Whose Story is This?

What's the Story?

I'm editing a science fiction novel right now, the first novel I've attempted that has multiple points of view, and it's gotten me reflecting on how vital it is to decide whose story it is, and what are the point-of-view characters.

The book involves two four-way relationships and an antagonist involved in a political thread. This is the third major revision. The first time I told the wrong story, that of the younger four, from a first person POV. The second I wrote for an online class that required I write a certain number of words on a new story. Though the draft was sketchy, I tried to both the older four and younger four. One of the POV characters was the main character from the first revision, and as a result the primary story lost focus.

I had put the second version aside and was, I thought, almost finished with the first version when a reader convinced me that my heart wasn't in it, that I was much more invested in the thread involving the older four characters. Reluctantly, I decided she was right, and went back to rethink the whole thing.

I decided to concentrate on the older four.  Any scene involving one of the younger four's point of view went out the window.  That left me with the four older characters, some of whom had been short-changed in both previous versions, and the antagonist. I knew from the first version that not having him as a point of view character weakened the story.

I decided to start with two chapters featuring my main character, and then a chapter devoted to each of the other POVs. These chapters were new and they forced me to consider what I needed to show about the characters, why it was important to the story, and how to tell it. One character especially, who had been the most neglected in the two previous drafts, sprang into focus when I wrote her initlal chapter. This influenced the interplay between them and how the story unfolded from then on.

I am not a detailed plotter, and certain things only become real to me as I write them. In the previous version, the characters in the primary relationship had been off stage often enough that I did not sufficiently develop the nuances of their relationship. In this one, I was forced to consider them each far more carefully in order to clarify their voices.

I did have some scenes I quite liked from version two, and fortunately they involved the older four, so I was able to use them. The first version also had a couple of scenes I liked, but, alas, they did not -- could not -- make it into the book. Perhaps at some point I can write a short story that could include some of it.

All this, of course, still left me struggling with the sheer mechanics of managing five character's voices, and of keeping track of whose voice I was in at any one time. I started by naming the chapters for the character and switching only at chapter breaks. About a third of the way through the writing gods smiled on me, and  Terry Odell sent a shout-out on the Savvy Authors email loop about her upcoming point of view workshop. I signed up immediately. It was a huge help.

Will I do better next time in deciding on my point of view characters? Maybe -- maybe not. I will give it the thought it deserves, but I'm still going to be ready to discover that I've made a mistake and need to go back and regroup.

Here are some other articles you might want to check out:

Enhanced by Zemanta


Karen Cioffi said...

Wow, that's a lot of POVs. Sounds interesting though. Thanks for the links on POV - I'll be checking them out.

Donna McDine said...

Phew, good luck with your editing! Thanks for the valuable links, much appreciated!

Magdalena Ball said...

Hi Peggy, the links don't work for me. POV is so important (and an oft misunderstood component of storywriting). My first novel had only one POV and it was a big jump for me to move to four in the second one. Multiple POVs can work really well I think, adding complexity and dramatic irony as the reader gets to move between what happens on the outside and the perception. Having those perceptions work within one another adds further depth, but it's not an easy thing to master!

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Thanks for the links. I have changed the POV of a story as an exercise to flush out my story.

Margaret Fieland said...

Maggie -- let me know if you would like me to email you copies of the posts -- here are the links (not html)





VS Grenier said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm adding this to my blog roll of posts to read for my followers.

Tips for Creating Subplots in Middle Grade Novels

by Suzanne Lieurance   If you’re writing a middle grade novel, you want to include at least one or two subplots. Subplots in fiction are sec...