Multiple pov

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3 Tips for Using Mulitple Point of View Characters

  1. Limit the number of POV characters. A general caution is to limit the number of POV characters so the reader can be emotionally invested in those few. Zuckerman, in How to Write the Blockbuster Novel, recommends no more than five main characters. Usually, one of the characters emerges as the main character and gets more space, leaving the others as secondary-main characters, so to speak.

    Of course, there are lots of exceptions. On the extreme end of the spectrum, Seedfolk, by Paul Fleischman, changes POV with every chapter, dipping into the life of a different member of the community and never repeats a character; I would argue, though, that the real main character of that story is the community, arrived at through these multiple POV. In the end, I still cared for the characters, which is the main point here, and many of their conflicts were resolved while in a different POV, keeping the conflict/resolution connections intact.

  2. Changing POV perspective. When you change from one character’s POV to another character’s POV, can you change from 1st person to third person? In Donna Jo Napoli’s, Zel, she has three main characters: Rapunzel, told in 3rd; the prince, told in 3rd; and the mother, told in first. Napoli said that the mother had to be in first person so the reader would understand how much of her actions was motivated by love for Rapunzel. So, yes, you can change from 1st to 3rd: the question is why do you want to? What will it add to the story? Napoli had a reason for this choice — better characterization of the mother. What is your reason?
  3. Use Strong Scene Cuts. cliffhangerOne good reason to use multiple POV characters is it allows for strong scene cuts. Just as one character falls into a dangerous situation, SCENE CUT. We leave that character hanging on the edge of a pit, while we explore another character’s side of the story, until that character is in danger and. SCENE CUT, back to the first character, where we left him about to fall onto a shrub that breaks his fall before he finds himself in some other danger.
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Comments

  1. Darcy Pattison says

    Brian –
    Great questions!

    When multiple characters are in the same scene and you want to be in the head of each character, then you are writing with an omniscient POV. Usually, if you’re in 3rd person POV (the camera is in one character’s head), you stay in that POV for an entire scene or chapter. If you’re skipping around and dipping into the thoughts and emotions of many characters, it’s omniscient.

    Darcy

  2. says

    Hello there,
    I have a question after reading many ‘how to write’ and ‘how not to write’ your novel.

    Can I switch POV in a novel?

    I have a prologue and epilogue written in 1st person for a good reason.

    The bulk of the narrative written in multiple 3rd person POV but there are times when small sections are written in the 2nd person POV when a character is writing in her diary.

    While this might sound terribly clunky here, it makes sense when you read my manuscript.

    The reason I’m asking, I’ve read in so many texts that POV should be made uniform throughout the novel, that I’d be daft to ignore it.

    Any thoughts? Many thanks.

  3. Darcy Pattison says

    Steve:
    Thanks for the question. The answer: it depends.
    If it works, it works.
    But you must have a VERY good reason for doing this and it must be seamless to the reader.

    Also, when you switch to the diary entry, for example, make sure you set it off from the rest of the text, perhaps in its own chapter, even if it is very short.

    Darcy

  4. will says

    If I have a chapter to tell – like for example, a lot of the characters from my story have turned up in the same place – and I don’t what to tell that chapter from any particular point of view – instead – varied ones.
    Does every chapter (or scene) have to be from a particular point of view?

  5. will says

    *Particular characters point of view (I should have said on the last sentence)

    Also – I would like to say that the chapter I am speaking of has a lot going on in it, and swaps in between the inside of a building and the outside.

    I purposefully wanted it to be pretty frantic and colourful. But it is impossible to do from one single characters viewpoint.

  6. Darcy Pattison says

    The usual answer is to change chapter with every change of POV. OR, you can at least leave a couple extra line spaces to indicate that something has changed. Some say to put asterisks to indicate a change. Just something. Don’t just go from one paragraph to the next with a change.

    But of course, break any and every rule, if you need to in order to tell your story. Just make sure it works.

