We're starting a new feature here at Women and Fiction -- Wednesday Writing Skills. Every Wednesday, we'll share an interesting article from around the internet or an original writing article from Women and Fiction.
This week, we share a writing skills article by Alinda Winternheimer on the topic of Multiple Narrators.
Have you ever been reading along in your book and suddenly noticed a shift in perspective? Who are you following? Who is talking now? This is one of the downfalls of using multiple narrators.
Ms. Winternheimer outlines four reasons not to use multiple narrators:
- Attachment Issues: with many POV characters, it can be difficult for the reader to bond with any one character.
- Head Hopping: when transitions between characters’ perspectives lack clarity, it can create confusion as the writer hops, frog-like, through the various POVs.
- Underdeveloped Characters: with so many POV characters to write, it can be difficult to make them all fully realized beings with unique perspectives.
- Spoiler Alert: an unearned POV, especially the antagonist’s, often does little more than broadcast what’s to come, spoiling tension as the story moves forward.
This is why most people write with a single perspective. The problem is that some stories require multiple perspectives. For example, sometimes your character is in a coma. If you're only following her perspective, there might not be a lot going on there. If you're writing a classic romantic misunderstanding, you will lose the dynamic tension if you don't include the perspective from both the misunderstood and the betrayed.
Ms. Winternheimer solves perspective in two ways.
- First, she encourages you to create a clear protagonist. Make sure your reader knows who the star of the story. When you have multiple points of view, the reader can easily lose the star of the show.
- Secondly, she encourages you to create a casting hierarchy. Think of it this way -- who would win the award for Best Actor and who would get the Best Supporting Actor award? Ms. Winternheimer suggests:
You might decide rank based on:
- How long the character lasts in the story
- How crucial a role he fulfills
- How much readers like, or are expected to like, him
- How necessary he is to the forward movement of the plot
The hardest thing about this advice is that it requires the author to plan ahead. This is easy work for people who are planners but for people who write by the seat of their pants, it's not so simple.
In either case, the key is to think about what makes for the best, most dynamic story. That can require setting aside the manuscript for a while. After a month or so, you'll have fresher eyes and be able to think through things like what is your casting hierarchy.
If you'd like to learn about becoming an author, there's a lot of great practical "How To" articles at K. M. Weiland's site Helping Writers become Authors. Alinda Winternheimer is a writing coach. She can be found at her website or at Twitter.