M is for … Multiple Viewpoints

Writing a novel from multiple viewpoints (or POVs) is not for the faint-hearted.

Some readers hate it and there are many writers who hate the idea of it also.

However, plenty of famous authors have nailed the technique. Such as Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and even the renowned George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Even so, there’s the very real risk that you’ll have readers throwing the book up in despair, dizzy from juggling the different personalities and motivations.

Courting Danger is told from the viewpoint of 4 characters, and therefore much will hang on the way I present the change from one person to another. I’ve read a lot about how to do it – and I’ll admit, I didn’t follow all the advice either. Not because I think I know better, but simply because some of the tips that I’ve listed below didn’t suit my story.

That aside, if you fancy the challenge, here’s some of the most common advice I found:

1 – Does your story make sense from multiple points of view? The danger here is that without a single main character to root for, the reader may become disinterested because of a more global awareness of all of the characters, and their needs and wants. You risk losing that special relationship of the reader with a character he can relate to if you spread him too thinly.

2 . You cannot now – at any point – become the all-knowing narrator. You can’t know what another character is feeling or thinking while you’re in the head of someone else. It’s not called limited POV for nothing.

3. Each of your viewpoint characters needs a unique place in your novel. They must be distinct characters that have a purpose for being in the story and are used to narrate the story. Keep their purpose clear throughout so as not to confuse the reader.

4. Each character whom you’ve given a point of view must have his or her own arc. This means the character should have a conflict, whether external, internal or both, and a resolution.

5 . Instead of breaking point of view mid chapter and confusing your reader, consider devoting one chapter to each point of view. This is where I took a different path, as Courting Danger sometimes tells the same scene from a different character’s perspective and I’ve chosen to make the scene the chapter. (Oh dear – am I doomed?)

6. Don’t tell the same scene from each character’s point of view. (Yep, I’m doomed) It is suggested that this slows down your story and doesn’t move it forward.

7. Create an individual voice for each character. Each character should have a different outlook on his or her circumstances, and a different way of self-expression.

8. And, finally – it’s not an easy style to write, and definitely not always well received, but it can be a clever and satisfying method of storytelling.

Well, I’m really glad I decided to write on this topic, because I’m now convinced it’s all been a huge waste of time.

Time will tell, but for now I’m going to go and hide in the corner and debate with myself why I ever thought I could do this.

Thanks for reading 🙂


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