On March 17th post: News: Submissions Closing and Minutes Before Sunset Info one of my followers, rolark, asked “I’m trying out writing from more than one perspective right now (it’s my first time!), and was wondering if you had any advice?”
And I do!
As many of you know, November Snow is told from two perspectives (Daniel and Serena) while my upcoming paranormal-romance novel, Minutes Before Sunset will also be told this way (by Eric and Jessica.) I love using this technique for novel writing, because I enjoy first person, but I dislike how it restricts the storytelling to one character during particular scenes that may be told better by another.
So I use first person by two people—generally one male and one female. Why? Because I generally have a romance aspect to my stories, but I also think men and women can bring different viewpoints to the table. (But so can every character–this is a personal preference of mine.)
Personally, this is what I do (although 3 comes first, but it’s the longest part), and I’ll be using November Snow as an example:
1. Consider Syntax.
Change it up. One character’s thoughts may drag on, so the sentences are longer or dragged out, while another may make lists or sporadic lengths of thoughts. Consider using italics, colons, and/or dashes for one character.
Ex/ Daniel is often exhausted, so I used shorter sentences to depict his energy state. Serena’s sentences are longer. This allows the voices to seem different in the basic way they think.
2. Pay Attention to Diction.
One character may use very flowery language, while another may have less of a need to elaborate.
Ex/ Daniel is very patient, but also anxious (especially when walking around Vendona, considering the government is after his kind.) So I always have his eyes darting around. He’s constantly surveying his surroundings, paying attention to the little details, and often loses his thoughts to the physical world. His language, therefore, does the same thing.
Serena is rebellious. She’s tired of conforming to the rules and hiding, so she’s often taking risks she shouldn’t be taking. Because of this, I don’t pay attention to as many details when I wrote from her perspective. She no longer cares. Instead, she’s focused on changing, so I show more details about relationships, people, and the future within her language.
3. Now Perspective.
Now, I’m about to use a gender stereotype to explain where I’m coming from, but it’s for an example. You’re welcome to swap them around for different effects.
Men may pay attention more to physical action than detail, while women may focus on the little details. For instance, a man may describe someone running, while a woman may mention the fact that the runner was in jeans. These little switches in descriptions between your perspectives will help create a realistic viewpoint in the sense that it’s subconsciously differing from one person to the other. The character doesn’t even consider it; it’s simply a part of how they look at the world.
One of my favorite exercises:
Write a chapter in which the two characters are talking. Let’s say this chapter is written from Daniel’s. Afterwards, whether I decide to use it or not, I’ll write it from Serena’s. Make sure the dialogue and the physical actions are the exact same, but compare the thought process. How did the scene change? What does this change mean?
As an example, two people can be talking and Person A could notice Person B is fidgeting. Person A may assume Person B is nervous, but, when you tell it from Person B’s perspective, you learn that they are distracted, not nervous. These little bits can truly morph the way characters interact. I always encourage this exercise, even if the writer isn’t planning on telling from another’s perspective.
This always helps me understand the consciousness of the characters, and I feel more confident when I move onto a new scene.
My hope is that this may help rolark and other writers who want to play with this technique, but I also want to encourage others to ask questions.
I will always do my best to answer! (And you will get credit for asking the question.)
Have a great day,
April 2nd: Writing Tips: Make Maps (Interior)