Tips When Writing Multiple POV Novels

Today YA author Lisa Gail Green is here to offer some thoughts on writing multiple POVs. This is a route some authors go, but handling more than one protagonist is not easy. Lisa’s latest novel features dual POVs, so the lessons she learned are fresh in her mind. Please read on!FleuronWhen starting a new manuscript, point of view is an important choice. Who is the best person to tell your story? Sometimes the answer includes more than one character, and that means multiple POVs.

First things first: figure out the purpose behind your choice. If you want to write multiple POVs, you should always have a dang good reason for it.

soul crossedWhen I started writing SOUL CROSSED, I knew using dual POVs was the perfect way to help build sympathy for both my Demon and my Angel. Readers would understand the thought processes of each MC as well as see how each interpreted the world differently and why. For me the choice was a great tool to plant the seeds of my theme: is there pure good and pure evil?

Another great reason for multiple POVs is that each compliments two or more story arcs that intersect at a later point. If this is the case, you have to make sure both arcs are truly necessary for your overarching story. Look at backstory with the same lens. How much is truly needed and when does the reader need those specifics?

Now that you’ve defined the purpose and benefits of multiple POV’s, it’s time to get to work. Here’s the challenge: when you have dual POVs, you have two internal arcs to plot and the decision of what scene is in whose point of view. Lets look at some rules you’ll want to follow.

  •  Make sure each character has a distinct voice.

1) Does this character use certain anachronisms or speech patterns? What is his/her educational level? Does he/she think in phrases or complex sentences?

2) What senses does this character use the most? Pick those out for use with descriptions.

3) Get inside his/her head. Use some character building exercises if you need help. Look up some theatrical ones and try those too.

  • Understand each character’s goals, stakes, and pitfalls.

Make sure each POV character (really all characters) have a specific goal and obstacles that keep him/her from that goal. Ask yourself in each scene whether he/she is acting toward that goal, what’s at stake, and what’s in the way.

  • Don’t redo the same scene from multiple POVs.

Full disclosure: I break this rule once in SOUL CROSSED. I did it for all of maybe a page, and I did it purposefully because it was important to understand when Josh and Grace came together what was happening in each character’s head. I also wanted to highlight this moment for readers and slow it down so I used this as a device.

Overlapping POV in scenes is a real temptation. As the author, you know they’ve each seen something different or had a different reaction to the same scene, and you want to share it with your audience. Resist, unless you have a VERY good reason, like I did. Instead, pick the POV that gives the important info to your reader and use that. Believe me, it gets really tired if you don’t move forward with a story. Each chapter should build on the last.

  •  Have a reason a particular chapter is in a particular point of view.

Why did you choose this character to tell this part of the story? Does he have a crucial piece of info to reveal? Does she reveal something deep about her character when confronted in this scene? If you don’t have a reason, go back and make sure there’s a purpose for the scene itself.

  • Ground the reader as soon as each switch takes place.

The last thing you want is for the reader to be confused about whose head she’s in. So make sure you give clues right away with setting and internal dialogue before you jump in.

I used names as chapter titles to help indicate who was speaking. This is a common practice. It’s not foolproof as some people skip titles when they’re in the groove, but it does help.

If you’re still unsure whether you should undertake a multiple POV manuscript, try it out and see how it feels. Ask someone to read it specifically for POV to see if it can be followed easily. Finally, it’s great to challenge yourself, but make sure you’ve got a traditional structure down before you go for it.

lisaLisa loves YA. She believes with all her heart that teen readers are ready and willing to experience things that some adults have closed their minds to, that books are the safest way to explore, learn, and escape, and that imagination is the key to just about everything.

Praise for Soul Crossed

“The Mortal Instruments meets Romeo and Juliet in this title that’s jampacked with love, chaos and heartbreak. Readers will have a hard time putting Soul Crossed down” — Romantic Times

“A wickedly romantic story that will have you cheering for Lisa Gail Green’s addictive storytelling. Soul Crossed is devilishly delicious!” — Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy 

Want a chance to to snag a copy of Lisa’s newest Paranormal YA book? Your in luck. There’s a big giveaway going on right now. You can also find Lisa at her website, twitter and add Soul Crossed to your Goodreads List.

Have you written a book in Multiple Point of View? Are you tempted to give it a try?

About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.

This entry was posted in Characters, Guest Post, Point of View, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Tips When Writing Multiple POV Novels

  1. Natalie Hidalgo says:

    Thanks for the tips. I am in a rewrite of my first novel, Calling all Zombies. I have Human teens hunted by Demons and defended by Angels. Each group has one main character’s POV but there are scenes where a supporting character is alone and I use their POV. I think as long as I am consistent with my POV character in each group I should be clear. Did you find any resistance with multiple POV’s with your publisher? It seems the advice a new writer gets changes weekly as to what publishers and agents want. Thanks

  2. Jim Lawrence says:

    Thank you Lisa, very helpful. I’d read another website about multiple POV which said “don’t do it, it’s not conventional, it’s not common, there’s rarely a need to do it” etc.
    Then I read your page and realized I was looking for a little encouragement because multiple POV is the way I want to tell my story!

