I don’t like the omniscient point of view. Too stiff, too distant and too unwieldy. I don’t feel comfortable writing that way.
But what if I want to expand the POV beyond one person?
How can I inject a sense of a larger world, epic in scope and meaning?
What if I want a wider more dynamic cast?
Simple, I multiply my point of view.
Actually, it is not that simple.
In order to juggle a multiplicity of points of view you have to have a fine sense of balance and focus. You don’t want to spend too much time with one character and ignore the others (balance) while at the same time you don’t want to lose the focus on the plot by jumping between too many characters.
I use a few rules of thumb that help me with the juggling act (in no particular order):
- Keep track of your principal characters: Remember that every time you switch pov, you are shifting the focus to that character. In essence the character becomes the main character while the spotlight is on him. Introduce too many minor characters (who only appear for one scene, at the most) and you will lose both focus and balance.
- Each principal gets his own introductory scene: Which engages the reader and highlights why this character pov is important. It will be easier to remember that character down the line if he has a memorable introduction.
- When in doubt stick with the main character: Every story has a main character, even one with multiple points of view. He is the character the action revolves around (regardless of who is having their pov moment). When you have two or more characters that have their own pov, the easiest thing to do is too gravitate to the chosen central/spoke character.
- One character-pov per scene: A chapter can have multiple scenes, but in order to maintain focus (and not confuse the reader) you should stick to one character pov per scene. Have the scene play out fully from that character’s point of view. If you want to explore the events of a given scene with another character pov, you can write another scene doing just that.
- Remember that every scene should move the story forward: Whether it is moving the plot along, character growth or expanding the scope of the narrative, each shift should push the story forward in some way. Without forward movement, you just wasted a scene.
There are different ways to use the multiple pov. For example, if you want to do a flash back, you can hop over to another character and let them do it (it is also a good way to mix third person with first person but it does have its risks). Epistolary stories (stories in letter form) show different letters from two or more characters, each one talking in first person. Haven’t seen many current examples of that type of story telling but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it.
I prefer multiple third person close. It allows me to go back and forth between characters, thus showing the impact of each individual or group actions on others and retains the intimacy with each without putting on the first person blinders. Tricky, but doable. You can even jump between pov in a scene, but to avoid pov confusion, each jump should have at the very least a full paragraph attached to it. Although I don’t recomend it. Might as well go with omniscient if you want to show what everybody is feeling/thinking in a given scene.
Well that is all for Points of View. Hope it helps.
And just because I’m in that kind of mood, here is some Eddie Izzard for you: