My favorite part of the writing process
After all is gathered, BECOMING the character, again, if the alternation between scenes leads me to the head of a different character, is the fun part of writing.
There is a reason for the point of view switch: something important is going to happen, and this is the character who will be most affected (which is why I chose her/him to tell this part of the story). And by the time I’ve gathered all the parts of WHAT will happen in this scene (that’s the ‘extreme plotter’ part of my writing process), I now get to write the scene, the HOW and the WHY of it, from this character’s viewpoint.
I am perfectly capable of writing long parts from a single pov in both first and third person – I’ve done both. But I’ve chosen to switch between Andrew, Kary, and Bianca in Pride’s Children because, well, it fits the story, and it works for me.
The particular joy of writing third person multiple pov
But I often forget, and discover with surprise, that getting back into a different character’s pov is fun for me, the writer. You’d think I would have figured it out by now, but there are so many other parts to writing that I have to pay attention to that I seem to forget, while intensely involved in one scene and one character’s head, that I can and will switch.
While Andrew has one pair of scenes in a row at the beginning of Pride’s Children because it is necessary (and the way a TV interview flows), Kary is the character who gets all the rest of the scenes in Book 1 where the pov doesn’t change when going to a new scene. This is necessary because, in the story, though Andrew has farther to go, Kary is much harder to change.
Motivating change in a character
And you wouldn’t believe the change if I didn’t show you the pieces, so I have no choice: I have no patience with books where a character makes a major personality change for the convenience of the author and the plot, and you’re just supposed to take it (UNwilling suspension of disbelief) so the writer can get on with the story. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, a switch gets set to ‘disbelief’ and the rest of the story is now fake. I may enjoy the story – and finish reading it – but I will never read it again to savor the character or the storytelling the way I do with books which dissect the change path.
I learned this from the good ones. I was rereading Dune last night and Busman’s Honeymoon (Dorothy L. Sayers) the night before, and it seems that it doesn’t matter how many times I go back to them, I get sucked in to enjoying the character-development steps all over again. Maybe because that’s how the authors made me care about the characters in the first place – and I DO care about Paul-Muad’dib and Peter Wimsey, long dead and never real in the first place.
Becoming the character
Because getting into the skull and under the skin of a character, so I can look out through the eyes, hook into all the senses, and listen to the dialogue and thoughts, is basically the same effect I hope to elicit in a reader, an indispensable part of the process is to go back and read the last couple of scenes from the pov of this scene’s character, SKIPPING any intermediary scenes from other characters viewpoint.
It is an odd exercise, seeing the story ONLY from one character’s pov, but an oddly satisfying one as well, because by the time I get to the actual writing phase, dialogue, thought, and movement are coming back to me in the way it must be for an actor returning to an old familiar role: this is how the head moves, this the habitual tone of voice, and the words another character might use do not fit.
I told one of my readers that I’m a frustrated actor. I have neither the ability nor the stamina for theater, especially in real time.
But it’s amazing how the other characters in this story fade, once I boldly seize the controls in this one’s head – and scary how my real self becomes subsumed in the virtual one.