How To Make Multiple Points Of View Work Well

perspective, point of view, writing, characters

How many times have you read a book with two or more characters' points of view and thought "Whoa, hold on. Who's talking now? What's going on?"

I love big casts, but when authors start adding point of view after point of view, it can get confusing fast. You lose track of characters and their personalities just don't shine through.

So! In response to that problem, I've made a list (never need an excuse to make a list...) of what I think makes multiple points of view in a novel work well...

This may seem obvious, but it's surprising how often a book can have multiple characters' voices and yet they all sound the same.

When a book has more than one point of view, the perspectives need to be distinct. The characters are different people, from different backgrounds, with different interests, and they aren't all going to see the same things in a situation. A artist is going to notice colours, design; whereas a farmer likely isn't. Even if a book has two Princesses, one might be driven more by emotion, and the other by logic. All of this influences perspective.

When I read a book with a huge cast, I love it when the characters' perspectives are startlingly different.

So many authors fail to do this! It's like opening a gate and letting fifty bulls charge out at once. It's chaos. And it gets worse when the chapters are short and you're flying from chapter 1 to 5 where every chapter has a different character's point of view and each chapter is only 8 pages. 

To make reading smoother and less confusing, I wish authors would introduce characters gradually. Or at least make the chapters for each character longer. That way, we have time to get into their heads.

I hate it when a book has two - or more - main characters whose names have the same initial. I once read a thriller where there were at least three main characters whose names started with a B, and it was just ridiculous. It distracts the reader from the story, and it's especially confusing if each of those characters gets a point of view.

In a story with many perspectives, the characters' names need to be distinct. The easiest way to make sure that doesn't happen, is to name all four characters Bob, Bryan, Briana, and Bryce.

Leigh Bardugo - Queen that she is - understood this perfectly. She had Kaz, who was the leader; Inej, who was the spy; Matthias, who was the soldier; and so on and so on. It's these roles that made the characters stick in our minds, but it's their personalities that made us fall in love in them.

The easiest way to get point of view characters clear in your head is to know what role each one plays in the story. Sherlock Holmes: he's the cold genius. Rory Gilmore: bookworm and writer. The Joker: well, he's a psychopath.

The role isn't what makes you fall in love with a character - their personalities, their quirks, their history, their relationships will do that - but it's a strong starting point. As long as authors go deeper than the initial roles and bother to flesh their cast out, it's a winning strategy for memorable characters. 

Do you like books with multiple points of view?

No comments