By Janice Hardy. @Janice_HardyDifferent stories call for different point of view styles, and sometimes we don’t know which one will be the best one until we’ve written a scene in the wrong one. Trying different styles to see which works is a great idea, but if you decide to switch, think about what that really means for your story.
Having Third Thoughts
I’m a fan of first person, so naturally I began writing my new novel that way. I’ve plotted it thinking of it as my protag’s story, planned goals for her, conflicts for her, etc. But the other day I started thinking that another POV style might be a better way to tell this story. Third person, alternating POVs.
And that opened up all kinds of new things to think about.
Suddenly my outline wasn’t accurate, I didn’t have enough goals, my conflicts had to be reworked some. Because it was no longer just my protag’s story, but this other POV’s story as well. He needed his own character arc and goals and conflicts and plot.
Adding a new POV changes things.
It’s like adding another story to your story. How you weave that extra story into the book you want to write will determine how effective this POV change is going to be.
Things to Consider When Adding a POV
What plot events belong to this character?
This character will have his own plot and story arc, but it still has to connect back to the core conflict of the novel. So he’ll need an end goal that will be resolved by the ending of the novel, and major turning points of his plotline all throughout the book. Since the protag probably already has those events scheduled for their POV, some shifting will likely be needed. You might consider:
- Is there one set of major events, or does each POV have their own set?
- Does one POV drive the plot forward at these moments or do the POVs share them?
- Does one set of major events occur, but they mean different things to each POV?
- What goals will this new character have?
- Move the POV toward the end resolution, but in a different way from the protag.
- Conflict with the protag in some way, but not necessarily in an antagonistic way.
- What is important to each POV?
- Is this also important to the other POV?
- How might you make each POV feel strongly about something the other doesn’t care about?
- What is each POV willing to sacrifice to get their goal?
- How might those sacrifices conflict with the other POV’s goals?
How will the stakes work?
With different goals, each POV will have different stakes. At the core, these will likely be similar since both are working toward the same end resolution. But there will be subtle differences that can cause friction between these two.
- How might each POV’s stakes cause trouble for the other?
- How might risking one side cause the other problems?
- How might avoiding one consequence cause the other’s to occur?
- How might you play one side against the other to escalate the stakes?
Multiple POVs are always a pacing challenge because traditionally you end a chapter or scene at a high point in the tension. But when you switch POVs, you usually start that scene at a lower point and raise the tension again. Trouble is, this kills your overall tension because you effectively waste your forward momentum every time you switch POVs. You want to raise the tension on both sides at an equal pace so the entire story is moving forward as one. So pay close attention to:
- How you end each scene or chapter.
- How you handoff the scene or chapter to the next POV.
- What types of enders you have: cliffhangers, reveals, foreshadows, fears.