Writing fiction with multiple character POVs can be a challenge. I’m not talking about first-person, third-person, deep POV, etc. I’m talking about how to handle scenes with different POVs by multiple characters.
We already know that the simplest method is simply to write the entire book from one character’s POV. This is usually the main character’s, but it can be fun to write from the viewpoint of a sidekick, reporter, and so on. This approach has limitations and benefits. You only have to develop the inner voice for one character and it keeps the story line simple, but you are limited to that view, and only that view.
Writing in multiple points of view, however, offers both challenges and rewards. One can write multiple POVs with serial revelation, where each scene has a different POV and builds on the previous scene more or less chronologically. The majority of the scenes would likely be written from the main character’s POV, peppered with scenes from other characters’ views. The benefits, if done correctly, are tremendous.
Benefits for Writers
- Firstly, the secondary characters automatically gain depth when they have scenes that are written from their point of view. (Challenge: the characters have to be fleshed out more than if writing from a single POV).
- Secondly, a possibly large amount of exposition can be eliminated when a side character experiences an event in which the MC is not present. For example, rather than telling about the effects of an invader’s occupation of New York City, a minor character can show those effects, and his/her feelings add impact to the narrative.
- Thirdly, having multiple POVs available means that it is simpler to make the MC an unreliable narrator yet still inform the reader of what’s really going on. The MC may believe only NYC has been invaded, and so decide to flee to Florida, but shifting POV to a character in Florida might reveal that things are even worse there – foreshadowing challenges to come. Or, the MC might believe a newcomer is trustworthy, but a brief scene from their POV (or that of a companion who has met the newcomer) reveals to the reader the folly of the MC’s assumption, so that a later betrayal doesn’t seem out of character for the newcomer.
- And finally, my personal favorite: having multiple POVs lets me flex my creative muscles and easily introduce interesting sub-plots. It’s fun to explore the minds of different characters, and weave their own concerns and problems into the main story line.