If you’ve been on any writers’ forum, you’ll have seen this question: “can I write multiple POVs in a novel?”
It was probably asked by a new writer who didn’t bother to search their question before cluttering the forum with yet another topic. And the same old veteran writers answered it with long posts with great answers.
So let me answer the question simply: yes, you can have multiple POVs in one novel.
You can look at almost any novel and see multiple POVs written in the same novel, even the same chapter. Obviously, then it’s allowed. However, it’s a question so commonly asked that I decided I’d take today’s post to talk about it and give a few tips.
The Two Tenses
When you think multiple POVs, you tend to think of third person. Everyone does. It’s the classic move: write in third person and then use it to hop around all sorts of heads. Especially to write the villain’s point of view (which, for the record, is hardly ever done well and is actually quite cliché).
However, it’s not the only sort of POV you can hope around it.
That’s right. First person. It’s becoming more and more common to write multiple first person views into the same novel. I did it with Asher’s Song, Veronica Roth did it in Divergent (quality aside, she did it and got published), and others have done so as well.
Therefore, to answer that other common question: “can I write multiple first person POVs in one novel?”, yes. you can.
There is, however, a jarring choice that some then assume they can make. It’s one of those risky choices I talked about a while back. Using both third and first person. Yes, there are published books that have done this.
Are they jarring?
Here’s the deal: if you write in third, your reader expects everything to be in third. Yes, even if it’s just the prologue.
Just like writing the same tense, you should write the same personal POV. While you may, it’s always jarring to your readers and causes confusion that pulls them out of the story for a vital moment.
Sure, it may be artistic and it’s your own choice, but that moment we’re pulled out is a chance you don’t have our full attention, and that’s never good. And rarely is it worth the artistic pleasure.
Some people will tell you to avoid switching POVs mid-chapter, others will tell you it’s fine and to switch whenever.
While I tend to lean toward the latter, I will admit this: some readers are thrown off by mid-chapter head hops. Therefore, I offer this advice: set a pattern early and stick with it for the remainder of the book.
If you don’t switch heads in the first few chapters, don’t switch for the last seven. It’s odd and unnerving to your reader to suddenly have a new head after an entire book in the one POV. Establish quickly that you intend to head-hop. And if you go by-chapter in the beginning, don’t suddenly change that near the end or in the middle have a chapter that’s split.
Basically, be consistent. You can get away with so much if you’re simply consistent and up-front with your choices.
It can be difficult to know when to make a risky choice and when not it.
Thankfully, there’s only one choice you have to make when it comes to head-hopping in novels: the level of consistency. It’s a relatively simple answer to a common question.
Do what you want.
Don’t pull your reader out of the story.