Multiple Points of View–Writing Tip of the Day
Using multiple points of view gives the reader a chance to experience life behind more than one set of eyes. Exciting!
We talked about the negatives of head-hopping earlier. Painting the story world through multiple characters in different scenes or chapters counts as legitimate head-hopping. It allows the reader to know what the other characters are thinking and feeling.
Usually, a writer uses multiple “heads” when she writes in third person. He said/she said. Most of the books written in first person stay in that one point of view throughout the entire story. Some writers break this rule. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
When is head-hopping acceptable?
When you change a scene or a chapter. Never in the middle of a scene or chapter.
I’m going to say that again. Never in the middle.
Don’t go back and forth paragraph to paragraph. It makes the reader crazy. It makes me crazy.
Some “rules” for switching POV.
1. In each new chapter or scene, open with the POV character you’ve chosen for the scene. That way we know exactly whose head we’re in from the beginning of the scene. Confusion causes speed bumps and pulls the reader out of the story.
Side Note: If you change scenes in the middle of a chapter, use a break and give the reader some white space so they know there has been a switch.
Example from one of my WIP’s:
Chapter 1 Opening—POV Lori
Lori sighed and stretched her legs under the table, bumping Kyle’s foot with her sandal. The drone of multiple conversations buzzed around them in the clinic’s congested coffee shop. Blue-scrubbed nurses lounged around tables laughing and drinking coffee. A young guy in a suit waited at the counter, holding up the line, while the clerk made him a latte with, “just a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” Get a grip—Starbucks this was not.
Chapter 2 Opening—POV Kyle
Kyle shivered even though the leather seat burned his back. People walked around their van, through the parking lot, toward the clinic. But no one looked at him. Or at Mom. Everybody seemed in a hurry to get inside. He wanted to yell out the window, “Don’t go in!”
If I would have started with the scenery or the other character, we wouldn’t have been sure who’s eyes we were supposed to be behind.
2. Pick the person who has the most to lose or gain in the scene and use their POV. Ask yourself who has the most at stake in this scene, character A or character B? Then write the chapter from that perspective.
3. Stay with one character for a few chapters before switching. This tip is from a seminar I just attended by Jeff Gerke, and he’s a lot smarter than I am! He says the reader needs to be grounded before we switch characters. Click on Jeff’s name for an entire website of great tips.
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