Random Inspirations

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4 Tips to Write from Multiple Viewpoints

on July 14, 2014

I’m currently immersed in writing Book 5 of the Amish in College series, “Amish Baby: Jakob and Hannah’s Book.” As the name implies, this novella will be told from the viewpoints of both Hannah and her husband Jakob.

I chose to write this book from multiple viewpoints for several reasons. First of all, I figured that it would be a fun challenge to examine a pregnancy–and many of the dramas that can go along with it–through the eyes of both members of a couple. Additionally, I’ve never written an Amish Hearts or Amish in College novella from Jakob’s perspective, and only one other book is told from a male perspective (Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book). So, I was definitely ready for another male protagonist. However, Jakob is not a super popular character, so I decided to combine his viewpoint with Hannah’s to keep readers interested and allow Jakob’s personality room to reveal itself and shine throughout the course of the book.

Telling a story from multiple viewpoints can be an awesome literary device, opening the reader’s mind to the thoughts of two main characters. It’s often used in romances to show the falling in love process through both characters’ eyes. However, if done sloppily, multiple viewpoints can spell out disaster. Not only might the reader lose track of the narrator, he or she might also become frustrated by constantly hopping from one character’s head to another.

With that in mind, here are 4 quick tips to write your next story from multiple viewpoints.

  1. Use No More than Two Viewpoints – If  you’re jumping into too many different heads, your story can easily become disjointed and convoluted. It’s possible for very experienced authors to pull off storytelling with more than two viewpoints–just look at Mary Higgins Clark. However, it you’re just beginning to experiment with this technique, start with 2 viewpoints and hone your skills before attempting more.
  2. Alternate Chapters – Telling one chapter from one character’s viewpoint and the next from the other character’s is the perfect way to keep your story fresh and hold readers’ attention. To make the readers’ lives even easier, you can tell them which character will be narrating at the beginning of each chapter. For example, in “Amish Baby,” I labeled the chapters “Chapter One: Hannah,” “Chapter Two: Jakob,” etc.
  3. Watch for Point of View Slips – The trap of POV slips is easy enough to fall into any time, but especially when you’re telling a story from multiple viewpoints. As you write, self-edit every few chapters to watch for POV slips, and make sure to have your manuscript professionally edited after you’ve completed it. Sometimes, writing from multiple viewpoints can be confusing to the writer as well as the reader.
  4. Read Examples – Reading often is one of the best ways to become a better writer. Now that you’ve thought of writing from multiple viewpoints, revisit your favorite books and note which ones are written from multiple viewpoints. Read critically, and learn as much as you can from the examples of the masters.

Writers, have you ever told a story from more than one viewpoint? If so, what techniques did you find helpful during the writing process. I’d love to hear your ideas!

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