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)
34 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Different Perspectives”
I loved the way you mentioned not only the importance of what you write in the sentences, but also the way in which you write them. Very good advice that is often overlooked!
Thank you :] I love syntax as much as diction, and I also think it’s often overlooked.
Women’s fiction is generally written in first person and often with multiple POV. Normally the POV characters are separated into there own chapters. I’ll begin posting weekly book reviews on Thu of each week and will be providing examples of both commercial and literary fiction.
Reading this post, I kept thinking that I can’t stand first person POV generally and I couldn’t figure out why I felt that way. There’s no real critical reason to dislike it over other POVs. Then I read your comment, and I realized it’s because first person POV is seen as a typically “feminine” style. How awful to be typecast in that way.
Reblogged this on My Personal Bookshelf and commented:
Very useful tips – dual viewpoints can really bring a book alive!
Thank you for sharing this with your followers!
You’re welcome, it was very useful, thank you!
Reblogged and shared on my FB fan page. Excellent post!
:] Thank you!
I love novels with different perspectives, though if you don’t do it right it can get confusing. There was one book I read where every chapter it changed perspective so it could be a bit jumbled but I’ve also seen another novel that had the name of the character who’s perspective it was on the top hand corner (where the author or book’s title would normally be).
“November Snow” does both of those things. It begins with the date and the name of the person’s perspective, and it also has the name at the top of the page.
I have to admit, it’s so hard formatting that!
Using running titles to indicate the perspective character? That’s…actually kind of brilliant! I’ve often considered doing a multi-first-person work, and that sounds like a pretty elegant solution for keeping the characters straight without awkward headings or sacrificing chapter titles.
I suppose it wouldn’t work so well in reflowable eBook conversions, though…hrm.
Reblogged this on Ky Grabowski and commented:
Shannon is an accomplished writer, and a beautiful person inside and out! I have to share this as her writing tips of different perspectives is wonderful. I completely thought about my own style of writing and thinking about characters I’ve written. It will open your eyes to being more aware of your characters when you write which will unlock more possibilities for you as a writer. Check Shannon out as well; she’s a gem!
Awwww ::blush:: thank you for sharing and your sweet-as-sugar comment.
Your welcome 🙂 It was all true ! Keep up the amazing work Shannon 😀
Nice tips! Thanks. How exciting to be published 🙂 Thanks also for the follow.
Thank you & you’re welcome :]
Very good advice. Writing is a on going learning experience. Thank you.
Solid advice here Shannon!
Great tips! I love how mixing the perspectives of two characters widens the scope of a book. And how cool that your book has fan art!
Thanks for stopping by my blog. It gave me a chance to learn about you as a writer. Your work looks right up my alley so I’ll be reading one of your books soon 🙂
Thanks for stopping by mine, too 😀 I hope you enjoy my novel/s. If you write a review, be sure to let me know, and I’ll share your website here on ShannonAThompson.com 😀
Happy writing and reading,
Do you think it would be okay to write from person A and person B’s perspective throughout the day, e.g. one is at work and one is at home? Would changing perspective during person A’s day work, or would it be better to write A’s day and then move to B’s day once finished?
If for example there is a battle, and person A and person B are fighting separate people, would you finish one battle before switching perspectives, or would going from each person at different times be acceptable?
Sorry for the questions, and I’m not sure if you’ll reply on an old article but I figured I would ask.
I’m aiming to write (for fun) a novel with several characters, and I feel it would be great to switch between people to get an idea of what is occurring in their head and how they react to situations when the main character is somewhere else.
I’m so glad you asked! Feel free to comment on any articles whenever you want to. I always get notifications, and I am more than happy to help. I think switching perspectives whenever is fine as long as there is a clear division (like a scene break or chapter break.) Both November Snow and The Timely Death Trilogy are told in dual perspectives. However, unlike November Snow, my trilogy doesn’t do one day at a time, and – in fact – I do have one large battle that takes up a couple of chapters, so both of my protagonists speak a few times a piece. Like I said, as long as there is a clear division (like a scene break or a chapter break) and unique voices for each speaking character, then, you should be fine. Best of luck. 😀
Great to know, and thank you for the quick answer!
Hah – it’s unsettling just how little I know about writing, I had to google exactly what a scene break was!
I think I have a general idea on how they are used correctly, and they do fit in with the changing of perspectives, thanks for giving me that as an example; it’s something I will definitely use. Chapter breaks seem very similar to scene breaks in how you should use them, I guess I’ll probably muddle that up at some point, but that’s an entirely new issue.
My initial idea was to create images for new character introductions, and for events (particularly because I have quite detailed outfits for characters), I think these would actually go well with scene breaks, what do you think?
Anyway, quick question and quick answer, but it has allowed me to think, and I have a general idea of how I would transition now.
Thank you, I appreciate it.
I don’t know much about inserting images into a story, but I think you’ll be just fine. :] If you need anymore help or guidance on anything – such as what a chapter break is – please let me know. I generally hang out here.
Thank you for this thoughtful article. I’m writing third-person perspective in my current book, with one scene taking place between two of the main characters: a female and a male student, and the female likes him a little more than he likes her. I wanted to convey in a comic way the traditional difference between male and female views of sexuality, with the twist that whilst it appears he is ‘playing’ her, it is her that is actually playing him, without either of them being completely aware of it. Again, thanks for a good article – I think I will go with the multi-perspective idea! Laurence.