Writing Advice #49: POV Addendum

So, a while back I wrote a lengthy post on point of view. It was chock full of info and you should go read it before proceeding any further. I’ll wait.

[Muzak plays]

Back? Great!

Recently, someone left the following comment on that post:

Hello,
Thank goodness I found this site!

I’m writing an ebook series which I have not published quite yet. But the first will be out Dec.

I had a question maybe people are willing to help me with. I’m wanting to use First Person Multiple. I didn’t know what it was called until I read this site.

I’ve written the first two ebooks 1st POV from only one character’s point of view. I’m editing the third now, and I want to switch between 2 characters in different scenes. In trying to consistent with first 2 ebook, is there any way to do this while using 1st person?

Can a writer, wanting to use first person, start a scene in third person saying person’s name then quickly switch to first. For example, “Ace stepped slowly to the creek.” Then switch to first person, “I stared into the water feeling lost.”

In the next chapter, I would change characters and say, “Amen squinted at the horde of Undead charging. I swallowed, my body stiffening, preparing for the onslaught to come.”

Or are there better examples of how to do this?

Well, as I like to say, the only thing that really matters in writing a book is not what you do, but that you do it well. If you can pull off such a scheme as you have above and do it with skill, then fine.

But I have to be honest with you — it seems extremely clumsy to me. It’s going to throw off readers, jar them.

First Person Multiple is simple. Look, all you need to do is give the reader some kind of trigger that indicates you’ve switched from Character A to Character B. Something simple, like…

CHAPTER 1

CHARACTER A’s NAME

I was looking over the fog bank from my perch high atop Glassfoam Peak when I noticed…

And then, when you get to the chapter from another POV…

CHAPTER 2

CHARACTER B’s NAME

The clouds, their underbellies dun colored with dirty rain, parted just enough that far ahead in the distance I bespied the green-glowing angles of Glassfoam Peak…

Done and done. Sometimes authors will use different fonts to indicate different characters (Jodi Picoult does this, for example), but fonts are tricky to mess with in an e-book, so I don’t recommend that path.

Above all, though, remember this: Your greatest asset when writing First Person Multiple is making the characters’ voices distinctive! Theoretically, once you establish your characters for the readers, the reader should be able to tell the difference without any clues whatsoever…because each character speaks differently, describes things differently, etc.

Good luck!

Comments

  1. One of the best examples of multiple first person narratives is William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. It tells a story through many characters’ eyes over multiple chapters. Great read for anyone who wants to get a grip on the technique.

  2. Gage Downs says:

    I have been reading a lot of your blogs and I have a question that i hope you can respond to. When picking your location how much of that area do you keep the same in your books do you use the same street names and high schools? When writing are you allowed to use stores names in your book?
    Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully reply!

    • Gage,

      It depends on the book. My first four novels, for example, are all set in the same town, so I used the same school, streets, etc. But there’s no rule.

      As to using store names: Sure! They’re public, after all!

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