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So as many of you already know, I love dual-POV narratives. Reading multiple perspectives to me, is fascinating when done correctly, and writing it just never gets boring.
Writing dual-POV narratives, however, can be a little tricky, particularly if you haven’t done it before. Before you start, you’re going to want to make sure that having multiple perspectives is the right choice for your WIP (quick way to figure this out is to determine if you need more than one POV to tell your story. If you don’t, then stick with one POV). Even after you decide it’s the right option, multiple POVs can be tricky to manage, and so I’d like to share five tips to make your lives a teensie bit easier:
- Make sure the voices are distinct. This one can be a killer if you don’t get it right. In any multi-POV novel, you should be able to flip to a random page, read a couple sentences, and know which character is speaking. If you find yourself reading and having to check back to the beginning of the chapter to see whose speaking, then that’s usually a blaring sign that your voices aren’t distinct enough. Which leads me to the next point…
- Really get to know your characters. This is the number one way to get two distinct, interesting voices—you need to know your characters inside and out. Level of education, slang, language choices, how their backgrounds affect their perspectives, temperament and values all play into perspective, and you need to know every one of those elements and how they affect your character’s voice.
Even description varies in POV—what one character notices, pays attention to, and what they think about their surroundings will all vary depending on their individual perspectives. (More on that here).
- Pick up where the other character left off. I’m not going to say that I’ve never seen a successful flashback-like format where we went through the same event (or parts of the same event) from multiple character perspectives—I have, and it can work if the perspectives are enormously different. But most of the time, the most effective multi-POV method I’ve seen involves one character picking up where the other left off.
The reason this works so well is because it avoids redundancy—if two characters are in relatively similar situations, then we really don’t need to see both of them eating lunch together twice from each perspective. By picking up where the previous POV character left off, you keep the story moving without giving readers a sense of massive deja vu.
- Carefully consider why you’re choosing one POV for a particular scene. Dual-POV narratives often alternate back and forth with every chapter—but it doesn’t have to. The most important thing to consider when plotting out your dual-POV book, is why you’re choosing that particular POV for that particular scene.
Generally, the POV we want to be in is the POV most affected by the events unfolding in that scene. So, for example, if a character’s house catches fire, we want to be in the POV of the character in the house, experiencing the fire—not the neighbor walking down the street outside. If a character is being arrested, we want the POV of the arrested character, not the friend watching from the sidelines, etc.
Sometimes this can be a little tricky because both characters are affected by the unfolding events. When this happens, you’ll want to think about who is most affected, and if that’s equal, then consider which POV would be the most interesting.
- Read books with multiple POVs. This almost goes without saying, but before you even start thinking about writing a multi-POV novel, you’re going to want to pick up some books with multiple POVs to see how it’s done. Some of my favorite multi-POV novels include the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, and Faking It by Cora Carmack. I also recommend Every Day by David Levithan, which doesn’t have multiple POVs, but one POV in several bodies, which brings to light a lot of really interesting points about perspective.
So those are my dual-POV tips—now I want to hear from you: what have you seen that works (or definitely doesn’t work) in effective dual-POV narratives?
Working on a dual or multi-POV WIP? Writer @Ava_Jae shares five tips you may find helpful. (Click to tweet)
Five tips you may want to keep in mind when writing a dual-POV novel. (Click to tweet)