Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two Character Perspectives

There are many stories written in one character’s perspective, but a lot of books are composed of two or more perspectives. And I am finding that more and more readers are enjoying getting into the heads of both the hero and heroine in romance books.

If you want to write a story with two character perspectives, and never attempted it before, the main thing you have to remember is not to head-hop. Head-hopping is when you’re in one character’s perspective, but then you include a sentence from another character’s perspective. Simply adding in what a character thinks when you’re not in their perspective is head-hopping. (I used to have this problem, but I’ve learned to prevent it from happening.)
TIP #1: It’s also always a good idea to give your story to a beta reader or two, because they can always catch head-hopping a lot easier than you probably can. 
Here are a couple of ways you can write a story from two character’s perspectives:

1.    Devote one chapter to the heroine and one chapter to the hero and keep alternating back and forth. This is actually probably the easiest method (at least in my opinion) because it allows you to write a whole chapter in one character’s voice. And once you get into your story, it becomes easier to smoothly switch from one character’s POV to another. This method is also easy for the reader because they don’t have to guess whose POV will be coming next.

2.    Write in one character’s perspective then indicate a scene break with a blank line, insert the pound symbol (# or some editors prefer this ***), and hit the enter key again for another blank line before beginning the new scene in another character’s perspective. This method is nice if you want to reveal both character’s thoughts and actions during the same event. 
TIP #2: Always make it clear whose perspective you’re in right away. Don’t make a reader guess. State the character’s name within the first few sentences. 

If you want to use more than two POVs you can:

1.    Title the chapter with the character’s name.

2.    Hint at which character’s POV you’ll be in next. This can be done by ending a scene with: “Cory turned to Samantha. “What do you think we should do?” Then beginning the next scene with: Samantha shook her head. “I don’t know what to do.”

3.    Set up a rhythm your readers can expect. This can easily be boy-girl-boy-girl or Character 1-Character 2-Character 1-Character 3-Character 1-Character 2-Character 1-Character 3-Character 1 and so on.


QUESTIONS:

Readers: Do you prefer to read books with one, two or three+ character POVs? Does it matter?

Writers: How many POVs do you prefer when you’re writing?

My Answer: I personally prefer one or two character POVs when I’m writing. As for reading, as long as I can easily follow the story, I don’t mind if a story has one or more POV changes.


27 comments:

  1. I write mostly from the point of two characters and branched out to three with my last book. The manuscript I'm working on now is just from one (still third person) and it's been the most challenging.

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    1. It would be interesting to write a story from three character's POVs. I've never done it before. Well, that's not true. I have shared several of my character's POVs in my unpublished series, but I've never divided a book between three perspectives before.

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  2. I usually write in 1st person so even with two perspectives, that pretty much eliminates the head-hopping problem. But I am plotting out a book that I plan to write in 3rd person with multiple perspectives, so I will definitely keep these tips in mind!

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    1. Yes, it's when you write in third person when the head-hopping can be a true problem. Good luck with your next book! :)

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  3. I haven't tried writing from multiple POVs, but I just finished reading (again) the Maggie Stiefvater books Shiver, Linger, Forever, and Sinner (a series). She does two POVs in the first and then branches out to four POVs in the second and third. And then two again in the last. This style worked very well for her because she stop mid-scene and switch POVs. As you say, she always used a Name Header so that it was easy to follow whose POV each section of the story was chronicling.

    Now I am reading the second book in the Game of Thrones series, A Clash of Kings. I am constantly AMAZED at the number of POVs this series contains. I think I might have had difficulty following it if I hadn't watched the first three seasons on HBO. That made it much easier. I am not sure I'd want to tackle a project of this magnitude. I finding writing in just ONE POV difficult enough!

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    1. I don't think I'd ever be able to pull off a story with that many POVs either. It takes real thought and skill to do it right. I've never read the Game of Thrones series, but I suspect I may have a problem since I'm about the only person who has never watched the show...

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  4. Hello Chrys!! I don't think I've ever read a book with a two-character perspective. (unless you count books that switched between first and second person). I am definitely intrigued though.

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    1. What's funny is that I don't think I've ever read a book that switches between first and second person. I think that would be interesting. :)

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  5. Good tips. I read a book once that was a muddled POV mess. One character was in the first person, the rest were in third person, and it would switch between them in mid-scene.

