Monday, November 22, 2010

Points of View

Great post, Betsy!!

I was reading through the comments (P.S. Thanks so much, Emma and Betsy!!) and I noticed Tonya's question about maybe having too many points of view in her current work-in-progress and if that could be why she's having trouble figuring out her story.

I've done both (only been published in first person, but I've written two unpublished books that will never see the light of the publication world in multiple POVs.). Honestly, I think it is easier to write in multiple POVs, but more natural for me to write in first person.

In first person writing, you can really get the voice of the character and develop that through the entire story. The storyline progresses with the character, so while it is easier to get "stuck" in certain scenes because you don't have that convenient "hey, this scene is going nowhere, so I'm going to just switch to the other character's POV". BUT, it is also very natural to add thoughts, ideas and backstory without it seeming weird, odd or awkward.

For third person and multiple POVs, you do have that convenience of switching scenes and people whenever the story starts to fall a little bit. But, you're right, Tonya, it can be hard to keep all of the individual storylines going! Plus, you've got the added challenge of keeping each character's voice unique from the others.

I think the best example of multiple POVs is actually in movie-form. Did y'all see Valentine's Day? Such a great example of how you can have TONS of points of view and still have a cohesive story that works them all together. Notice that no two characters were alike and every character had their own issues and problems. And notice too how seamlessly they all worked together.

If you're going to write in multiple POVs, I would recommend getting a journal out and writing out each character - names, descriptions, jobs, lives, etc and make a special note about quirks in their particular voice (like, for example, "Leonard's POV will include multiple sports references."). Be especially careful of bleed-through - don't allow the same voice to transfer to different characters.

As far as keeping all the ideas and plotlines straight, write them all down in that journal! I really think it's easier to write in a linear fashion - start in Chapter One and finish when you write "The End". But, y'all know me - I don't outline worth a flip. Another tip that might be helpful is to read back through your story every day before you start working. Back up to a point where you've written about all four characters and read through each of them before continuing, just to refresh your brain on each of their different storylines.

Hope this helps!! :)


  1. Just wanted to throw this out there...
    I had my manuscript reviewed by a Christy award winning author at a writers conference this spring. Her main comment - I had too many POVs. She had no problem with the writing being in 3rd person. But she suggested - and it was a STRONG suggestion - that I limit myself to the POV of the two main characters. I write romantic suspense so in my case, the hero and heroine. I asked another very well-known author about POVs at the same conference (because I was hoping for a different opinion!). Her advice - keep POVs to the absolute minimum. I was bummed :-)It took me about a month to accept the advice and another four months to make the changes. I'm still unpublished, so you can take this opinion for what it's worth - not much! - but I think my manuscript is much stronger for the changes.

  2. Lynn, yes - that is true for romantic suspense, especially because its already a struggle to keep the romance and suspense threads balanced.

    Sometimes romantic suspense can still be strong with 3 POV's - hero, heroine and villian. But typically in that scenario the villian's POV is very short and tight and clipped and maybe only a page or two or less at a time! But it can be very helpful for the story pacing.

    I'm glad you saw and agreed with the advice after some time passed. :) Just remember though if you never do get peace about it, even after taking time away and getting multiple opinions, to go with your gut. It might be risky but it is YOUR story!

    Great post Erynn! Loved loved loved the movie Valentine's Day!!! Though some of the scenes with Anne Hathaway were...awkward...yeah.... lol

  3. Thanks for answering my question Erynn, you've given me both tips & some things to think about :) I actually haven't seen Valentines Day, I want to though & will have to be  more aware of the POV shifts when I watch it! 

    Lynn: thanks for telling what your critiquers(is that a word?) said?

    Chicks: are there certain genres where multiple POVS are more acceptable?

  4. I began writing in first person and went to second, but I think 3rd is the best. The story mostly tells itself that way :) For me, though, I can BE more of the character in first... and sometimes get so caught up, I forget where I am!