Multi-POV, With a Side of Headache? Yes, Please.

Naomi Hawkins-Rowe

Naomi Hawkins-Rowe

Ah, here I am again staring into the eyes of Multiperspectivity. I have become a pretty big fan of that term: Multiperspectivity, aka. Polyperspectivity, aka. Multi-POV. It’s a fun word, a big word, a word that is difficult to pronounce. Try saying that three times!

After  reading several fantastic novels that used a Multi-POV narrative, I initially felt inspired and ready to conquer the beast that is a Multi-POV novel. But reading such a novel and writing one is a very different conquest. While struggling with some plot issues the last few weeks, I started to question, one, whether I could actually pull off the various perspectives and voices, and two, whether my novel really needed to be written in fragmented vignettes from varying viewpoints.

So instead of writing one morning, I spent my time debating if I should return to my initial plan of using  a single POV, or continue along the path of headache and cursing. It finally occurred to me that part of my problem was that I hadn’t really evaluated why I wanted to write my novel from different viewpoints or why it felt utterly necessary to do so.

So I made a list of questions for myself. If I could satisfactorily answer each one, I’d proceed forward with Multi-POV. If not, I’d discard the idea like a terrible 80’s prom dress. Perhaps if you’re questioning the same thing, these questions will aid you as well.

To start, why do writers use Multi-POV?
My initial guess was that, secretly, we actually enjoy torture. I mean we make our characters wriggle and struggle and feel the pains of transformation. And is that not a little of what we do when we write? Doesn’t the process of writing make us grow and change as we ourselves struggle to unwrap the psychosis and drama of our own experiences? Ok fine, I am being overly dramatic.

But seriously, I think this is a really important question, and one I didn’t bother to ask before I started writing. I just thought of it as a cool writing device. But there are very specific uses for Multi-POV according to the blogger Cyn of Jacaranda by Cyn. For instance, giving various takes on a single incident (as in the book Riot), or showing what is happening in a particular moment via different POVs, or even the same place in different time periods, like in the Resurrection of Magic series. It can also be used as a device to unveil a character from the view point of those in the story.

OK, that’s sorted.

Is there a concrete reason to use Multi-POV rather than a singular POV? And, how does my story benefit from multiple perspectives?
My story is essentially about the loyalties and  devotion  we have to people and ideologies and what happens when we begin to question that unabashed commitment. Set against the backdrop of a conflict that has  multiple sides, it feels important, and necessary even, to give equal voice to each view point in the conflict.  I really want to show my reader how complex disagreements, conflicts and wars can be. By giving equal exposure to the motivations of each narrator, I think it creates an honest, if not less bias, story. Every story has two sides as they say. And it’s a way for me to delve into the major cultural, poltical and social backgrounds of each character.

These seem like pretty concrete reasons to me.

Am I up for the headache/challenge of organizing and writing a Multi-POV story/novel?
The more I thought about it the answer was a resounding YES! Perhaps it’s the fact that when I am told something is going to be too hard, or impossible to achieve, I want it even more. But asking myself “why” and having a solid answer helps me commit to the challenge I set for myself. It would be very easy to turn back, but now I can’t image writing my story any other way. I think that Doris Lessing may have said it best: “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”

The next step now is managing connecting themes, overlapping plots, and distinct voices. But the tough questions have been asked and answered and there’s only one way now for me but forward.


2 responses to “Multi-POV, With a Side of Headache? Yes, Please.

  1. Megan Norris Jones

    This post is quite insightful. Uncomfortably insightful. I’m fear another POV is knocking at my story door. And your post (combined with today’s writing session) makes me think I’d better let it in. Ah, writing. Does it ever end?

    • Naomi Hawkins-Rowe

      I am glad it was insightful for you, Megan. And if you go down the route of Multi-POV I think it would make your story really interesting! Even when I feel like knocking my head against a wall sometimes, I do also love this stage of writing–the part where you’re still uncovering and discovering all the facets of your story. But I agree, I don’t think it ever ends. Even after you publish I suppose you are still thinking of things you might have done, or done differently.

      Can’t wait to read your story!

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