USING MULTIPLE VIEWPOINTS – TUESDAY WRITING TIPS

People often ask me , “How do you decide which point of view” to write in and to be honest, I think the decision is pretty much out of my hands. It’s the characters who decide.

As they emerge onto the page, they find their own way of speaking and getting their point of view across.

I’m currently working on my YA thriller, The Secret Life of Mindy Palmer about 17 year old Lia whose sister Mindy is murdered and Lia sets out to find the killer.

Initially I started telling the story entirely from Lia’s point of view:

 Lia

When Mindy died, pain gripped my heart like a hangman’s noose.

After three months, people said it was time to let her go, but I couldn’t. I missed my sister like crazy, and that last night of her life, Mindy had been trying to tell me something. I knew it. I should have asked more questions. I should have got answers. No matter what the cops said, Mindy’s death wasn’t a random act of teen daring. It was murder.

But then, the more I wrote, the more Mindy’s character appeared in my head too… and insisted on telling her side of things – she wanted the reader to know who she was and what really happened to her. She wanted to live her life again through my story.

Mindy

They say your whole life flashes in front of you just before you drown…and it’s true. That’s what alerts me to the fact that I’m about to die – that this time, the river is not going to let me go.

I had kind of been ignoring Mindy for a while and trying to focus on Lia, but Mindy kept insisting and in the end I gave in and decided to let her have her say. And to be honest, I think it’s added a lot more depth to my story. It allows me to build suspense because I can show the reader things through Mindy’s eyes…and give the reader information that the main character, Lia doesn’t know. So the reader soon discovers that Lia is in more danger than she realises.

There are a number of advantages to having more than one point of view. It means the reader can see things from different perspectives and that certain discoveries can be delayed. It has helped eliminate the flat points in my story.

But it hasn’t stopped there. As I kept writing,  a new voice emerged, wanting to have their say. It belonged to Lia’s best friend Steve who has been acquainted with the family all their lives and knows things about Mindy that Lia doesn’t even know.

Steve adds a male point of view to the mix and also allows me to present the entire Palmer family from a more objective point of view.

Some people aren’t born to deal with the crap that life dishes out. When reality slams them to the dirt, they can’t just pick themselves up and brush off the damage. They’re crushed in a way they can’t recover from without help. That’s why I’m sticking with Lia every step of the way, until we find the prick who killed her sister.I guess what I’m learning from this is that point of view is not static. There are no hard and fast rules and point of view is something that can change during the course of writing your story. It’s a case of listening to your characters and deciding what works best for you and the characters.

If something you’ve written in third person makes you feel as if your character is too distant, try rewriting it in first person. Experiment – see what works best. And don’t be afraid of multiple points of view, just make sure all the characters have strong, unique voices, that they come into the story at the right times and that each character has their own story arc.

If you have any tips or experiences about using multiple points of view, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

P.S. Friday Feedback is on at DeeScribe Writing this Friday. Check back for a sample piece of writing and feedback.

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “USING MULTIPLE VIEWPOINTS – TUESDAY WRITING TIPS

  1. Hi Dee, it’s interesting that you bring this up now, I’ve been fiddling around with bringing another character’s POV into my story. Originally I wrote Maddy’s POV in the third person, but it just wasn’t working, so I started again and wrote it in the first person and it was right. Still undecided on whether to bring in another POV character, but as you say, it’s great for adding to the tension. 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Paula,

    That’s the thing about writing…there are no rules. It’s a case of trying different things and deciding what works best for you:)

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  3. Hi Dee, interesting time for me to read your insightful post too. I think characters that insist on telling their story are powerful and deserve a voice. Authors need to allow their stories and characters to speak to them, though never dictate, of course, rather than follow any rigid writing rules. I was stunned to be told recently at uni that I should not attempt multiple viewpoints in my novel, since I don’t have four to five novels published yet, but I’m pleased to say that after interrogating the advice, I’m now listening to the needs of my story instead.

    Your storyline and characters sound strong and intriguing. Enjoy the writing. Hope all is going well with you.
    Chris

  4. Hi Dee

    There’s a coincidence as I’m writing an article on this very topic. The book I’m working on right now – The Beginners’ Guide to Revenge – switches between the first person perspective of two characters. Writing it this way was an enormous challenge. If you’re weaving two characters’ stories together, my main tip would be to make sure the climax of each story arc occurs around the same point in the book. If one story is winding down and the other is mid-flight, it disrupts the suspense and confuses the reader.

    Cheers,
    Marianne Musgrove

  5. Hi Marianne,

    Thanks for your comments and your very helpful tip. I will definitely keep that in mind.

    Love the sound of The Beginners’ Guide to Revenge.

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  6. Fascinating Dee and to read others’ comments. Thanks for this insightful. Regarding Chris’ uni experience, my teritary ones are similar but I have distilled the advice to this: learn and master the apparent ‘right’ way, then act and do what actually does ‘feel right’ (and therefore sits, breathes, lives and feels the most suitable). I agree with Marianne re; simultaneous story arcing. I recently reviewed a kids story where there were two very different povs of the same incident but the arcs were not parallel which really broke the story’s over all pace and impact. Personally I find kids’ books, written in the first person a lot more lively and real most of the time.

  7. Thanks for your feedback Dimity,

    I agree with you about mastering the ‘right’ way and then making your own decisions. Story arcs do need to fit, don’t they? I guess it depends too, on the role of each character in the story.

    Jodi Picoult uses this device a bit and often her character’s contributions are related to the overall story but not necessarily the same event/incident – it’s like presenting a different perspective of events to give the reader a more rounded view of the story world and what happens in it.

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  8. Hi Dee,

    I just love that first line of Lia’s. I’d be totally hooked on that.

    I totally agree with Chris about how the rules can stilt the writing.Finally, I am allowing my writing to relax into the rhythm the characters demand and the writing has become much easier and tell a better story.

    Another great post, Dee. I can’t miss my fix!!

Comments are closed.