Mixing Point of View: First-Person
Your point of view is an important part of the story you’re crafting. However, it’s generally something that you think about once and then never have to consider again. If you’ve decided to write in third-person you don’t agonise over what perspective to write each scene in; it’s in third. But what if you wanted to have more than one perspective?
The simplest way to mix up your point of views is to have multiple first-person narrators telling their interlocking stories. It’s not uncommon to have a couple of integral people within your story and you want to follow them through their journey. When used correctly, it can be very nice way to introduce different story elements, different character developments or different characters for your audience to relate to. On the flip side, if you do it less than really well, it turns into a clunky mess that does nothing but frustrate and push away your readers.
If you want to do this correctly, you need to make sure that all of the characters that you are following have their own distinct voice. You should be doing this anyway, but it’s particular important for the first-person narrators to have their own distinct personalities and voices so that the reader can easily jump between them.
You should indicate some way to the reader that they are reading someone else’s perspective. Your distinct voices will handle that in the later stages of the story, but to start off with you need to hold their hand and guide them through the process a bit. One way that I see a lot is through the chapter headings.
Chapter 3: The Day I Slipped Into Hades
Chapter 4: The Day I Followed Jim Into Hades
Find a way that works for you to let your reader know who they are going to be reading. If you do that and you have your voices nailed, your readers should be able to follow quite easily what’s happening and who’s who.
Don’t do this. Head popping is where you just pop into someone else’s head for a bit. Mid-chapter you jump into another point of view with little to no indication to the reader what is happening. No matter how good your voice is, it’s going to be jarring and an added distraction for the reader to find out who is actually doing the narration. In general, stick to one POV per chapter.
Mixing your point of views in your story can be an interesting addition to it. It needs to be done well so that you don’t turn off your readers and it also has to have a point. If you can tell the exact same story without jumping into different people’s heads, then you probably should. If you’re adding something to the story, be it a different perspective on the same events, highlighting the way that different people not only act differently but see the world in a different way, or your story is bigger than one person, give it a go and see what you think. Personally, if it’s easy enough for me to follow what’s going on and it’s done well, I quite like seeing the world through more than one person’s eyes.
Next: Multiple Person
© 2016 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.