Writing Multiple POVs

I love writing multiple points-of-view (POVs) and the manuscripts in which I have struggled/am struggling the most are often the ones with a singular POV character. One of the questions that I’ve received most frequently is how do you decide what POV to use?

A key thing to remember here is that there are almost always (that’s for you, stickers for absolutes who just can’t wait to say “well not ALWAYS” or “well actually”) multiple arcs in a story. Each character has an internal and an external character arc (another word for arc could be journey, if that’s easier for you to understand), and then there’s a plot which is at times pushing a character along or being created by a character.

Sometimes, which POV do I use has an easy answer and you’re probably not asking that question. Character A needs to get somewhere for the plot to advance or their arc to advance and thus, Character A is the one doing the thing. Boom, done.

For example, in The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, when Puck needs to enter the races, it isn’t told from Sean Kendrick’s point of view even though they are both there. It’s told from Puck’s point of view. That is Puck’s moment of bravery and agency. Sean reflects back on it briefly in the following chapter, but it’s Puck’s moment, not Sean’s. If Stiefvater had written it from Sean’s POV, it would have undermined Puck’s agency and the control she had over her own story: that of trying to keep her family together on Thisby. 

When we are inside one character’s Point of View, we have their perspective, their decision making, and their thoughts. Even if they aren’t in control of what’s happening around them, that’s how you can build and maintain agency and a character’s arc.

 

But when you’re writing a dual-POV romance and your characters spend a lot of time together, how do you pick which POV to write?

You want to write from the POV of the character who has the most to gain or learn from that scene. Whoever is revealing information in that scene is your Love Interest and whoever is gaining information should be your POV narrator.

In my book Finding Center, for instance, Aly discovers she’s pregnant. When she goes to tell Zed, her partner, the chapter is told from his point of view because at that point, Aly’s already come to terms with it. It’s Zed who gets to grapple with the new information. When Zed tells Aly that he’s returned to ballet, the chapter is told from Aly’s point of view. In both of these cases, the reader already knows this information. Aly told her therapist that she was pregnant in the preceding chapter, and Zed’s been dancing secretly in his own POV chapters. But when the moments are revealed with the two of them together, I want the rawest of emotions, the burst of surprise and love, and hope, and fear, and anxiety, to hit the reader all over again. So I write from the POV of the information-gaining character.

The only time I break my own rule with this is if revealing the information is more important to both characters and to the plot than the receiving of the information. It’s about power, and who you want to have it at what time.

Any questions, drop them in the comments! Comments are moderated so don’t be surprised if they don’t show up right away.

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