A Tip for Writing Multiple POV Characters

My current WIP has two POV characters, kinda like Scott Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN. While I was outlining, I realized my favorite scenes were spread out between two of the characters: the ninja and the con artist. But neither of these characters had the whole story.

See, when choosing a protagonist, you need to choose a character who does all the interesting things and who has the most interesting character arc. And I had two characters who had all the interesting stuff spread out between them (actually three: the con artist has a sister whose arc I want to explore too).

There were a couple of ways I could've gone with this: (1) focus on one character while downplaying the other or (2) write a dual storyline. I've already written a shared story with mixed feedback, so I wanted to focus on one character this time. But who? To help me decide, I took a long look at each character and thought, "If this book was ONLY about them, what would their plot and character arc look like?" Then I would pick the arc I liked best.

Instead, I ended up with A REALLY STRONG DUAL STORYLINE.

Don't get me wrong. Writing from two POVs is still going to be a lot of work to do right, but this feels like a good way to start.

Ever written a dual storyline? Got any advice before I take it too far?

13 comments:

thebloodfiend said...

Once upon a time, I tried to write a dual POV story. It was contemporary Upper MG. I never finished it, but I outlined it pretty well. Best advice I can give you? Make sure both storylines wrap up well and compliment each other.

Like Aang and Zuko's storylines in Avatar. Probably some of the best dual POV I've seen on tv.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I've done MOSTLY dual POV, if I count it up. One was a love story, so that's kind of a natural. My MG story (two boy protagonists) was a different story. I had to make sure that each character's dimensionality was equally strong, or else one would steal the show. Even so, my boys still picked favorites. As long as they all didn't pick the SAME favorite, I figured I was ok. :)

Lynne said...

I love the idea of a strong dual story line! Go for it!

My current MS is a dual-POV. I'm almost done revising before I send it off for my final round of critique. :D

I envisioned this particular MS as a dual POV from the start. For me, the key to an effective dual POV is making certain that each POV is as compelling as the other--so each has their own voice (duh! :D) and more critically, each POV doesn't repeat info from the other but moves the story forward from the most compelling POV for that particular scene.

I think dual POV's are incredibly fun, both for the writer and the reader when done well! Good luck and happy writing! :D

MattyDub said...

This isn't your first multiple-POV piece though, right? Maybe it's more emphatically dual-POV than Air Pirates - is that what you mean?

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

My first book had an MC with an alternating POV of a secondary character and the advice I received from an agent was to make sure I didn't go too long between switching off to the secondary character. I'm sure this sounds obvious, but for me I had only a select places where I wanted to 'hear' from that character. So, I guess the point was to commit to whatever you're doing and give a hint of this right from the start of the book.

jjdebenedictis said...

I've done it, and seen it done, and I see no reason not to do it! The storylines should join up at the end, so the book feels cohesive, is the only thing I'd note.

Adam Heine said...

@Lynne: Yes! That's exactly what I'm discovering. Thanks for the tip!

@Matty: Actually both of my novels that you have read were multiple POV, but the first (Travelers) I was kinda making it up as I go.

Yes, Air Pirates is also dual-POV, but it's the flashback aspect that's gotten mixed reviews. I'm being much more intentional this time.

Adam Heine said...

@Kathryn: That's really interesting. I'm definitely trying to keep it balanced for that reason, but I'm not tying myself to a structure just yet. We'll see...

@JJ: Totally agree. I think if there's a POV that's dropped, maybe it wasn't as important as I thought it was to begin with.

Daniel Smith said...

The best advice I've heard is this: Ask who has the most to learn? That's your protagonist.

Michael LaRocca said...

I did this with the novel that Double Dragon will publish next year, and I bet you know my advice.

Never change POV character mid-scene. Don't do it mid-chapter if you can avoid it. Make every change obvious in the first sentence. Otherwise my wife -- um, your reader will get confused.

Using two POV characters can be a great way to "skip over the boring bits."

Anonymous said...

I wrote a paranormal romance in duel POV. I gave them two chapters each and it worked out nicely with the scene changes. Good luck on the story!

David Jace said...

My current WIP has a DOZEN POV characters. Not something I would generally recommend, but I set it as a challenge for myself. It's... a challenge.

Like the others said, make sure each character has their own strong storyline/plot/conflict. Make sure you don't have three with the same conflict happening. Bring them all together at the end, so there's cohesion, and make sure your POV shifts are very clear.

Anonymous said...

To make things easier on yourself try splitting it into chapters. So one chapter is about the con artist and the second about the ninja, the third about the con artist again and the fourth about the ninja and so on.

That way you'll be able to simplifiy things for yourself. This also adds tension because if you end each chapter on a cliff hanger they have to read another chapter before they reach the outcome and then the cliff hanger on that chapter has them hooked on for the next bit as well.

Hope this helped.