Monday, May 27, 2013

Equall-Yoked POVs

I have about three or four books half-read at any time. I usually read the first few chapters, then get distracted by my crazy life or the inspiration to continue on my wip. Usually, I have at least read enough of each novel to know whose pov will be used. And since I read mostly romance novels, the typical povs used in one novel are the hero's and the heroine's.

One of the recent books in my reading list began in the perspective of the hero. It was intriguing, mysterious, unusual, and top-notch.

And then enters the heroine.

While she had some significant issues, the craft that shone in the hero's perspective was lacking in her's. I couldn't believe that the two povs were even written by the same person. Perhaps, I should read further and get comfortable with the heroine, but once I got back to the hero's pov, I sighed relief because it was interesting again!

So, after talking with my fellow Alley Cats, I think I have a grip on what makes alternating povs successful.

At first, I thought, well, maybe the reason I had such a hard time reading the above book was because the author went from “showing” the hero's situation, feelings, stakes, to using a LOT of telling with the heroine. But the Alley Cats talked about books they have read where the author was successful in this way, and come to think of it, I have read a few that use telling as part of the “voice” of a character.

So then, I thought about the stakes. Perhaps, each character should have the same intensity of what's at stake. If life is on the edge for one character, then it should be on the edge for the other. But that doesn't really work in real life or fiction.

Maybe it was voice. Maybe the voices of each character were too different, too simplistic for one and too complex for the other. But just the thought of that stirred my creative juices and I want to tackle that idea at some point in my own writing!

I kept trying to put my finger on it, wondering why I had such an issue with these unequally yolked povs. Every point I thought about, had some sort of exception. And as I sat down to write this post, it finally hit me...Whether you “show” with one character, and “tell” with the other, whether one character is in a “life” threatening situation, and the other is sitting by enjoying life, whether one character is a man and the other a woman, there is something very important needed when writing two different point-of-views:


Each pov in a book must be as well-written as the other. It's as simple as that. If you don't have it in you to write a character well, if you feel like you are much more inspired by one character over the other, then seriously think about nixing that pov...or spicing up that character so that you care to write him/her!

Search for a distinct voice for each character, but make sure you mold and shape each person to be unique, endearing, entertaining, and well-written!

Consistent Craft vs. Inconsistent Craft would be:
  • Fine-tuning voice in each character vs. giving a generic voice to the character you're not as thrilled to write about.
  • Ramping the tension in one pov, then flat-lining with the next character. Even if a character isn't going through tragedy, use power words, make even the every day situation intriguing to bridge the gap between the characters until they are woven together in the plot.
  • Language differences: Using power words, tight writing, good dialogue with one pov, then sprinkling adverbs, boring sentence structure, simplistic dialogue in your next pov. This is particularly tricky in historical and dialect of certain countries...for some reason we want to use adverbs for historical just seems...more proper, doesn't it? Something I am working on!

Final tips on Point Of Views:

Write each character's pov as if they are their own story, not as if one is assisting the other. Use the different perspectives to move toward the main plot-line of the book, to ramp up the tension toward the point of character collision or the characters' a-ha moment together.

Finally, two POVs are only powerful when they are both consistent in moving the story forward.
Thanks, Alley Cats, for helping me sort through these thoughts on POV. I am by no means an expert, so I would love to open the discussion to our readers and see if anyone else has tips or insight also!

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and CEO of a family of six.


Mary Vee Writer said...

Great points. Ang.
I am reading a book that happens to be quite the opposite of what you have said, fortunately. The author has excelled in making the hero and heroine distinct, their voices are clear, responses true to live. Allow me to give kudos to Rachel Hauck.
I hope to achieve her level of writing.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I like this post, Angie! I've definitely noticed this before in books and it makes it hard to keep reading the book. Enjoying one POV and not the other makes you either want to quit reading or skim the POV that's not as interesting just to get to the other - both of which you don't want. You had some great insights, and I'm going to remember them--as I write ALL my books from more than one POV and I really want them to BOTH be interesting and well-matched :)

Joanne Sher said...

Gonna be pondering this for a while, Angie. Great thoughts - and stuff I can apply to my own writing. (LOOVE this place!)

Jeanne T said...

Great thoughts, Angie. As I'm struggling with my heroine in my wip, I'm going to think on what you've shared today. Thanks!!!

Angie Dicken said...

Ooh Mary...I need to read Rachel Hauck...have heard fab things! Cindy, I am not a when I find myself skimming, it's a definite red flag!
Joanne, I love this place too! It has been a necessity in this journey for me!
Jeanne, I hope it helps with your heroine. I started my last novel with the idea of the hero as an after, with this wip, I am thinking in both perspectives all the time!! :)

Unknown said...

Great post, Angie, and I think your point about great craft in both POVs is spot-on. (Sorry, pretended I was British for a moment, there.)

I think one of the best tips I've been given when it comes to switching POVs is to always make sure you're writing a scene in the POV of the person with the most at stake. I think that definitely helps avoid going from tension in one scene to, as you said, flat-lining in the next. But yeah, CRAFT is king...

And yes, read Rachel Hauck!! She rocks!

Angie Dicken said...

Ooh, Melissa, I like that tip. Will think of that as I continue on. And pretending to be British is always a bit of fun, isn't it? ;)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Excellent post! It's tough keeping each character interesting and unique. In my latest wip, I have 5 POV's (a little unusual), but it is tricky to keep them all vital. My main heroine who is a timid sort, tends to be wishy-washy. I know I have to go back and strengthen her POV for sure.

Will keep this in mind when I do!



Embrace said...

What a great writing tip to ponder. I have written mostly in first person but have been persuaded from many voices not to. So recently I've tried to write in 3rd with two POV's. I find it a struggle because when I get a story it arrives in one very strong voice. Now I have to create a new voice a long side. A good skill to learn I know but I look forward to the day that I can get back to 1st person.
Thank you for the tips. They are timely as I am straining to hear the voice of my heroine today.

Valuable post!

Casey said...

Finally, two POVs are only powerful when they are both consistent in moving the story forward.

↑ That point is awesome!! ↑

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great thoughts. I got rid of one POV in my book because it wasn't consistent in moving the story forward. Thanks for an excellent post!

Angie Dicken said...

Sue, wow, 5 povs? Sounds intriguing!!
Jodi, I love writing in first person also...didn't realize it's not as popular in the industry for Historical Romance...until I got connected. Hope your heroine speaks loud and clear! ;)
Casey, I don't think I came up with that point all on my own, Case. You gals rock!
Julia, thanks for being so encouraging, all the time! ;)

Pepper said...

Wonderful post, Ang.
I think POVs are hard to write consistently well, so I'm thankful for your post.
When I KNOW my characters better, my POV becomes much more interesting (of course).

I have to write journals for each of my POV characters sometimes to make sure I get their vocabulary and 'mind' right :-)
It's a WIP for sure! LOL

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

GREAT points, Angie! I definitely need to work on BOTH characters. I tend to focus on one more than the other and that isn't good!!!!

I MUST read a Rachel Hauck book!!!

Angie Dicken said...

Pepper, you are amazing, I always dive into my wip's head first, and haven't journaled my characters...probably would save a lot of editing time!
Sherrinda, I always focus on the woman more than the man...natural I guess, but I am learning that it is so fun to write a man!!:)

Unknown said...

That would be really strange. I don't think I've experienced this before. I tend to write two POV's because I find myself wondering what the other character is thinking (or doing) differently to the current character. The bit I find difficult is making sure both POV characters have something approaching equal screen time.