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.
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?