Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Third Person Multiple POV

I’ve written two suspense novels in this POV—Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion. These stories couldn’t have been written any other way. They involve multiple characters facing various challenges, all of which together leads to the crisis/climax of the story. I gotta admit I really used the multiple part of this POV. I had over a dozen POV characters in each of these novels. That’s a whole lotta stuff goin’ on.

This, of course, is the obvious reason why third person multiple POV works so well for many suspenses—you can see what’s going on with multiple characters at once. But exactly how does this ability to jump from character to character help the story?

1. Keeps up tension. This is a biggie for suspense novels. Think of tension as a rope pulled tight. During the course of the story, that rope should not be allowed to slack. Slack = boredom. Problem is, how to keep the rope tight during the quieter scenes? Well, there’s all kinds of answers to that problem, but using a multiple POV is one of the foremost. If one character is at a quiet moment, another character can be plotting heinous acts, and a third can be running to catch heinous plotter before it’s too late.

2. Keeps up pace. This goes along with tension, but there’s a difference. Actually, pacing comes first. The right pacing = tension. Bad pacing = that “boring” word again. Think about it. You’re reading a good suspense novel in third person multiple POV, and you get to the crisis/climax, where everything culminates and it’s do or die time. Have you ever noticed what often happens at this (or any other) high action point of the book? Scenes get shorter. Why? So you can jump from one character’s POV to another more quickly. What does this do? Increases the pace. At this point, everybody’s doing something at once, and you want to see it all. So the author jumps around, blam, blam, from one character to another. You get pulled here and there until everything’s totally frenetic. The story’s at a high pace. Which means high tension. And you are flipping pages. (Assuming everything’s written well, of course.)

3. Alleviates boredom from one character. If the story’s written in first person, you see only what that character sees and thinks. You’re stuck with that character the entire book. If that’s the case, the character better be doggone interesting. With third person multiple POV, you get to know numerous characters on that intimate level. You might pick a favorite.

If I had to guess, I’d say reason #3 is the foremost in why some readers choose to read only multiple POV stories. Some just plain won’t read first person. As far as I’m concerned, these folks need to be swayed ’cause their narrowmindedness is making them miss out on some mighty good stories. I’ve had quite a few letters from readers who say they don’t like first person POV, but they read one of my novels in that POV and ended up liking it. The thing with first person, especially in suspense, is that it’s so much harder to write. And therefore so much easier to do badly. Perhaps readers who’ve sworn off first person POV have only seen it done poorly. If that’s the case with you, I urge you to give it another chance.

So if third person multiple POV is way easier to write for suspense, why on earth did I choose to use first person for my current series? Am I crazy? Tune in tomorrow.
Read Part 3


mrsd said...

If the characters are real, the story interesting, and the writing fresh, I don't mind which POV is used. I can even forgive a few boring pages. :)

Interesting blog!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Great blog, Brandilyn. I'm currently re-reading a great writer's book by Monica Wood entitled Description. In it she does a very interesting and thorough discussion of POV.

My biggest problem with multiple POV (I'm reading a book now in which this is true) is that I feel as distanced from the characters as if it were omniscient. I just don't know any of them well enough to care. Wouldn't you agree this is a danger, if your POV count mounts to the double digits (especially if you kill off some of those characters in the process)?

Lynette Sowell said...

I'm curious about how you choose which particular POV to be in from scene to scene. Have you ever gone back and decided, "Nope, it needs to be in Helga's POV. This one is all wrong." Or have you ever shuffled a particular scene?--"Nope, we don't need to see this happen just yet."

Scrambled Dregs said...

I think the fact that you take time out of your incredibly busy schedule to blog helpful lessons is incredible. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Brandilyn. More, more, more!

C. H. Green said...

I have found your blog to be a great source for tips, information, and inspiration. Thanks for sharing with us.