I’m a one POV writer. At least so far. I love multi-POV novels but it’s not something I’ve tackled in my own book-writing journey. Today, author Claire Dyer shares with us some thoughts on writing a novel with multiple points of view. What are your thoughts? How do you do it? Do you stay far away from it? In the past, I’ve used short stories to experiment with POV and different literary devices and techniques. When I was reading Claire’s post I remembered I’d had a short story published that used two points of view…and I went back and read it. It was published a year before The Glass Wives (May 2013) — and I’ll be honest, it took me about a year and a half to find it a home! (So yes, I’ve always been persistent) 😉 Here’s a link if you want to read Minding Joe.
But first — share your many thoughts on managing multiple points of view in the comments.
And please welcome Claire Dyer to WFW!
Managing Multiple Points of View
by Claire Dyer
A best-selling author whose books I love once said that when he writes multiple POV novels he writes the stories of his main characters independently from one another and then weaves them together to create the book’s narrative arc.
I was astonished to hear this because I had never thought of doing it this way! You see, in my multi-POV novels my characters’ stories emerge as I write, they feed off one another, they evolve and change. And, what I love most is spotting the recurring motifs, letting loose their different voices, giving them the space they need, seeing scenes from their varying perspectives and I really doubt I could do all this any other way than writing their stories concurrently.
Of course I scope my characters out beforehand: I give them history, trauma, fault lines and redeeming features; I work within a narrative structure and know roughly how their stories will end. But we’re all in it together from the start. It’s like we’re all in the same mini-bus on the same journey.
Furthermore, I know I couldn’t shift POV mid-scene like Virginia Woolf does so expertly and can’t really see myself in the position of omniscient narrator. When I write I’m inside my characters’ heads, looking out through their eyes; their hearts are beating inside me.
However, is there a right or a wrong way of managing multi POVs? I guess every writer is different and will have their own way of approaching this particular writing conundrum and so, in attempt to plumb this question further, I did what every bemused writer does and consulted the Twitterverse by putting out a plea for help!
The question: ‘Quick straw poll writing peeps, with multi POV novels do you write each character’s story in one go or as you go?’
§ Some do it my way by plotting separately and dropping characters in and out as opportunity permits having determined each character’s arc beforehand;
§ another said they’d always written ‘as they go’ but, because of the emotionally complex nature of their current WIP, they’re writing each character separately this time;
§ others do both (which is an awesome feat!);
§ and another said whilst they write the individual POVs concurrently, they read each one back in one go to ensure consistency.
So, is there a right way or a wrong way? I have concluded that, as ever, with writing, it’s each to their own and what is important is to write the way that works for you and, whilst so far I’ve written novels containing multiple POVs over shifting timeframes, I have promised myself that one day, yes, one day, I’ll write a book in the first person with a straight A-Z timeline. But I’m sure this will throw up its own challenges, after all the writing life normally does, doesn’t it?
Claire Dyer’s novels The Moment and The Perfect Affair, and her short story, Falling for Gatsby, are published by Quercus. Her poetry collection, Eleven Rooms, is published by Two Rivers Press. Claire has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London.