    So thank you for answering my not-quite-conscious wish…and giving us all some super tips to keep it on track. Much appreciated!

  3. I was stuck today, trying to figure out the timeline of events in my 2 POV novel. Googled 2 POV and lo and behold, found this useful post that I commented on over 6 months ago. The idea of moving forward really helped me. I had initially wrote a scene and ended up backtracking with the next character in order to preserve the flip-flop of each chapter. Decided it was better to have 2 successive chapters from one POV and keep time moving rather than back track. DOn’t know if you’re still monitoring this blog, Lisa, but would love to know your thoughts on that. Thanks again! This is now a record for me. 3 comments on one post. And you were the one to talk about senses. I still think about that!

  4. Carol Bevitt says:

    I prefer to write with multiple viewpoints, and feel it’s beneficial for many stories- especially historical romances.

    You’ve given a useful check-list which I’ll definitely use for my current stories.
    Thanks. 🙂

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  10. Helpful post. Thank you.

    I generally write in multiple POV. I write what my writer friends call science fiction, action adventure, fantasy, romance. Because there is a romance arc, it’s important to present the story from both the point of view of the hero and heroine. I don’t head hop, though. I will decide which scene is best presented in which point of view. When I can’t decide, I will write the same scene from both viewpoints then pick the one best suited the situation.

  11. I have a multiple POV book coming someday, whenever I finish this middle grade trilogy. Not a good idea to have multiple viewpoints for this age group! But I loved the questions you posed about why a scene should be in one or the other’s POV, and about differentiating characters by senses as well as language. Bookmarking for later!

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  13. Great things to think about. I have written multiple POVs and really enjoyed it. I plan to go back and tackle that manuscript some day. I actually found it fun to do.
    Thanks!

  14. :Donna Marie says:

    You know, I’ve considered writing a Multiple POV novel, but I don’t think I’d do it successfully. This definitely helps! 🙂 Thanks!

  15. I often write multiple vps, so this is timely!! Thanks!!

  16. Eileen says:

    I enjoy reading multiple POVs as long as the author stays with one character long enough. I’ve read a couple books where the POV character changed almost every paragraph for a chapter! Another pet peeve: head hopping. It drives me nuts when authors change POV without clear indications. Thanks for informing writers about the importance of these. I try to work on this in my own writing.

    • I do have short chapters in mine, but I also like to change only between chapters. I head each one with the name of the character whose head we are in. I think that’s important too. Great point!

  17. Deb says:

    I laughed when I read “Don’t redo the same scene from multiple POVs.” This is the reason I strongly dislike King’s “It.” Every scene, over and over and over… 😉

    I’m working with a multiple POV story (long) where each character comes from a different culture, so the shifts between scenes will emphasize what they look for.

  18. Lidy says:

    Great post and I agree with your tips. You’ve given me some more to think about and apply to my own multiple pov wip as well. I use to have 5 characters (3women &2 male supporting characters) but scaled it down to three heroines. Well two heroines and a villainess. Thanks again for the post.

  19. P.S. Liked your comment about picking a sense that is dominant for each character. New layer to add to my characters!

  20. Really enjoyed this post. I’m writing from 2 POV and was trying hard to alternate the white girl and the black girl until my writing mentor told me not to worry about it, but to think about whose scene it was. That was liberating!

  21. Very interesting post, Lisa, and I do agree – especially when my newly published novel has two completely different POV, in two different periods!

  22. Awesome post. I love writing in multiple POV and I agreed with every one of those points 😀

  23. Joanna Aislinn says:

    Hey ladies,
    Such great food for thought here! Thank you!

    I write romance, so two POVs are pretty standard. The better I get to know my characters–i.e., as their personalities unfold as I write–the easier I find it to refine their voices.

    My current WIP has an element of suspense to it. I feel that it calls for a third and maybe a fourth POVs. This is new to me, so Lisa’s point about goals, stakes and pitfalls will come in handy. (Yes, I’ve bookmarked this post and will be getting back to it. 🙂

    The same-scene/different POV: I use that minimally too, usually after a ‘big scene’ (typically between the POV characters). I’ll end one chapter in one’s POV and pick up the next in the other’s, but use it to push the story forward, too. (That’s a must, I agree.)

    So much more I’d love to say, but I’ll use it as fodder for a post of my own and make sure to link back here!

    • So glad it was helpful! Yes, my next book actually adds a third POV, so I liken it to someone throwing another ball to me while I continue to juggle.

      • Joanna Aislinn says:

        I like the idea of juggling one more ball, Lisa. Helps me visualize figuring out how to fit those additional POVs in. Thanks again and good luck!

  24. Awesome! This came at the right time for me – thanks!

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