careful. I’ve often been reading a book and the point of view will change abruptly, or even expectedly, to a character everyone admired. But being inside that character’s head is boring and too similar to the one before it. I can usually tell that the female author was having trouble writing the male character, or vice versa. Some examples of this is the writing from Tobias’s perspective (Allegiant, by Veronica Roth), and a little snippet I read of Jace’s perspective (City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare). I thought they seemed whiny as contrast to how I expected them, and too similar to Tris and Clary. [Comment below if you agree, or if you don’t, tell me why.] So, how to know if it’s necessary for your story. Well, first of all, if the plot is equally based on more than one character. Second, if one character is unconscious or something of the sort, and you want the story to play through while they’re unable to narrate. Lastly, to help develop a certain character a little more.
- Know how to properly make use of the time being passed. This point isn’t entirely important, but it is something to keep in mind. When I was younger, I used to write something from one character’s perspective and then rewrite it from another. This is very hard, especially the way I did it – basically the same scene from two different points of view. Not only that, but it’s not fun to read or write, and the plot stays at a standstill. The one scenario I can think of where writing the same moment over is when the characters are telling them from different places. For instance, what your protagonist is doing and then what the antagonist is doing simultaneously.
I was going to mention some other things, but I think I’ll save that for another time. I hope these tips were helpful with your POV choice. Have you decided? Are you going to write from one perspective, or multiple? Hopefully these points will help you decide.
Thank you for reading, and please return weekly for new content! I update my blog at least once a week with something writing-related, so if you’re a bookish person, please come back. Also, follow me on Google+ and Instagram for bookish updates and pictures