12 ways to prepare to write the next scene in the pov of a different character

Using multiple point of view

Many novels, including my novel-in-progress, Pride’s Children, are written with a multiple point of view (pov). I have three characters who get turns, two women (Kary and Bianca), and a man (Andrew).

Sometimes this is done by giving each character a chapter at a time. I prefer, in the WIP, to tell each scene in a chapter from the pov of the character who has the most at stake – but with no particular rotation. The story dictates who tells it.

More than half of the time, the next scene, after I finish writing or polishing the current one, will be in the pov of a different character. In writing the 26 scenes in the five beginning chapters, I switch to a different pov 16 times.

Why I switch when writing

Why? Because I don’t dare write scenes out of sequence. I have a complicated plot, and a calendar and timeline. Occasionally I play with time a bit, but I risk confusing readers, and prefer sometimes to change the scenes so that I can stick to linear time.

So the exigencies of my plot require that I do the jumping about from head to head, instead of expecting the reader to do it.

I write a tight third-person point of view, so tight that I sometimes have to back off from using only pronouns, to put in a proper noun to identify a character, which happens when scenes have other characters than the main characters.

When to become the character

This process – BEING the character – is the last part of the first line in the scene revision method – and comes from the Right brain side. So it is gutteral. It has to feel right. I have to be that character before I can write from that pov.

I get to this point of my process after I’ve gathered everything I can think of that belongs in the scene. There is no point in thinking of something the way Andrew would if I’m going to be Bianca in the next scene.

How: a few tricks which help me make the switch:

1. Re-read the character’s last couple of scenes.

2. Look at the list of scenes to see where the scene is going to fit in the overall flow of the chapter, the Act, and the book. (I keep the same scene list in Scrivener and in Dramatica – the list is 99% of the overlap between my two daily-use programs).

3. Check out the Dramatica Story Expert appreciations for this scene as they apply to this character. This gives me the overall structural support for the scene – and reminds me what I’m trying to do in it, and why this character got the pov.

4. Remind myself what this character wants, in this scene and in the context of the Book or Act or Chapter.

5. Figure out where we are in the whole, and why this scene is in here.

6. PHYSICALLY become the character in some way, even looking into the mirror.

7. Get into the character psychologically with a letter, an interview, a journal entry written from his/her pov.

8. Check the Enthusiasm file and list the reasons why I have been waiting since Day 1 to write this scene in this pov (Thanks, Rachel Aaron – 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love). If I don’t know why I’m so enthused to be writing this scene for this character now – figure it out. In writing. It doesn’t take long, and makes the writing much easier.

9. Walk through the actions in the scene as the character. See myself in his/her body.

10. Remind myself why I LOVE this character.

11. IDENTIFY with the character.

12. FEEL what the character should feel in the scene: by this point, the What happens in this scene? question has been asked, and is in the process of being answered if not obvious.

Focus – and jump

No matter how many times I’ve made the switch, it’s never been easy. I get very focused on the character whose pov I’m writing, and it is painful to change viewpoints.

Each scene forces me to re-examine how the character fits into the whole book.

The payback? Every time I do it, I find something new in my characters, something that I needed to learn.

If you’re a reader, do you notice the switch when you read multiple pov stories? If you write, do you have any tricks you use to switch heads?

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7 thoughts on “12 ways to prepare to write the next scene in the pov of a different character

  1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Sometimes reading the previous scene is enough for me. Sometimes I must do more metal prep: listing character feelings and motivations; figuring out a side issue that will never appear in the scene, but that i need to know in order to write it; reviewing the timeline; etc. My main go-to trick is free writing while I think about the scene, just jotting down the random thoughts and questions that cross my mind as I muse on my story. For some reason that really loosens me up and gets my head in the right space. One thing that is always true: that jump. I always feel some anxiety as I prepare to write, and it gets most acute as I type the first word. I must let go and jump. It still amazes me that my creativity catches me on the other side of that leap. Every. Single. Time. 😀

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I agree. Amazing that it happens every time – and that the jump works every time. You think I’d learn.

      I have things that may later be Easter eggs, deleted scenes, or short stories – whole scenes where characters find a reason for talking about something – a letter from a character, an interview they would never give – anything to get around the form of the scene I’m writing. Brain-looseners.

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  2. Widdershins

    Note to self: must try and write an entire novel from one POV … note to self: scrap previous note. I’m having too much fun getting into multiple heads. 🙂

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