Friday, October 28, 2016

Writing Multiple Points of View

When I did the One Year Adventure Novel in high school, one of the rules was that my novel must be written in first-person, with one perspective. At first, that felt incredibly limiting. I had never written first-person before; I wasn't sure I would like it. However, as the wonderful Mr. S explained, limits help boost creativity. First-person would help us young writers focus more on the story.

Fast forward, and now I've written two other main stories in first-person: Through Time, my Beauty and the Beast novella, and Truth in Space, my journal-entry project that I posted here a while back. I also find myself favoring it for flash fiction.There's something really satisfying about writing in first-person.

Writing Multiple POV

Nonetheless, not all stories are meant to have only one viewpoint.

Raiders' Rise, my current project, had two different points of view in the first draft; now that has been expanded to four. Sometimes a story is too broad to be filtered through only one perspective. When that's the case, there are some things to consider:

  • Each perspective exists for its own purpose – Each character is telling a different side of the story, combining them into a multi-sided prism that it is a fuller conception of the story's reality. So, when you're looking at whose perspective to write from, consider why you should show their perspective. Sometimes it's just to break free from one character's limited experience; that's fine. Sometimes it's to show something happening outside of another character's experience; that works, too. In Raiders' Rise, Zana's perspective was the first one I conceived of. The story, in some ways, still revolves around her. Gavin gives perspective on Zana, but he also has his own story to tell. There's another half to the story, though, and it occurs outside of Zana's view. Thus my two new viewpoints tell that part. They each add color and tell another part of the story.
  • Each perspective should feel different – This is one of the things I struggle with sometimes, honestly. I have a habit of writing each character's perspective the way I would see or say it. But they're not me. Each character is unique and should have his or her own voice. Each character has a background, an upbringing, a perspective on the world. Each one is a little different. These differences contribute to them noting different things, speaking differently, acting differently. So, Gavin's voice will differ dramatically from Zana's, in part because of the gender difference, but it will also differ from Davian, my other male perspective, because Gavin is a sailor with a whole boatload of trauma in his past and Davian is a crown prince with a huge weight of responsibility on his shoulders. The words I give them, the details they notice, that will be distinct and different.
  • Each perspective has scenes it needs to show and scenes it doesn't – Choosing whose perspective to show a scene from is integral to the way the scene plays out. Sometimes you want a passive observer; usually you need an active participant. Maybe one character's emotional filter will be more impactful here; perhaps a different character would view this scene more distantly. Sometimes you want to show the same scene from two different perspectives, each filling in details that the other missed. Whoever you're writing as at a specific point should be a deliberate choice, a recognition of whose voice will tell this part best, who will be most impacted, and who needs to be where.

So, let's try an exercise. In the comments, write me the following scene from two perspectives:

The year is 2078. A detachment from Earth is on a mission to colonize Lunar Vista, the first planet outside the Milky Way. Now they're landing. What happens?


  1. I love multiple POVs in stories! As long as they're done in a clear fashion, that is. I found myself seriously confused while reading the Fifth Wave. But most of the time, multiple POVs make a story for me.

    I'll do the exercise in the next couple of posts.

    1. Clarity is definitely important! I've never read Fifth Wave, so I wouldn't know. But I have certainly experienced unclear POV. Not fun!

