Do you ever wish you could get into the heads of multiple characters in a story? I know I do, which is why I love stories with multiple POVs. But these stories can be tricky to write because you’re balancing not only perspective, but personality, self-reflection, and biases.
Basically, you have to write from multiple brains at one time, which is… intimidating.
Luckily, that’s what this post is all about! This is the second in our four-part series on POV.
In the first post, we delved into the different types of POV, complete with examples, and explore what sorts of POVs are good for what kind of stories. We also took a minute to discuss tenses.
In this second post, we’ll talk about using multiple POVs to tell your story, with some pros and cons and examples of good and not-so-good uses. We’ll also talk about the uses of letters and journal entries as forms of storytelling.
In the third post, we’ll talk about the differences between different perspectives, like male vs. female vs. queer, and child vs. teenager vs. adult.
In the fourth post, we’ll wrap up with the ins and outs of deep POV, what it is, how and when to use it, and some tips and tricks.
Let’s get started!
You Get Multiple Perspectives
There are multiple sides to every story. When you write with multiple points of view, you’re giving your reader a peek into the diversity of perspectives. This allows them to form their own opinions, regardless of the characters’ biases and personal thoughts.
You’ll also be able to delve into relationship interactions by playing up the emotions and thoughts different characters have towards each other. You can tell certain scenes from the best perspective to really drive home the drama or the poignancy of an event or conversation.
You also get to dive into different character’s head. Your readers will love you for this.
You Can Tell Stories From Different Locations
The perfect example, as I’m sure many of us know, is (say it with me now!) Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin’s characters are telling their stories from all over Westeros, giving the reader endless insight into the story, the setting, and even the overall themes of the story.
Telling your story from a variety of places and settings allows you to expand your readers understanding of the world. The way the characters interact with the world around them clues the reader into who they are, and what is important to them.
This also allows you to hint at overarching themes in your story. By connecting what characters think about, react to, and reflect on, you’re able to tell your story and deliver the themes most important to you.
You Can Be Strategic About What Info You Share When
By writing in multiple POV’s you get to not only expand your reader’s understanding but carefully give them pieces to a bigger puzzle. You can tell the basic story and include details for your minor plots that you otherwise couldn’t.
Especially if you’re writing a thriller, mystery, or a historical fiction story, multiple POV’s allow you to travel between the scene of the crime to the King’s bedroom to the detective’s office, bringing your reader along for each additional peek into the deeper lives of your characters.
You Can Confuse Your Reader
We writers have a tendency to… get carried away. We like to add, add, add, thickening our main plot, adding in subplots, creating diverse characters and places and giving our readers loads of hidden gems. It’s fun and exciting, and those character profiles and world history deserve a place in our novel!
But doing this from multiple perspectives can create confusion, leave your reader feeling anchorless and lost in the minutia of your story, and prompt them to put down your story without finishing it. Which no one wants.
Carefully write your story from multiple perspectives and stay aware of the information you share. Because sometimes…
There Is Such a Thing As Too Much Information
It does no one any good to bury them in information, even if it’s endlessly interesting. Most people who read the Harry Potter books don’t need to know that Hagrid and McGonagall are seven years apart or where the Sorting Hat came from. They’re fun pieces of information to know but are unnecessary in the books because they don’t do anything to push the plot forward.
When you’re writing your story, your main goal is to push your story forward. POV is simply a tool to best carry your story on, not a crutch to throw information at your readers.
You Can Add Unnecessary Scenes
In Smoke by Dan Vyleta, there are a number of scenes told from the perspective of a passerby or one-off characters. These add depth and dimension to events and other characters because the reader has an additional lens through which to view the story.
However, these scenes become more and more frequent as the story moves along and instead of pushing the story forward, the act more as a way to slow the story down, including scenes that beat the dead horse when it comes to information or reflection on characters’ actions. Some of these scenes are unnecessary and degrade the quality of the story, rather than adding to the reader’s enjoyment.
Letters and Journal Entries
Lastly, I wanted to make a note on using letters and journal entries in your stories.
Letters and journal entries are special for a variety of reasons. Even if you’re telling a story from the perspective of the letter writer or journaler, reading their own words is a poignant way of connecting the reader to their heart.
Letters, by nature, require more forethought. They allow someone to write purely, with intention and thought. Letters have a purpose of carrying information, whether it’s explaining an important backstory, reconnecting two characters who lost each other, or conveying a character’s truest emotions, letters are the bridge to a character’s deeper heart.
Journal entries, on the opposite side of the spectrum, are generally free flow. A journal entry is similar to a stream of conscience. The character can ask questions and find answers that they may have difficulty doing so as the narrator of the story.
Letters and journal entries both provide an additional peek into the heads of your characters, and they don’t rob the reader’s attention or cause confusion.
Keep an eye out next week for part three!