by Kassandra Lamb ~ Once upon a time, writing in more than one point of view was a no-no, unless you were writing romance, and then you were supposed to stick with just the hero’s and heroine’s POVs. But it’s becoming more common these days to see stories that include other perspectives. There can be good reasons for doing this, but there is also an art to writing from multiple POVs.
I did a guest post (on Jami Gold’s blog) about this topic back in 2019 when I was just finishing up a ten-book series written in multiple POVs. Now, as I contemplate starting a new police procedural series (a spinoff from that first series), I once again have to face the question of whose POV I will write in—just the protagonist’s, or also from the villain’s perspective as well. And what about the secondary characters whom I plan to develop more fully as the series grows?
When I started my first series, the Kate Huntington mysteries, I naively used multiple POVs without much pre-thought (and I didn’t do it very well initially).
If I go with writing from multiple POVs again, I want to be more purposeful about it this time.
In my second series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, I used first-person, single POV. I had a lot of fun being inside Marcia’s head, but there are some advantages to using multiple POVs that I need to consider before making my decision.
Because it’s one I will have to live with for the entire series.
5 Reasons for Writing from Multiple POVs
#1: Character Importance: with two characters close to equal in importance, it’s appropriate to show both POVs.
This was my reason for this approach in the first book of my first series, Multiple Motives. That story is about two platonic friends, and someone seems to have a murderous grudge against both of them.
I wanted to show how the adversities they were dealing with strengthened their friendship, so it seemed appropriate to show parts of the story from each perspective.
#2: Plot Logistics: more than one POV allows the author to show what is happening when the protagonist isn’t present.
This was critical in Multiple Motives, because for a portion of the story, the two friends are separated; one is in danger and the other is trying to find/rescue them.
The only other way to do that would have been to have one of the friends “tell” what happened on their side of things, once the rescue happened—not nearly as powerful as showing what each is going through in real time.
#3: Insights into Character Motivations: writing from multiple POVs allows one to show the motivations behind more than one character’s actions.
I ran into this issue with one of my important secondary characters. Not being inside her head when she came to a particular decision would have made her actions seem totally out of character.
Again, I could have had her explain her motivation to the others, but that wouldn’t have been as powerful as witnessing her internal struggle. And explaining her inner thoughts to others would have also been out of character for this woman.
#4: Contrasting Perspective: a character’s nature (especially their flaws) can be revealed through another character’s perceptions.
Nothing illuminates a character better than the reader seeing them through another person’s eyes, especially when that is compared to what the character believes about themselves.
In the last book in the Kate Huntington series, Kate is doing something she feels is necessary to protect others, but those close to her have a different opinion about the wisdom of her actions. Their concerns are summarized in the internal dialogue of police lieutenant Judith Anderson (the protagonist of my new series).
“And Kate’s going to meet this guy by herself?” Judith asked, fighting the urge to shake her head. Kate was a brilliant psychologist, but she sure could be stupid sometimes.from Police Protection, A Kate Huntington Mystery, Book 10
#5: Manage Readers’ Emotions: multiple POVs can be used to modulate emotional intensity.
Most of the time, we authors want our readers to feel what the characters are feeling, and just as intensely. However, there are times when we want to back the reader away from the intense emotions.
- One is when the emotions may be too overwhelming. We don’t want someone to stop reading because they are uncomfortable with the intensity.
- Another time is when intense emotions would slow down the story’s pace too much.
In both cases, showing the character’s reactions through the eyes of another character can create just the right amount of distance.
In Multiple Motives, (spoiler alert!) Kate’s first husband is the murder victim. In order to be realistic, I did want to include her grief in the story, but I show some of her initial shock and grief through the eyes of her friends and family. Because the story is not about her grief, it’s about how she tracks down his killer and keeps herself and her friends safe in the meantime.
While multiple POVs have these advantages, there are some pitfalls to using this approach.
Next time, I’ll talk about 7 Do’s and Don’ts when writing from multiple POVs.
As for my police procedural series, I’m actually contemplating still another option—first person for the main character, and third person for one or two supporting characters, possibly even the villains.
So many choices…Aaack!
What are your preferences in POV—first or third person, singular or multiple?
And this week, I’m making the Prequel to the Kate Huntington series available for purchase. It had been available only to my newsletter subscribers before this. But now you can get it for Just 99¢
Sweet Sanctuary, A Kate Huntington Mystery Prequel
Can love rise from the ashes…of murder?
When Kate O’Donnell runs into her old college sweetheart, Ed Huntington at a U2 concert, the last thing she expects to be dealing with is murder. Ed’s date is found dead and not only is he the prime suspect, but he unwittingly gets Kate involved as a potential accessory.
Kate’s always loved a good puzzle and she’s discovering she still has feelings for Ed. She can’t let him go to prison for something she knows he’s incapable of doing. Their love is rekindling as they try to find the real culprit…but will the killer find them first?
AVAILABLE ON: AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ KOBO ~ NOOK
And the winner of our Get Organized for Spring Contest is Crystal S.
Stay tuned, folks. A new contest will be coming up the end of May!
Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida. She also writes romantic suspense under the pen name of Jessica Dale.
Misterio press produces an array of quality crime fiction. We post here twice a month, usually on Tuesdays, to alert you to new releases, to entertain, and to inform.
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Barbara Monajem (@BarbaraMonajem)April 23, 2021 at 4:07 pm
So many choices indeed! I am okay with either first person or close third for two characters. I think I had four or even five points of view in my first full-length romance/mystery. My editor asked me to get rid of some of them, and I’m sure he was right, because the struggles of these secondary characters weren’t really the focus of the story.
Generally, I’m not too keen on the villain’s POV, although it can be riveting in a thriller.
I have run up against a POV problem in my WIP. One of the characters will be ‘offstage’ for quite a while, but I’m not sure I want a travelogue from his POV when he enters the picture again. I’m inclined toward making it an awkward conversation instead…? This is a good sort of problem, because it makes a writer look at the character from different angles — his own (even if he doesn’t usually have a POV) as well as others’.
AliciaMay 31, 2021 at 2:26 pm
I’m not so picky about POV as long as it fits and the story flows well. I think if an author does multiple POVs, then the characters need be very distinguishable or have a heading indicating who’s speaking. It can take me out of the story if I’m having to regroup and figure out which POV we’re in at the beginning of every chapter. I’ve read books/authors where it’s very well done, and others that I struggled with.
Kassandra LambJune 4, 2021 at 6:58 pm
I couldn’t have said it better, Alicia. The most important thing is to keep the story flowing smoothly and make sure it’s clear what’s going on.