Writing in Multi-Viewpoint

Posted on 19th October, 2019

All writers have their own style of writing, their preferred way to tell their stories. It can take a while for you to develop your own style, and very likely you'll be inspired by and emulate others along the way, but once you've found your own voice, you know it and you never look back.


One feature of my preferred style is the multi-viewpoint story, and here's why:


Advantages of multi-viewpoint:


It enables me to show the reader something that the hero/ine doesn't know. For example, in The Deserter's Daughter, having Ralph as a viewpoint character means that the reader sees not only all the personal things about him that Carrie is unaware of, but also, increasingly, the dangerous situation that she is in. This increases tension and draws the reader more deeply into the story, as s/he worries on Carrie's behalf.


Multi-viewpoint can also be used to great dramatic effect on the "meanwhile, in another part of the forest" principle; in other words, by shifting from one part of the plot to another at the crucial moment. In the book I recently finished working on, there is a dramatic rescue going on at the same time as an important secret is revealed elsewhere. By switiching between these two events, I hope to keep readers glued to the story.



But multi-viewpoint isn't just for cranking up the tension. It also enables me to explore several characters in depth. For me, the way characters grow and change according to their experiences, is essential to a story, both as a writer and as a reader.


For example, the character of Evadne in The Deserter's Daughter would have been far less interesting if the book had been wriiten in Carrie's single viewpoint and I hadn't been able to show all the twists and turns of Evadne's ambition, snobbery and desperation.

Whose viewpoint to use:


Quite honestly, I find the choice almost always comes naturally. It's a question of what do I want the reader to know at this point and how do I want them to feel about it.


But if there is any doubt as to which character to choose, a piece of advice I was once given was to ask: Who has the most to lose? You can see how this could create a compelling scene. Equally, though, you could ask: Who has the most to gain?


The golden rule:


If you are going to write in multi-viewpoint, there is one golden rule that must never be broken.


Thou shalt never switch viewpoint within a scene.


As I write this, I am remembering an otherwise wonderful novel by one of my favourite authors, in which there was a scene where the pushy next-door neighbour, who appears in the story on just this one occasion, wants the grief-stricken hero to come round for a meal. The viewpoint character is the hero - but the author simply couldn't resist chucking in a short paragraph about what was going on in the pushy neighbour's head. Grrr!


Which is your writing/reading preference - single viewpoint or multi?


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