Writing multiple points of view: siding with the character

The WIP (Pride’s Children – see navigation menu) is written in a close third-person point of view, with three characters taking turns, one per scene. It takes me several days to write or revise each scene. Once I’m finished with it for the time being, I find myself seeing the whole world of the story very solidly from that character’s point of view. We all self-justify constantly, and characters are no different. Since ‘truth’ in a story is an invention of the author, and relative, and I need to become the character to have the words flow, I am now completely on his or her side!

The problem is that I have deliberately arranged it to tell the whole story, the ‘truth,’ from the randomly rotating points of view of the three main characters – who I’ve specifically made very different from each other – Duh! – for the purpose of creating the conflict that is the story engine. [I do have a few scenes where something other than the point of view character changes, but not many.]

It might have made more sense to finish one strand of the story – writing – or especially editing – all the scenes for each character before switching to the next character – but where’s the fun in that?

And the STORY needs to maintain continuity.

So I do a few things to switch whose head I’m in:

I examine very carefully WHY I’m switching to WHICH other character. Sometimes I make the decision to use a character other than the one I’d originally planned to use.

I read the text and the notes I’ve made and scribble new notes until I AGREE again that THIS scene requires THIS character. When this is the ‘difficult’ character, it takes longer, not because I don’t like writing this character, but because he/she gets more of the difficult parts of myself, the parts I usually suppress best, so I have to actively decide to let those parts of me get some air time. It doesn’t seem to get easier.

I ask myself, if this character wasn’t in the previous scene, what this character was doing while the previous scene was happening.

Then I go back to the last scene or two written from this character’s pov, and read for mood: each character’s internal monologue/self-talk has a different flavor.

By this time I’m beginning to switch to the current character, and to lose the previous one.

I dig into why this is the best character to be, the one whom I’ve given my now favorite parts of myself, tell myself why this character is right and should ‘win.’

Now I can afford to go to my structure (what is going to happen in this scene), read my notes and the current draft if there is one, and see where THIS character drives the action, and proceed with the whole process of creating or editing.

I check the first lines of the scene to make sure the transition to THIS character is a smooth and painless as I can make it for the reader, that there’s no confusion whose head they’re now in.

Then, after the choreography of who does what when in the scene is complete, and all the other editing for setting, dialogue, etc., I finish by checking the internal monologue to make sure it’s all self-consistent with the version of the character I’ve now slipped back into being, and check that, if it’s the difficult character, I haven’t let completely loose of the reins – and said too much.

And make sure the end of the scene gives the character the last word.

I’m writing this to record my ‘process,’ hoping to make it faster by understanding it, and it sounds crazy. And it’s probably the reason I’m so slow.

I wonder how other people do it.

Comments?

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2 thoughts on “Writing multiple points of view: siding with the character

  1. Alice Audrey

    I find prep work doesn’t help me much. I simply have to put myself in the head of the character the way I would if I were doing improvisation and simply go for it. Afterward I can step back and rethink things, make some adjustments to voice or sometimes plot as need be. There have been times that I have written something out in it’s entirety, then realized it needed to be in the point of view of a different character. Then I simply scrap it and re-write.

    Probably the worst case was a couple years ago when I re-wrote an entire book from beginning to end because I’d originally put it in third person when it really needed to be in first. Actually, it ended up in second, but no need to get picky.

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    1. ABE Post author

      Ack! The amount of energy it must have taken to move a whole book from one pov to another.

      Completely daunting! I admire your fortitude.

      I have a trunk novel I dearly love, but it needs major revisions, and one of them MAY be changing the pov, and the thought is making me blanch. I may come asking for advice, if I ever get 1) finished with this one, and 2) brave enough. But, darn it, I really like major parts of it.

      If I try to switch like you do, all I get is a second scene written in a mishmash of the two characters – which is even harder to sort out. Wish I could – don’t have the mental agility, so I have to compensate.

      How long does it take?

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