Multiple pov can be dangerous

Dangerous? I simply mean that there is a right and wrong way to do it, and you can make a right mess of it ... but  plenty of published writers break the rules.

The closer a writing convention comes to real life the better - it's easier for the reader to accommodate it. Thus, the convention has developed with the novel that the reader can actually live inside a character's head and see their point of view (POV) of the world, relationships and assessment of other characters. That intimacy with the character is what weaves the spell on readers and makes them feel that they know that character as a friend.  We often share so much with a real life friend or partner that we feel we know what they're thinking and that we fully understand their feelings on a wide range of matters.  So, a well-constructed POV ticks that box for the reader.

Now, here's what I insist you should NOT do if you want to engross the reader ... and, I admit, you will be able to point to many published authors who do. You will find they are mainly writers of action plot-driven works.

EXAMPLE OF DANGEROUS USE OF MULTIPLE POV

Angie opened her eyes to find Aunt Celia and Mr Bloggs staring at her. What on earth...? Where was she and what were they doing here? She had been walking through the forest and now she was lying in a strange bed in a red-wallpapered room. Aunt Celia smiled at her. Celia could see she was confused.  The poor kid knew nothing about the magic tree and had paused under its branches. How she wished she had warned her about it.  And, thank goodness that Mr Bloggs, the resident warlock, had happened along. He knew what to do immediately. She caught his eye and he winked back at her. He'd always fancied her a bit. In fact, he studied her now.  He was rather taken with the way the bits under her arm wobbled... some might call it tuckshop ladies arms, but on Celia Bodelia he found it quite delightful. Celia blushed. She could see what was going on in that man's mind. Oh goodness, she hoped he wouldn't propose again, especially while she had this child to care for. Angie was stirring again. Oh yes, now she knew where she was - she could tell from looking out the window. She could see the boat shed so this must be Mr Bloggs' little cabin by the lake.

Can you see what has happened here?  We have been inside every character's head - and in rapid transit. There is no longer one single POV main character to follow; we get a taste of what everyone is thinking.  Now, that's unnatural - as unnatural as Mister Blogg's sexual  fantasies - because, in real life, we only really have access to our own thoughts.. and , by extension, we are prepared to be inside ONE character's head... not hop about like a trapped blowfly.

I reiterate that if you want your reader to really care about your main character and invest in them, you need to allow them to 'sink into' the character.  Provide as much of that character's POV as you can.

MULTIPLE POV THAT WORKS

Having said that, I do not mean that multiple POV is ruled out.  It is possible that you might like two characters - especially in a romance - to share the limelight.  It is also valuable to use a second or even third character's POV when your Main Character is 'off-stage', as they can comment on your MC or reveal things to your reader that you have not told from within the Main Character's POV.


For example, from within the Main Character's POV, the reader may have established that the female main character doesn't go on dates and doesn't seem to have any interest in men. She stays at home with her cat and enjoys reading.

In Chapter Two,  you might get her ex-boyfriend's POV.

For Example:

Would he ring Alice again? What was the point - she always treated him offhandedly and was quick to find excuses about why he shouldn't visit. Since the car accident - gee, that was almost two years ago -  when she lost both legs, she had just severed their relationship. What the heck? He loved her.  Did she really think it would make any difference?

HOW TO DO MULTIPLE POV EFFECTIVELY

The best way to tackle multiple POV is to devote entire chapters to one person's POV alone. If they are both important characters, you might alternate between the chapters.  If there are several key people who can deliver an interesting POV - in particular, by revealing more abut other characters  or deepening the plot, sometimes with dramatic irony, then you might scatter chapters from all POVs throughout.  Maybe one character only gets a POV  chapter about every 6th or 10th chapter. There doesn't really have to be a pattern, although sometimes a reader enjoys seeing that the POV gets passed around a circle.


If you feel you don't have enough material from other characters apart from the main one, you could also use the page break device - usually a short centred line or a series of ****.  This will flag to the reader that there will be a change of scene and possibly a change of POV.

You need to focus attention on the new speaker with the first statement.  The reader will understand then that the spotlight has shifted.


Here's an example:

Let's say, your Main Character's POV ends like this:

... and now Charlie, the wretched fool, had got into  huff and taken a teaching post in Moscow.  She'd blown it and she would never see him again.

******

Charlie Daniels looked at the Flight Departures board in disbelief. Cancelled! There wouldn't be another flight to Moscow until 9 the next day. Crap! How to fill in the time? He'd book into a cheap hotel, get rotten drunk and then ring Mitzi and tell her what he thought of her all over again.

This is a nice smooth transition or bridge and, moreover, an example of dramatic irony - that's when the reader knows something that the main character doesn't.  You can use page breaks or, if the signalling of a change of POV is clear enough, you can sometimes dispense with the page break device - simply take a new paragraph, maybe double the normal paragrah space.

__________________

I hope this instruction about POV has been useful. Don't forget you can try the first module and Assignment 1 of my writing course FREE and with no obligation.  Simply ask for it with an email to writing-course@hotmil.com

Also, please alert your writing friends to these useful writing tips by clicking the LIKE icons below for Facebook or Tweet.

Best wishes, Jim Parsons