Today's guest for the Writing Lab is Nayarit. She's one of the extraordinary people who make A Different Forest such a good place to hang out and discuss.

Both readers and writers have a very strong opinion about the topic for today's discussion; let's read Nayarit's article about

Writing multiple POVs/redundant POVs.
A style of fanfiction writing that has been around since the very first fanfiction is multiple first person character point of views (POV) as a primary way of storytelling. But it’s not limited to fanfiction alone. Countless authors like Marian Keyes, Charles de Lint, and even Faulkner have taken to this technique with one or many of their works. With novels such as Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper—which used over five different first person POVs to tell the story—and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife—which used the two main characters’ first person POVs back and forth to tell the story—we’re seeing a growing trend of multiple first person POVs in mainstream literature.

Yet, if you were to take a poll of current Twi-fanfic readers, a growing number have expressed their annoyance and even disdain with multiple first person POVs. I took such a poll recently, and out of the fifty people that answered my survey:
- 43 (most) out of 50 readers were in favor of dual POVs, specifically Edward and Bella, but felt that more than four POVs were too much.
- 17 out of 50 readers expressed a greater affinity for stories other than multiple or dual first person POVs (such as third person, a singular first person, omniscient, etc.).
Taken into context, on a larger scale these numbers would be pretty shocking considering that a great majority of fanfictions are in fact written in dual or multiple first person.

So where are we going wrong?

The truth of the matter is writing multiple first person POV is a beast! There are many things to consider. More often than not, the task is too daunting and it’s not executed to its full potential. But when it’s right . . . it’s so right. The advantages are great, the most important being the intimacy for readers; the ability to be right there with the characters, to feel exactly what the characters feel, to understand the characters on a level that other styles can’t compare to.
What I’ve got here is my little “playbook” to writing multiple first person POVs, some things to avoid and some things to consider. It’s not a standard by any means, and as a writer you’ll find what best works for you. But here is what works for me:

Maintain character voice.

Every writer has a voice, but character voice has never been more essential to writers than when employing multiple first person. This is the most important tool to this writing style; it’s also the trickiest. When you set out to write a story, you’ve got your character in mind—likes, dislikes, emotions, history, appearance. But what you’ve got to do when it comes to first person is take that character to the next level. You’re in their mind. How does that character formulate thoughts? How does that character piece together sentences? When you write dialog for them, what do they sound like? Now take that and build on it.
This is the one true style of writing where it isn’t your voice as a writer that should shine through, it’s your characters'. So don’t be afraid to take risks. You want to show your readers that character’s voice, not just tell them. Use more contractions in text if your character calls for it. Have a character that has simple thoughts? Use simple sentences. Have a collegiate character with a high vocabulary that over-analyzes everything? Take to using a thesaurus more and writing longer sentences that are more complex. Have a character from a different country that doesn’t have the same grasp on the English language as natives? Then miss a couple of words that they wouldn’t think to use, usually your conjunctions. Use singular when plural is required or vice versa.
Each individual character has to have very individual traits: no two people are alike. Reflect that in your writing.
Once you’ve got the style that that individual character has, consider their very individual attributes that set them apart from other characters. Create a sort of list of rules per character and stick to them. Small details to your writing that make all the difference.
If one character is from Canada and another from the US then the first character would use tuque for what the second character would call a beanie. If one character likes to curse a lot, go with it. Got one that stutters? Got one that repeats a certain phrase a lot (“I mean,” “you know,” “sure, sure,” etc.)? Remember to keep specific qualities to each character to help round their individual voices out.
One final trick that I like to use to help separate my individual character voices is analogies and similes. I create very specific ones that I use for my characters, making sure they revolve around their personalities so that no other character would use them. They can be something as complex as a long set-up from their childhood that compares to what the character is currently experiencing to something as simple as one pertaining sentence.

Some examples:

A character who grew up on a farm: It was longer than waiting for the corn in July.
A character who is a sci-fi enthusiast: It was longer than the lines of a Lucas premiere.
A chocolate lover: It was like Godiva good.
A broke college student: It was like finding an extra five in my pocket during laundry day good.

From my story:

Tanya: But there was that other part of me, a part that I soon discovered wasn't dormant at all, that still wanted him more than the secret, exclusive-clientele-only, unreleased Louis Vuitton line.

Bella: I felt like John Coffey from The Green Mile, innocent in the world of sin, but charged for the crimes regardless and about to face the executioner.

Emmett: The atmosphere in here was fucking tighter than a virgin.

Just remember to maintain that unique character voice!

Watch out for redundancy.

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to tell both sides of the story, or all sides of the story as the case may be. But when writing multiple POVs ask yourself if rehashing a scene is vital to the story. Does repeating a scene from a perspective other than the first one add something to either characterization or plot? If the answer to that question is “no,” then don’t repeat the scene. If the answer to that question is “yes,” then you want to make that answer the pivotal point in the redundant scene.
If repeating the scene is vital to characterization, bring those emotions to the forefront of the new telling. If those emotions are based on past events expose that. If those emotions were what influenced the character to behave in such a way expose that.
If repeating the scene is vital to the plot make that difference what is focused on. Showcase the stuff that the first character missed. Showcase the inside knowledge that the first character didn’t possess. Unfold additional events that help round out the scene.
Also, if recreating a scene in more than one POV is necessary, make sure to keep it fresh by minimizing or eliminating the repeat action. There is no need to redo exact phrases or dialog from the first scene if it is not completely essential to characterization or plot. Instead, offer a recap from the new character so that the scene is viewed in a new light.
Remember you don’t want to bore your reader, so always keep it fresh by making sure repeated scenes in more than one POV always bring something new to the table.

Be clear on the switch.

For some writers this is a page break. For some it’s “..xx..”. For most it’s “EPOV” or “Bella” at the top of the new POV. But the thing to remember is always make the reader aware of whose head they’re in. This trick should be used along with maintaining a specific voice so that listing whose POV it is isn’t necessary just helpful. I personally switch POVs every chapter so that with each one it’s clear to my readers they’re in a new head, and I steer away from labeling whose POV it is. But many different things work. Find the one that best suits the story you’re telling.

Sentence structure: eliminate those “I’s”

It is easy to fall into this pattern when writing in first person: “I wanted him to say no. I was disgusted that I was going to say yes. I watched him fidget and I knew he was just as anxious as me.
Any first person POV is going to fall into the “I” trap. There isn’t anything more unpleasant to the reading eye then every sentence beginning with the same word/letter or constant repeated words/letters.
Always be mindful of falling into the “I” trap, especially when in multiple first person because it weighs a story down. Luckily for us, with a little editing and tweaking this trap can easily be controlled.
Here is just one way of fixing the above trap: “I wanted him to say no. Disgust clouded every emotion because of my answer, ‘yes’ teetering off my lips. His fidgeting clued me into just how anxious he was . . . how anxious we both were.
You can’t avoid the “I” trap because there will be a lot of using “I” in first person, but if you’re diligent and watchful it’s not that difficult of a fix.

Keep the mystery alive.

This one is my favorite trick of writing multiple first person because one person’s point of view is very subjective. If a character were facing away, or their thoughts were on something else, there is plenty that that character can miss. And where one character falls short, the next one can pick up.
A first character is limited by what they see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and even think. Often times our own personal opinions or prejudices cloud our perceptions of events. And where better to showcase that than in multiple first person!
Using a bevy of tools—like when to cut a scene or switch POVs, limiting attention by overbearing thoughts, limiting thoughts by action that requires attention—a writer can play up the best part of keeping the mystery alive in multiple first person.

Let’s use the following as an example:

A fight is about to break out in a high school cafeteria. There are four different characters POVs to the scene. 

