Multiple Point-of-View Characters

 Christmas Lights - Bruce Witzel Photo

It has been said by more than one, that my books are unique because I develop multiple point-of-view characters. One reviewer said he had never read a book like this before. Another said that it was difficult to determine which character was the main character. My style has been called brilliant, deep and somewhat confusing – depending on who is doing the saying!

To be honest, I don’t find it unusual. The style came so naturally to me, I can only conclude that I’ve read many such books in my life. One day, I’m going to go on a search and pull some out! But seriously, I had to have gotten the idea from my own reading history. There isn’t much new under the sun, as the saying goes.

Some style analysts write that the type of book and the audience it’s written for determines how far one goes with multiple points-of-view. Character-driven fiction tends to make use of this device because the multiple relationships among characters form a vital part of the narrative.

The type of books I wanted to write demanded I put the reader in the head of more than one character. I’ve shied away from solving this problem by going all omniscient. The voice from above, the narrator who knows the whole story from the get go – how it starts, how it ends, how each person in the story feels at every juncture. Though this approach adds a lot of scope, immediacy is lost and distance between the reader and the character widens.

I want my readers to feel the story from inside the heads of the characters. In Disappearing in Plain Sight, I wanted readers to look through Lisa-Marie’s eyes and see how she experienced being a bullied, high-school girl who suddenly finds herself transplanted to a different life. I wanted readers to know how trauma counsellor, Izzy, felt about her husband’s death and about her work and her growing relationship with Liam. And heck, why shouldn’t they also see it from Liam’s perspective and Justin’s.

For me, these multiple points-of-view enrich the story and make it come alive. I think this is why people say, after reading either of the Crater Lake books, the characters felt like friends, family, people I wanted to meet again and again. Or things like – I found myself thinking about the characters long after I had finished reading the novel. These reactions are based on being inside the characters’ experience and living it through their eyes.

But here’s the rub, as the Bard would say – it’s a tricky style to master. Readers need to be able to discern, easily and definitively, whose head they are in at any given moment. This means the writing must give crystal-clear direction. It comes down to character voice, too. Each one must be wholly unique – when a reader is in Izzy’s head, experiencing her thoughts, the things she says and the actions she takes have to distinguish her completely from the reader’s experience of being inside Lisa-Marie’s head.

A writer has to be intimately acquainted with his or her characters to pull this off. And like so many parts of writing, the devil is in the details. Not only does a character have a unique voice but how that voice presents itself differs when in interaction with different character or situations. To say nothing of how that character’s voice is sometimes not even fully known to the one doing the speaking.

So, what can we do to get this close to our characters? Like any relationship, we need to spend time with these people and learn all we can about them. Write and write and write until we understand what makes a particular character tick. What makes them laugh? What makes them cry? What brings a sarcastic comment popping into their heads? What triggers them? What are their hearts’ desires?

When we know our characters this well their unique voices cannot fail to be clear and then something very special will happen. These characters who we think we know so well will surprise us by doing something altogether unexpected. And believe me – that is a moment of pure joy for a writer.

This will do doubt be my last blog of 2014 and I want to send out a big Happy Holiday greeting and well wishes to all my blog followers for the likes and the thought-provoking comments I’ve received over the last year. 2015 promises to a productive year for me with two novels due to come out. I look forward to many more chances to interact with readers and fellow writers through the wonderful world of WordPress.

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