Multi-POV, or multiple point of view storytelling has been around for a long time and a lot of people either love it or hate it. It’s been particularly popular since A Song of Ice and Fire and it seems pretty common in the fantasy genre as a whole.
But should you go for a multi-POV setup? That’s what this post aims to help you answer.
When I first started seriously writing my fantasy novel, I automatically fell into the habit of multi-POV, thinking that’s just what I was meant to do with a big fantasy world.
Recently, I’ve made big changes to the plot and the characters which has meant that there’s little need for multiple points of view. I might expand on that and use it again in the future, but for now I’ve taken some satisfaction out of making my story a bit more closed off. However, that doesn’t mean that’s right for everyone.
How does a multi-POV novel work?
Typically, the easiest way of writing a multiple POV novel is to start each chapter from another character’s perspective. That way, you can turn the page and see Chapter 2 [Character’s Name] and know exactly who to expect. This is a really simple way to reduce any confusion and breaks up the story nicely. This is what I’d recommend if you want multiple POVs throughout your entire novel.
Another way people do it is by turning section breaks into different perspectives. This can be a little difficult to follow unless you make it clear. However, this method can be useful when trying to write an action or tense scene from other perspectives. Switching chapters halfway through a scene might be too disturbing to the reader, so sometimes it’s best to do it within the chapter. I’d recommend this method if you don’t do it too much.
Pros of using multiple points of view
Keeps it interesting
Hearing from other people in your novel is always interesting because you’ve got more opportunity to explore and show off your world and develop the narrative in new ways. I love it personally and it also gives you a breather from each character.
Not limited to a closed-off story
This was probably the main reason I chose to do multi POV. When you have a main character/sole perspective, you’re pretty limited in what you can write. It’s hard to reveal things the main character doesn’t know, which is something that could up the tension. You can’t see other characters unless they’re around the main character. You will struggle to show people on the other side of the world unless you take your character there. If you have a big world and you want to use it, multiple perspectives is the simplest way of showing the reader everything you want.
Cons of using multiple points of view
The “Bran” moment
If you’ve read the A Song of Ice and Fire books, you’ll know exactly what I mean here. It’s where you turn the page and see a character you really don’t want to read about and you do a big sigh and plod through it. Maybe it’s not Bran, but it’s Catelyn or someone else. It’s great if you can keep all your characters equally interesting, but there will always be more interesting ones and inevitably, ones your readers simply don’t enjoy as much as the others.
It can get confusing or boring
Just because the author wants to write about different characters, doesn’t mean the reader will care. In fact, you might be adding a lot of confusion to a story that doesn’t actually need it.
Set on doing a multiple POV novel?
If you’re sure you want to go ahead and write your book from differing perspectives, it’s important to get it right. Here are some tips on how to manage it all well.
Create character fact files
Create fact files for each of your characters. List out the generic information like age, appearance, family, background and so on. Then move on to stuff like goals, ambitions, reactions to particular events, goals at the end of the novel. This is vital to not only keep track of everyone, but also to develop your characters into real individuals which is vital so that you…
Make sure the characters are actually different
This is a bad mistake I’ve made. I haven’t made the characters different enough from each other which can be confusing and to be honest makes me look like a lazy writer.
One way to test this is to pick a random page in your manuscript and see if you can identify who the character is straight away. If it takes you a bit longer than it should, it’s maybe because all the characters sound the same.
In this case, it’s worth sitting down with your character fact files and trying to establish what makes each character unique. Try an exercise like writing a page unrelated to the story from this character’s perspective. It could be about going to buy a loaf of bread. Next, try it with another character and look at them both. Are they different enough?
Are the voices, thoughts, behaviour different or is it hard to tell them apart? Find the differences and make sure they’re there whenever you come to write each character OR – take this as a sign that you don’t really want to write from differing perspectives.
Ensure every character gets their time to shine
If you notice that you’re writing one character more than the other, first of all, ask yourself whether you need to write from that perspective at all. If you do, then think carefully about how you’re going to divide attention between the characters. You might be leaving one of them out too much which can make it hard to identify with them. Some readers might even forget what’s been going on if they haven’t heard anything from them in 200 pages.
Ideally, you should think all this through carefully before you begin writing your novel. However, if you’ve already started, it’s not too late to change it all. It’s just a massive pain in the arse, and I can tell you that from experience. However, as annoying as it might be, you need to do what’s right for the novel. Don’t force something like this if it simply isn’t working because you’ll never want to finish your novel.
Whatever decision you make, make it in the interests of the story line so it’s not just there for the sake of it. Best of luck!
Are you a multi POV writer? Does a multi POV in a novel put you off or is it something you love to reader? Let us know in the comments.