    Darcy

  7. Kate Baldwin says

    I am writing a book with multiple characters. I have chosen to write the main character in a first person POV and the other important characters are written in third person omniscient. All of the characters (and there are more than five) are important to my book as they each represent a different archetype, and the story is about their friendship.Though I have the plot and subplots worked out, I’m finding it difficult to fit it into a story map because of all of the characters. I would really like to find a book to help me address this very specific writing problem. Any advice on how to pull this off or on any references I could check into? One idea I had for keeping the number of POVs down was to only show some characters through the eyes of the first-person POV of the main character.

  8. Darcy Pattison says

    Are you writing for kids or adults? If adults, you can pull this off.
    If for kids, it’s probably a stronger choice to go with one main POV and keep everyone else to a minimum or actually cut their POV and tell it just from the main character’s POV. But the main character might not be the one you think. Here’s a question that helps: who hurts the most? who has the most to lose? THAT character is the main character. Try telling it from his/her POV only.
    Darcy

  9. Ashley tuminella says

    I am trying to write a high fantisey book , with two main characters a male vampire, and a humian slave, it was easy to write in first person view when the two charicters were not together. Now that they have met and are togethere what pov do I write from. I love both my charcters and love the way they both feel about the same situation what do I do? Pick one charicter’s pob?

  10. Darcy Pattison says

    Each chapter should focus on one point of view. But then, you are free to change point of view with the following chapter, depending on what you are trying to do in the story.
    Darcy

  11. Zia says

    I’m writing a historical fiction novel with a romantic undertone ala Austen. It started omniscient, as I thought it was the only way to tell some of the history and to give the reader backstory to a scene that the MC would eventually walk into in a fish-out-of-water kind of way. The more I wrote, it started leaning first person limited with a few paragraphs here and there saying what another character was thinking in response to the MC or giving a character’s history, something the MC is unaware of. I fear I’ve violated every POV rule.

    If I rewrite and stick to third person limited, can I also intersperse historical facts into the writing? I try for most of these details to come out in dialogue, but sometimes describing a scene requires stating historical facts for the reader that the MC does not know. I also need scenes where the MC does not go or is not allowed to enter.

  12. Robyn says

    Hello there,

    In the story that I am writing, the point of view shifts between four key characters depending on the scene/chapter. I am using third person, limited POV, in past tense– and I have a small problem. One of the POV characters is going to die three-fourths of the way through the story. Is it still acceptable to write from that characters point of view up until her death (I will be in one of the other characters’ heads for the death scene), or should I not write from the POV of a character that is going to die?

    Thanks.

  13. Darcy Pattison says

    Anything is possible! It just depends on how it works and you won’t know till you try it.
    The character who dies, I assume, is a supporting character, not the main character.
    It could work.
    Darcy

  14. says

    Hi Darcy,
    I’m writing a YA Novel. The protagonist is a 16 year old girl. I have started out in first person POV. I am finding it increasingly difficult to tell the story in 100% first person.
    I am flirting with the idea of going back to the beginning of the book, and doing multiple first person’s with possibly 3 other major characters. The 16 year old protagonist would still be the dominant voice. This will probably prove tricky, but maybe the reader will find it interesting.
    Or, I’m also thinking of using some 3rd person scenes, so I can bounce around a little. Not so linear, as my single voice is proving to be.
    I really like writing from inside the head of this teenager. She will “break the fourth wall” and talk directly to the reader at times.
    I guess my question is, can I tell the entire story, from her point of view? Am I boxing myself into a corner that may prove to be a disaster?
    The story is a mystery, thriller. Fast paced. Slightly paranormal.
    As the plot gets more twists, its harder and harder to tell the story from just the girls POV.
    Please help with any thoughts.
    Also, can you think of a successful YA book told in 100% first person, that was a fast paced, suspenseful thriller, that I can read?

  15. Joao says

    Hi,
    I have a question: if I have two main characters who share almost every scene together, is it OK if I write from the perspective of both characters at the same time? For example, describing the emotions of one character and then describing the emotions of the other?
    Thanks.

  16. says

    hi, im writing a book and there is three main charatcers but i don’t know if i should just do first person for each character or third person. What do you think?