  2. * * *

    Aboard the E.T.E.S Pertempto

    "Sorscha T. Galway", she wrote, admiring the fine lines the black ink made on the smooth white pages of her journal. She couldn't help but take pride in the lovely possession- her father's last gift to her before bidding goodbye on at the Extra-Terrestrial Exploration Society port back in Agesten. "Don't put anything too embarrassing down though," he had told her. "I fully intend to read every page of it when I meet you and your mother next."
    Sorscha fingered the embossed leather spine of the journal, her feasting her eyes on its beauty. These days most people kept their logs electronically, if at all. But somehow, she felt a physical one was more appropriate, given the circumstances. In the ancient days, the settlers who entered America had written on parchments and rough, homemade books if they could get them. So wasn't it right that she, as a modern-day settler, should honor their memories with the tradition?
    Tapping her pen to her chin, Sorscha sought for the right words to put down first. She ran through several possible opening lines, but eventually closed the book and put it away. Best not to force it- those lovely pages didn't deserve to be spoiled by a poorly crafted sentence. She would wait until inspiration took her.
    "Ladies and Gentlemen," the loudspeaker boomed suddenly, "It is now ten-o-clock A.M., by Earth time, East Central. This is your captain speaking. On behalf of myself and the rest of your crew, we invite you to the Main Observation Deck to watch as we come up on our very first sunrise of our new home... Lunar Vista!"
    Sorsha's heart skipped a beat, and she could hear as the passengers cheered all over the Pertempto. Seizing her journal, she she bolted up from the bed and dashed out the door. She tried to contain her excitement, reminding herself of her age and supposed maturity, and quickly wove her way through the crowds of people exiting their cabins for the observation deck.
    "Excuse me," she said softly, to the people as she passed them. Most ignored her, but some returned her smile and nodded in understanding.
    Jogging up a set of steps, Sorscha crained her neck to see above the heads of the people. She could see the stars through the enormous, quadro-layer glass window that had to be at least the size of a football field. Then, as she came at last into the Main Observation Deck, she saw it: the shimmering, bright edge of Lunar Vista! Sorscha felt her breath leave her. Her whole body felt cold with excitement, warmed only by the joy-flame dancing in her heart. Before she knew it, her feet were running, and she was making her way toward the very front of the crowd. No more back seat for her, just for this one she wanted the best view she could have. Just for once!
    Suddenly, she collided with something solid.
    "Oof!" she grunted, instantly embarrased. She pulled back to see that she had collided head-on with an E.T.E.S guard. No, not just a guard- she could tell by the silver embroidery on his cape that he was an officer, a captain most likely. Cheeks burning, she bobbed her head.
    "I'm so sorry- pardon me, Sir!" she breathed.
    The captain looked down at her with an unreadable expression. But then, he cracked a small smile. Nodding, he gestured with his head toward the great window. "Go on," he said.
    Sorscha smiled gratefully. "Thanks!"
    Then she was off again, and in a matter of seconds she found herself pressed against the window itself, in full view of the planet that was to be her home. The sun's bright rays were just cutting through the atmosphere, and she had to shield her eyes from its strength. Yet even as the blinding beams shot over the crowd of awestruck settlers, Sorscha took delight in her dazzled sight. Opening her journal, she wrote with trembling fingers,
    "We are home."

  3. Vash gazed out at the sunrise, and felt unexpected tears burn at the back of his eyes. Steeling himself, he let out a long, slow breath and searched for the wonder and joy that the people below felt whole-heartedly. He thought, probably that had he come here ten years ago, he would have felt it too. But now, even in the face of this brilliant beauty, he could not escape the cold melancholy that seemed to possess him. No, if he was honest, he felt a bit more than melancholy, he felt like he wanted to wretch.
    The realization rattled him. Shaking his head, he closed his eyes to the sight before him and sought to cool his thoughts. A soldier ought to control his emotions, and especially one of his rank.
    Glancing down, his eyes came to rest on the hilt of his saber. Frowning, he looked closer and saw that it was indeed a spot of blood that had stained its silver surface. He scanned the crowd and spotted the girl who had collided with him. She must have scraped herself on the hilt without realizing it. Well, she would realize it soon enough when the pain finally trumped her excitement. Swallowing, Vash felt the sudden, irrational urge to apologize to her and ask if she was alright. As if doing that would somehow ease his guilt... as if the blood on his saber was in any way comparable to the blood that he knew would soon soak the black soil of Lunar Vista.
    "Oh come now, Vash," the words of his commander echoed in his ears. "Don't tell me you've chosen now, of all times, to grow a conscience. You've seen death before, and in no small numbers. Remember the Battle of Orris? You've seen death, and you've even ordered it yourself. How is this so different?"
    "Because these are innocents,"
    he'd answered, "And I've never once used humans- people- as bait."
    "But that's how it's done, Vash. If you want to catch the big fish, you must have the proper bait. Think of the greater good you'll accomplish! These few hundred lives, compared to the millions of lives that will be saved if we vanquish this threat. The... 'settlers'... would be honored to know that their deaths will pave the way for their fellow human beings' prosperity."

    Vash rubbed his brow. Of course he would go along with the plan. It was simple, and if they could pull it off, the future of mankind would be saved. Bait the trap, slay the dragon, save mankind. Wasn't that ultimately what he'd wanted to do, all those years ago?
    Somehow, he doubted his younger self would have understood. When he joined the E.T.E.S military, he had only wanted to make a home for his people. Well, that was what he was doing now. Swallowing his doubts, he turned his gaze back to Lunar Vista.
    We're home.

    1. Oh my goodness, this is great, Rayne! I was completely caught up in the story. Great use of two different perspectives; I could distinctly sense the differences. :)

    2. Thanks! I had a lot of fun writing it. It turned out longer than I'd intended, but I just got to into it... ;D

    3. I know how that goes! I enjoyed it!

  4. One story I'm working on now is currently being written in third person, but I'm thinking of switching it to multiple point of view first person. I'll have to keep these tips in mind.

    1. Multiple first-person POV always makes me nervous, but I know it can be done well. :) Thanks for commenting, Blue!

    2. You know, Blue, you could have it split between first person for your main character and third person for the rest. I've seen that done successfully and I very much enjoyed it. It eased the stress of head-hopping and still allowed for first person to be used along with multiple POVs.

    3. I've seen it done, too. It does act as a way to stress one viewpoint over another, which can either be what you want or not. :)

    4. I can't remember if I've ever seen that. It's an idea. Thanks!

    5. Definitely something to consider. :)


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