Another Point of View

I tend to write my novels from the point of view of a single character and Camp Expendable started out that way. So it’s interesting to think about why, almost halfway into the story, I thought it might be a good idea to add another point of view. There are parts that are a drudge to get written, usually the ones that help move the plot from one dramatic point to the next. They aren’t all boring to write, and I certainly hope none of them will be boring to read, but some days, it’s definitely a hard slog.

Maybe that was the factor that entered into considering whether I could bring in another point of view and make it an organic part of how the story develops. There were two characters whose point of view could potentially liven things up. I didn’t want both of them, so I had to examine what each one could bring to the novel. Of course, it would involve going back to previous chapters and finding the spots where inserting the new POV would work. It didn’t hurt that I would automatically be adding new chunks of material to my word count. Maybe that was even an unconscious motive that drove me to think about a second POV.

But here’s what became apparent as I thought about it. By adding the point of view, I’d be creating  a more fully rounded character, and I suddenly saw how important that would be for the end of the book. Because what he eventually does could sideline his career in the military or even get him court martialed. Why would he be willing to do that? Without his point of view, his actions seem to come almost out of nowhere. Sure, I can, and will, let him explain it, but that’s a last-minute thing. Because we don’t know him very well, there’s no gradual buildup to that point, and the potential drama of his action is lost. Without that, he’s little more than a deus ex machina dragged in to “save” the hero.

So what was my real motivation in adding the second POV? Well, that’s one of the mysteries of creativity, isn’t it?



9 thoughts on “Another Point of View

  1. So you have two male pov characters alternating somehow?

    With three main characters in my story, I felt each deserved a chance to feed their view of reality into the reader’s skull.

    I’d seen that done in alternating chapters, in a first person pov (Margaret Attwood’s Life After Man), and didn’t like the way the first person keeps yanking you into the pov of three unsympathetic characters (all whine). So I tried close third, and it worked well for me. They get scenes in a systematic but not rotating order, and there may be 1-3 in a chapter, as needed.

    How do you intersperse your two povs? That’s the key part. If you wait too late to introduce the second character, it changes the ‘system’ the reader has gotten used to, and yanks them out of the story. Readers will follow you everywhere, but don’t like to have the rug pulled out from under them.

    I did mine 1, 2, 3 – and then did two more scenes for 1 in the first chapter. That gets everyone on deck, and things back to the main character. All very deliberate (and I hope the seams don’t show).

    1. Wow, you always manage to make me think about things that just came sort of naturally. Okay, the second character has already been introduced, and his importance to the first character made clear. He’s been on the scene. All I had to do was find a place where switching to his point of view would be perfectly natural. The first few chapters are from Casey’s (protag 1) point of view, including how he sees Capra (protag 2). After a scene between them in Capra’s office, the next scene is Capra’s POV, mostly about how he sees Casey. So it worked out that the reader saw each of them from two points of view. I did that where it made sense, not with any design for balancing how much attention each one got. I think that without Capra’s POV, what he does later might seem to lack sufficient motivation.

      In the novel I’m revising, I do it very differently. Two character alternate for the first nine chapters. Then two or three chapters show how and why they’re going to meet. By then you know everything important about them, and the story of their life together makes sense.

      1. Just remember: you know what you’re doing. The reader doesn’t. If readers get confused, you’ve lost them.

        This is where beta readers give you the reader reaction – and are worth their weight in gold. They don’t know what you’re trying to do – they just know their own reaction.

        If they can put that reaction into words, you’re all set. The best beta readers catch when they’re confused or wonder – and let you know where (not usually how – that’s not their job) something is off.

        1. Absolutely. My Australian friend’s beta reading of one of my novels could have been devastating, because she caught everything that was wrong with it. But it taught me a hell of a lot, for which I’m eternally grateful. Much of it generalizes.

          1. Wouldn’t you rather know before publication? When you can still do something about things if you wish?

            It’s possible that beta reader isn’t the best one for you, but the way you say that makes me think she helped a lot.

            I listened to all advice very carefully – and thanked those who took the time to write something – because even if they weren’t completely right, there was often something I needed to look into.

            Unfortunately, as I got to the later chapters, they didn’t give me much feedback; I found one plot problem myself (then realized someone HAD told me about it, and I didn’t realize it).

            1. Finding good beta readers is very difficult. I consider myself lucky to have found mine. We started as friends, and I very reluctantly took advantage of her offer to critique without charging me. She’s extremely insightful, and her comments are always clear and helpful. That said, I don’t submit everything to her because she’s doing it for free, and she’s struggling to earn a living. She’s too soft-hearted to charge what she should, and devotes too much time to people who don’t make the effort (or don’t have the capacity) to benefit by her analysis. I’ve only had one other person critique a novel, also a writer, and her primary concerns went right to the heart of my main weakness. I’ve been working on it ever since.

              For the most part, especially on sites like Write On and Wattpad, critiques are limited to grammar, sentence structure, etc. You’re appealing for help to others just like yourself, many of whom have even less experience, and no insight at all into larger issues.

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