  17. Darcy Pattison says

    Try it both ways and see which is better. That’s really the only way I know what to do–try it.
    Darcy

  18. Emma says

    how should i go about telling the reader that the point of view has changed and would it be ok if all of the point of views are in first person to specifically tell what that character is thinking or should it be changed

  19. Darcy Pattison says

    Hi, Emma:
    You can use multiple first person POVs if you want, it works.
    Usually, you keep the same POV for each chapter, otherwise, you’re moving into omniscient voice. So, with each chapter break (or possible scene change) you can change the POV. Then, you just need something in the first couple lines to let the reader know whose POV this is. If each voice is distinctive, it shouldn’t need much.
    Darcy

  20. chynna says

    Hi Darcy. I know that first person POV uses those personal pronouns such as I, we, ours..anything that includes the narrator of course..but for a multiple first person POV…Well, I already read that you can include the character’s name on top of a chapter or put some asterisk or spaces so the reader’s will be guided easily, but what if the POV will need to change after a scene in a chapter?
    Can you give some examples or suggestions on how I can make a good transition and distinction from one character’s POV to the next character?

  21. Heather says

    Hello,

    I have a question. I am attempting creative writing for the first time and have started my very first novel–and by started, I simply mean I have two sentences and a lot of ideas that need to be sorted out. My question for you is this: my novel will be in 3rd person limited point of view all the way until the very end, but then I want my last short chapter to switch to first person because it will be revealed that my protagonist is writing the novel herself and telling her own story. Will that be effective or does it just sound silly? I am thinking it will make the theme of the story hit home for my reader and allow them to more deeply connect with my character, but being so new at this I wanted another opinion.

    Thanks so much!

  22. says

    Hi. It certainly breaks the rules, but if you make it work, no one will complain. You might want to read ZEL, by Donna Jo Napoli, which has three different character’s POV and some are 3rd and some are 1st.

    Darcy

  23. jeffrey lee says

    Hi Darcy.

    I’m writing a novel, and I’ve decided to use Multiple POVs because I find the effect of weaving all of the storylines together, but is it possible to have all the different character’s POVs doing completely different things in completely different plots?

  24. Danielle says

    Hi I have a question for you Darcy, Im new to writing and I do not know how to switch from one character to the other. Example of what Im asking you is this:
    “Hey Danielle! Come check out this new book I got!” says Viola. “Okay just a sec.” says Danielle. See, what Im asking? I need to know what ways are there to talk between characters without having to say says Danielle, or says Viola or says Darcy. Please help!!

  25. Emilia says

    Hello!
    Quick question: I’m trying to develop a story in which I want to give each character a certain depth, but I’m having trouble with the transitioning on narration. For example, how could I make the change, say, in how to narrate what happens on the good guys’ side and the villians’ side? Should I choose one character from each side and tell it from there or stick to omniscient on both sides? I thought about changing the narration with each chapter but I don’t know how’s that going to turn out.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Multiple Third Person POV: Many writing resources do not differentiate between the multiple third person and omniscient POVs. I feel this is a must, since this is the murky area that ensnared my first novel — a trap which was very difficult to escape. If you even suspect that you may also fall prey to this difficulty, please read the guide “Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint” by Nancy Kress, which is part of the Writer’s Digest “Write Great Fiction” series. Multiple third person POV switches between the perspectives of two or more viewpoint characters — this switch is most frequently seen at chapter or scene breaks. Fantasy writers favor this POV to allow for more elaborate side-plotting. Examples of novels written in multiple third person POV are: James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Jeanne DuPrau’s “City of Ember” and Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper.” […]

  2. […] Multiple Third Person POV: Many writing resources do not differentiate between the multiple third person and omniscient POVs. I feel this is a must, since this is the murky area that ensnared my first novel — a trap which was very difficult to escape. If you even suspect that you may also fall prey to this difficulty, please read the guide “Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint” by Nancy Kress, which is part of the Writer’s Digest “Write Great Fiction” series. Multiple third person POV switches between the perspectives of two or more viewpoint characters — this switch is most frequently seen at chapter or scene breaks. Fantasy writers favor this POV to allow for more elaborate side-plotting. Examples of novels written in multiple third person POV are: James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Jeanne DuPrau’s “City of Ember” and Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper.” […]