Writing Advice #52: Fixing POV

Recently, a young writer commented on the original POV entry of this series, saying this:

I’m writing a full length novel and wanted to ask for some of your advice. I always get confused about POV, I wrote this book half way in the 1st POV and now I feel like I should’ve written it in 3rd POV. I’m confused. I’ve spent six months writing 18 chapters, and now I have to rewrite everything. Have you ever come across such a problem? And how do you tackle it?

I’ve never actually encountered this issue. I’ve had a situation where I had to change tense — wrote something in present tense, decided it was better in past tense — but I’ve never goofed on the POV before. So, truly, I’m not sure how much help I’m going to be.

When I had to do that tense switcheroo, though, here’s how I approached it: I did one chapter. Just one. And then I sat on it for a couple of days. And then I went through it again, just to make sure. Because it’s tempting to look at a change like this as a hard slog that is best done with your head down, charging straight ahead ’til the end.

I disagree. Big changes like this are best done piecemeal, with plenty of time to reconsider. You may think changing from first person to third makes all the sense in the world right now, but when it’s done, you may find you think differently. Rather than do all of that work on all eighteen chapters, do one. Then really ponder it.

Consider, too, that changing from first to third isn’t merely about switching all of your Is and mes into s/hes and her/hims. First person has a different set of requirements than third. Sure, go through quickly and change the pronouns, but then really take that chapter apart and think about what you’ve gained and what you’ve lost in the conversion. You’ll be tempted to change as little as possible, but I encourage you to dig deep.

I guess what I’m saying is this: Don’t despair. Don’t look at this as a failure. Look at it as an opportunity to improve your book and to improve your ability to examine your own work critically. It’s a chance to reinvigorate your story. The lessons you’ll learn in this process will carry forward into every other story you write, so don’t look at it as “This is slowing me down.” Look at it as, “This is preparing me for the future.”

Good luck!

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!