Monday, March 14, 2011

Look Who's Also Talking: Changing Point of View

Switching between different character’s points of view seems easy, right? All it involves is a first paragraph in one character’s voice, and a second paragraph in a different character’s voice...but it’s not quite that simple. Changing point of view can be very difficult to do in an easily understandable way, and often ends up hurting a manuscript. But there are ways to make it easy to read and understand, and when done well it can add a lot to certain kinds of stories.

I would recommend taking a look at your manuscript and playing devil’s advocate for a few minutes. Ask yourself whether your story really does need the narration to change point of view, or whether it would be fine without it. Think about your plots, subplots and characters – will changing the point of view be helpful to them? And don’t worry about it making your manuscript less interesting – there are plenty of great books that do not change point of view at all, like To Kill a Mockingbird and the Harry Potter series. If your protagonist is a strong enough character, his or her narration will be more than enough to sustain our interest in your story.

But if you decide that you do want to change point of view, make sure it’s easily understandable to readers who don’t know your characters as well as you do. A simple underscored line is often enough to tell us that something is changing between paragraphs, but does not necessarily denote a point of view change. Something simple like using third person would easily indicate a change – if we’re reading Marie’s thoughts for the first two chapters and Jason’s thoughts for the second, using their names is incredibly helpful. Another way to easily indicate switches is to use names as chapter headings to quickly indicate changes. Check out The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for examples of third person point of view changes, and William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury for examples of using names as chapter headings.

This is tough to do, but I’m sure you’re up to the challenge!

Good luck and happy writing!


1 comment:

Loree Huebner said...

Interesting post. Good points to remember when working out POV.