Writing Multiple POVs

So many novels today are told in more than one point of view or POV. While adding voices to the protagonist’s story seems simple, writing effective multiple POV stories takes skill and purpose.

Writing Tip for Today: What are some things to consider in writing a multiple POV story or novel?

Purpose

The most important consideration in writing different viewpoints other than your Main Character is purpose. Ask yourself why your story needs this additional POV. If you answer, “to make it more interesting,” think again.

All non-protagonist POVs must answer this question: Does this character possess information, action or emotion that is critical to unfolding the story? By critical, I mean that this character moves the story forward in a way that the protagonist cannot? All POV passages by supporting characters must give readers insight into the story that the Main Character either cannot or will not give.

An example of necessary POV switch might be a story told in first-person (I voice). Readers can only know what this “I” voice knows or is present on stage to witness. In order to give additional info or action, a different narrator would be required. This is why the First-person POV gains in intimacy, but loses in global understanding.

Who’s on First

A second roadblock to Multiple POV stories can be that readers get confused. Whose story is this, anyway? Am I supposed to “be” this character or that one? Adding narrators dilutes reader sympathies for the Main Character.

Your story’s Main Character is the person who has the most to lose, the greatest obstacles and the highest determination for growth and change. This character is the one readers are committed to following, cheering on, laughing and crying with as this Main Character heads for the GOAL.

If you include other POVs in your work, be sure they aren’t competing with the Main Character and the desperate goal he’s set out to obtain.

Pull the Story

If you write more than one POV, be sure that this supporting character advances the story. It’s not enough to have Character Two rehash Character One’s scene. The secondary point of view character must serve the story as a whole, uncovering new emotions and actions, always pointing to the Main Character’s goal.

Each Point of View must contribute to how readers understand and process the Main Character in her quest for this goal. Every POV must add new information or understanding about the Main Character. Yes, additional POVs will also illuminate these secondary characters, but for the most part, their experiences and emotions shed light on their relationship with that Main Character.

Writing multiple POV stories takes skill and a solid purpose for including them. Be sure you have a good reason for switching viewpoint. Keep the POVs separated and moving the story forward. And take care that these different characters’ POVs don’t all sound like you.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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