It’s amateurish and confusing…oh the horrors of a multi-perspective story or novel!
Last year I attended an agent’s writers retreat where she gave us an exercise in POV, as well as read to us paragraphs from masters, some of whom…eek…changed perspective several times in one paragraph. Oh, this would be cringe-worthy for some readers, writers and editors. Shunned alive, this author must be!
For a writer for whom shifting POV is about as natural and easy as breathing, I am a bit perplexed by this singular POV craze. Why would one write want just ONE perspective? Why would a reader find it interesting?
“Okay. Okay, calm down,” says the editor. “It’s okay to switch POV in a different chapter or a section break. There are rules that mustn’t be broken.”
I have read books where the writer switches perspective (tells the same story/sequence of events) in a different chapter. First time I read such a book, it jarred me, because the book didn’t keep to the flow of the story, but kept switching back and forth in time, not to mention the redundancy of storytelling.
In a multi-dimensional novel, with subplots and differing character motives, it could potentially drive a reader nuts if each chapter bounced from character perspective to plot, just so POV is consistent. What keeps readers engaged is story…a flowing story and POV needs to adjust and flow within the plot.
POV shouldn’t drive plot, plot should drive POV.
Last night, as this topic was meandering about in my mind, I thought of an exercise. Taking a singular event
– for me, I considered my writing group. At the end of the evening, all of us would have a different perspective and story as to how the meeting went and we would share our story to friends and family, with no context of the perspectives of others.
If, as writers, we layered all perspectives together we would find a more complete story. It would feel whole and we would have a greater understanding of the characters and the event. This is the beauty of multi-POV – holistic, complete stories without jarring the flow of the plot.
Now granted, this changing of POV may come more naturally to some writers than to others and honestly it may be just a function of how one thinks. If one thinks holistically, managing multiple POV may come easier than if someone observes finer details. Much of this is just knowing oneself as a writer and making sure the POV and the POV shifts one using is correct for the story.