Juggling Multiple Points of View

I tried to learn to juggle in high school because I heard it improved concentration skills. While I could keep two objects moving at once, it was that third one that got me. After beaning myself in the head for the umpteenth time, I gave it up. I just couldn’t master the technique.

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So how does one master juggling several points of view in a manuscript? These are the methods I used in writing By the Grace of Todd, which has four POV characters: Todd, Lewis, Persephone, and Herman.

First, I established that even though the book opens with a prologue told from the Lewis the Toddlian’s POV, Todd was the main narrator. For my book, it worked best to have a central protagonist and use the other three character’s chapters to give insight into the story happening inside “the story.”

Then I had to establish each character’s distinct voice. This became complicated with the Toddlian’s Lewis and Herman, who both spoke rather formerly. To distinguish them from each other, I had Lewis refer to Todd’s mom as “The Mother,” while Herman, a scientific fellow, called her “The Maternal Person.” Lewis also quotes TV, which is how he learned English, while Herman quotes poetry and facts he gleaned from encyclopedias.

Here is a sampling of each character:

Todd: Life was a lot different on the other side of puberty. The Zoo Crew guys were loud and crude and didn’t care what anybody thought, and being with them was kinda awesome.

Lewis: On QVC, the shipping alone on the hottest pair of this season’s suede pumps with bows on the toes is only $9.97! I am not sure what shipping means, but are we not worth more than ten dollars to you, Great One? Will you not do something to right these wrongs, or must we appeal to Judge Judy?

Persephone (the cowgirl Toddlian): Wooo doggies, I thought. I checked out my cowgirl getup in the long reflecting glass in Spud’s water closet. “Howdy, pardoner. Yer gussied up awful purty tonight.”

Herman: Alas, neither the climb nor the paper could warm me. I would perish betwixt the pages, alone and unsung. Goodbye, Herman. You must be brave.

Another way I included an additional viewpoint was to have Lewis recount what Todd’s baby sister, Daisy mutters (she speaks fluent Toddlian). This makes it seem like the reader hears her inner thoughts.

Daisy: “That imbecilic brother of mine has lost so many pieces, I’ll never be able to build the DAISYNATOR THREE THOUSAND as I’d planned. There aren’t even enough pieces to construct the Binkie Boomerang. Succotash!”

Now for the juggling: Whenever possible, I write one storyline at a time, keeping the characters separate when they narrate a chapter. If I need to write two character POVs in a session, I break it up and go back and reread previous chapters for voice. But it’s definitely easier for me to only write one character at a time. I also have individual playlists for the characters, to help me focus and set the mood.

What about you? What books have you read that do more than one POV successfully? Are you a writer with any words of wisdom?

Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD (Penguin/Razorbill Feb. 27, 2014). She and her husband live in the Midwest with their eleven kids and a parrot. When Louise isn’t writing or folding laundry, she directs her local children’s theater, where she’s playwright in residence.
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4 thoughts on “Juggling Multiple Points of View

  1. Louise, thank you for this thoughtful article on the writing craft! (Frankly, I’d like to know how you juggle schedules with 11 children and a writing career.) My novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is also in two POVs. My blog READ LIKE A WRITER is mainly a teaching blog, and I’d love it if you would add a comment mentioning your MG novel BY THE GRACE OF TODD (love the title!) and that it is in four POVs, then add this blog link. For a decade I taught writing for the Institute of Children’s Literature so writers have repeatedly told me that they go to my blog when looking for articles on craft. Thank you! http://www.christinekohlerbooks.com/blog.htm?post=907090

    • I’m a proud graduate of ICL, Christine! I’ll stop by! And how do I juggle it all? I don’t sleep nearly as much as I’d like. 🙂

      • Thanks for commenting on my blog, Louise! This will give readers/writers one more excellent example of multiple POVs, and a unique one since it is in 4 POVs. ICL is an excellent course with great instructors, so we all love hearing success stories like yours from our graduates. As for lack of sleep, scheese Louise, you must be super woman zzzzZZZ…

  2. I have a dream of one day being an ICL instructor. 🙂 Mine were simply the best! (I took both courses.)

    I’m not super woman, I just have a super husband who makes sure I have writing time and takes vacation time so I can go to conferences… it makes all the difference!

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