    My fantasy series currently has nine POV characters but every POV switch is marked by a scene break or a chapter break.

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    1. Reading a book like that would be a nightmare and headache inducing.

      9 POV characters is something! Wow!!

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  6. I'm all about third-person omniscient, the classic default POV. It makes me sad that so many people these days have no idea how to write or read that POV, and think the same rules apply to it as to first-person or third-person limited, or don't even think a story could be omniscient and thus "helpfully" point out "POV errors" that are just fine in omniscient. It's so natural to weave in and out among a rich cornucopia of characters, instead of being tied down to only one per book, scene, or chapter.

    I really dislike the current trend of bopping back and forth among multiple narrators or POV characters, one chapter at a time. A lot of times, these characters don't sound distinctive enough, and I'm not the only one who often has to flip back to remember who's narrating this time. The worst, silliest example I've encountered was Andy Mulligan's Trash, which bops around among EIGHT narrators, several of whom only get one chapter each. The last chapters bop around among 3-4 characters, which is even more ridiculous. Sad evidence of the decline of third-person omniscient, the POV it would seem obvious to use if you have more than one important character. I don't understand why some people these days are convinced it's too old-fashioned, distant, impersonal, etc. To me, it's the most deeply personal and creative POV possible.

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    1. Honestly, I wouldn't even begin to know how to write third-person omniscient. I thought I did, but then I was told I was head hopping, so maybe I had it right and they were wrong. ;)

      I also prefer it when an author changes POVs with a new chapter.

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  7. I have to work on eliminating head hopping. I like to get inside multiple characters' heads but I think keeping it central to the protagonist is key. Definitely signal scene changes or even as you say a whole chapter dedicated to one character POV. I have to get better at that. Head hopping is annoying when I'm reading but tempting when I'm writing. Thanks Chrys, for more great tips. I was just going to do some research today on POV and dialogue tips. :)

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    1. I understand exactly what you're talking about, Lisa! I had a problem with head hopping when I was writing, but I thought it was just fine because Nora Roberts head hops. haha I've since learned to control the head hopping. I'm so happy that I planned this post perfectly to assist you with your POV research. :)

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  8. I'm doing this with my current manuscript. The POV switches between a brother and sister. It's been a lot of fun to write!

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    1. I do love POV switches, it can bring so much to a story when it's done right. :)

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  9. The chapter switching sure is the easiest way to do it and less confusing as well.

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    1. I agree. That is the technique I use the most.

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  10. I don't mind if an author switches POV as long as it's not every other page (for some reason that just makes me dizzy). But I LOVE getting to see what the other characters are up to, and I especially love getting into the villain's head. I do employ multiple POVs in my own writing. Hopefully, I've done it well. There was one book that I actually put down because everybody (including the dog, it seemed) had to tell their story! Even if it was just a chapter that consisted of a couple of pages. I find that kind of thing distracting. I actually didn't finish the book.

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    1. Yes, it's important to let each POV switch run for a few pages, so the reader can get comfortable in that new POV and even gain something new from it. I wouldn't let it go any shorter than 3-5 pages. And sometimes that can even be too short. It all depends on the story though and whats happen at the time when the switches occur.

      I'm sorry you didn't finish that book. Maybe one day you'll pick it up again and fix it. :)

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  11. Into the Fire is written in dual POV. I head my chapters with the characters name so it's clear who is narrating, but my two MCs have very distinct voices so I don't think reader would be confused. Still, I wanted everything to be clear upfront so I went with that format.

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    1. I think you did it the right way, Kelly. :)

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  12. I've read a lot of novels with the two-character perspective and some with more than two. "One Day" by David Nicholls (told in third person) and "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn (told in first person(s)) are two popular ones but this style goes back a long time. Victor Hugo uses it in both "Les Miserables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." As a reader I think multiple perspective adds tremendous interest to the story. I love the little jolt I get when you here the same event told from an entirely different point of view.As a writer I'd like to give it a try and appreciate your tips!

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    1. I really liked Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. She did a great job!

      You're welcome for the tips, Carol. :)

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  13. I haven't written stories with more than one perspective yet though I might try in the future. So thanks for the tips here, Chrys! I have read good ones with more than one POVs. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates is one I was really impressed with.

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    1. You're welcome for the tips, Claudine! :)

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Please tell me what you think. I love to chat! :)

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