Monday, April 6, 2015

Writing Multiple POVs: Separating Stories

As I've been trying to wade through the ginormous mess that is my WIP, I did a thing last week: I read through the entire 97 k thing so I could attempt to figure out where the heck I've been going wrong in every attempt at editing I've tries thus far.

And I learned something.

I wrote a blog post last December about Writing from Multiple Perspectives, in which I explicitly state that if you're going to have more than one (major) character narrator, then you need to make sure they each have a story to tell that's theirs and their own. There's also this quote from this awesome article, Tips When Writing Multiple POV Novels, in which the author points out that each perspective "compliments two or more story arcs."

What does this have to do with my re-reading adventure?

I'm writing from two points of views. I came to realize that one of the perspectives had a far stronger voice and journey than the other. I also came to realize that one of the perspectives was relying on the other heavily instead of telling its own story. I spent the weekend thinking about this epiphany and wondered if this happened because I wrote both POVs at the same time (basically: I'd write one scene/chapter in one POV, then write the next in the other, and progress the story that way).

If anything, this little adventure of mine has reminded me how important it is that each perspective - and each character - has their own distinct story to tell. While they might interact with the same environment as another, they have their own unique experience that exists at a distance, an experience that doesn't depend on another (or, at least, shouldn't).

In my experience, if one character's POV is too heavily dependent on another: then what's the point of having two POVs in the first place? Yet something I've been positive about from the very beginning is that both of these stories need to be told on their own.

So my next step has been to divide the POVs of my WIP into two different documents. I'm going to attempt to rewrite the narrators' stories from there, one at a time, from beginning to end. By writing their stories separately, I'm hoping to maybe capture their stories and their motivations without the frame of another POV on the next page. By focusing on one at a time, maybe I'll have better luck pinning them down and discovering what they're really after.

Because, to be honest, right now it feels like a competition between the two voices and stories, both of them trying to one-up the other with their adventures. That's not really conducive to my writerly mind, though.

If I'm being honest, I'm experimenting. I'm going back to an early draft of this WIP - the most recent, finished draft that I've actually been happy with - and I'm hoping that something comes out of it because, like I mentioned, it's kind of a mess right now. But these characters' stories need to be told.

So if I wind up needing stitches because I've banged my head into the wall a few too many times, you'll know the reason why.

If you're writing from multiple POVs, maybe you'll consider writing out each story separately, as well. What's your strategy?

Tweet It:

Blogger @Rae_Slater talks her biggest challenge in revising her WIP: ensuring her two narrators have their own story (Click to Tweet)

When writing multiple POVs, make sure the narratives aren't overly dependent on each other (Click to Tweet)


  1. This is such an awesome idea, I can't believe I've never thought of it before. I'm going to try this with my WIP because it's also dual pov.

    1. It'll be my first time trying it, too! I figured I've basically tried everything else by now, so why not? Good luck, Anah! I'm really hoping it works out. Keep me updated if you like, I'd love to know your progress!

  2. Separating into different documents is definitely a good way to go about multi-POV stories. I normally draft in different documents, then combine for revisions. I also find it helpful to write pitches and queries from all POVs to make sure all the protagonists have their own journeys.

    1. If I'm being honest, despite the number of times I write things with multiple POVs, I have never tried writing each narrator in a different document before. It's such a strange experience! That's interesting what you brought up about writing different pitches for each character; that's definitely something I'll have to try out (since my biggest problem right now is that I'm not sure both of my characters have their own, separate journeys). Thanks so much for that; I'm totally stealing that to try ;)

  3. "But these characters' stories need to be told."

    It's the characters that need to tell the stories. :)

    Keep at it :)

  4. This is gold! I had this very same problem with my last novel. As someone else up there already said, I can't believe I've never thought of this before.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm so glad you think so, Braden, thank you! And good luck; I really hope it works out for someone :)