When You Write In Multiple Points of View
I'm working on a manuscript with two alternating points of view. To tell the story of a community shooting in my WIP and how it affects the community, I feel like I need both viewpoints. But I struggle every time I work on it to make sure that my voices sound different. If the chapter title with the characters' name was somehow left off, I still want readers to know who is telling his story by the voice on the page.
Recently, I was also critiquing a very talented YA writer in one of my classes, and he is writing in multiple points of view. I just gave him the advice to have each POV character describe the same character in a paragraph as a writing exercise. When he does this, he should pay attention to the word choice and sentence structure of each POV character, as well as what each character notices. This is an excellent writing exercise to do when you are starting any novel, especially one with multiple voices.
I am a huge Divergent fan, but one thing that drove me crazy in book three was the alternating points of view between Tris and Four. I didn't feel like I could always tell whose point of view the chapter was in unless I read the title. Plus, until the end of the book, I wondered why the author chose both points of view.
That's the other thing about multiple points of view. There needs to be a reason they are being used besides it's popular. Each character has to reveal a new plot thread the other one can't. I recently read a great book with multiple POVs that I felt was well done and uses this device for the right reasons. The book is called The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle, and Riggle alternates between three female characters: a teenager having an affair with her married teacher, the wife of the teacher, and the mother of the teenage girl. Each woman has an important story to tell, and believe me, their own take on the teacher!
So when you write in multiple points of view. . .
- Make sure readers can distinguish between your characters' voices without the aid of chapter titles.
- If you are having trouble with your characters' voices, then try a writing exercise where you describe the same person or event from different viewpoints to work on word choice and voice.
- There needs to be a reason for all the POV characters. What is each character revealing to the reader that the others can't?
Margo L. Dill is the author of Caught Between Two Curses and Finding My Place, both written in one point of view. She teaches children's writing and novel writing classes for WOW! Find out more in the WOW! classroom.