Character A is a cheerleader sitting at a table in the back with her boyfriend, the star quarterback. She’s picking at her nails when she hears a grunt and looks up in time to see her boyfriend’s head get slammed on the table by a male student she’s only known in passing. She quickly pushes her chair away and runs out of the cafeteria in search of help.
Character A only saw the middle of the fight and didn’t see the end. She’s the opening portion of the puzzle.

Character B is a quiet art student that sits off to the side of the cafeteria. He enjoys watching life as a means of inspiration and a slam of a door draws his attention to the front of the cafeteria where he sees a tall male student, he recognizes the student as Character C from his homeroom class. He watches with rapt interest as Character C storms through the cafeteria, heading straight for the table where Character A is sitting with her boyfriend. He watches the whole fight in its entirety, including when Character A’s boyfriend got the upper hand. Finally, he accounts how both students were rolling on the cafeteria floor before security split the two up and the principal showed up.
Character B was another portion of the puzzle. Introducing readers to Character C and allowing readers to view the entire scene.

Character C has a quick temper and loves his car. His POV starts right off in his mind as he’s waiting for the principal. He’s angry and his thoughts are jumbled because he saw red when he attacked Character A’s boyfriend. Because of this he doesn’t remember much of the fight, but he does remember a conversation he had earlier with a classmate of his, Character D, about Character A’s boyfriend slashing his tires.
Character C finally provided the reasoning behind the fight. Adding the final piece of the puzzle.

Character D is introduced as she watches security pull both student’s away. She catches the eye of Character A’s boyfriend. Her wink to him sends her into a flashback where she was walking through the parking lot to Character C’s car. As she slashes the two back tires she thinks about how it will be the perfect payback for Character A’s boyfriend, after he refused her for the last time.
Character D provided another layer to the initial scene that readers didn’t expect, enhancing the mystery of the story.

There is no need to reveal every thought or every action a character has simply because it’s first person POV. When keeping within the limits of first person a writer can mold and create a story that always keeps a reader on their toes.

I hope my little “playbook” helped provide some insight into the exciting style of multiple first person POV. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, multiple first person can be an emotional, entertaining, and effective way to tell a story.


Thank you, Naya, for this outstanding playbook!

Don't forget to check Naya's stories! http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1806040/Nayarit

Readers and writers, you are very welcome to discuss! 
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  1. Oh Naya this is great! No surprise there!

    I especially love the part about each character only has a portion of the truth -- like blind men touching the elephant. Like Rashomon.

    Of course with first person narrative a lot of uncertainty can happen as the characters don't know or see everything. Sometimes readers can get up in arms about that ... but if we are diligent we can still give them satisfaction in the end!

    Great writing lesson!

  2. Hi Miaokuancha!

    I LOVE the story of the blind men touching the elephant, is so wise.

    Naya's article left me speechless, I'm so glad you also liked it!!

    - Raum
    (MyReadingLounge is waiting for an article from you, you know :-) )

  3. Thanks for sharing your input on some of your writing techniques and why you are so great at writing multiple points of views. A lot of people would steer clear of reading a story with so many but I personally love to hear what each character is going through and what they are thinking. So thanks again for sharing.

  4. Welcome Misti!

    Thank you for joining the discussion!

    - Raum

  5. @miaokuancha Thanks! I LOVE the blind men/elephant analogy. That is EXACTLY what I mean . . . when you're restricted you never know what's going to come out. I know with my story I even get to plant false clues ALL THE TIME because of the fact that what one character sees is so different from another, or even the truth.

    Yeah, the uncertainty does have my readers yelling at me quite a bit. But I'm hoping that it will pay off in the end!

    @Misti You're the best. Thank you for all your support!

    @Raum I'm so glad you let me be a part of this. I had tons of fun!


  6. There are extraordinary people in this fandom and I'm so glad I get to meet and discuss with many of them!

    - Raum


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