Tips for Writing Multiple Viewpoint Novels

arch to forestAt times, stories are too large to be told by a single viewpoint character. I found that to be true during the early stages of writing my fantasy novel, The Returning, and thereby made the decision for the entirety of The Veil Trilogy.

It was the correct choice to bring in three more “stars” for my tale. Though less important than my protagonist, whose character was always the focus of the yarn, each added a deeper dimension.

The protagonist’s love interest POV offered the ability to see my main character in a different way than he perceived himself—one of the best advantages of multi-viewpoint, the ability to deepen characterization.

The antagonist POV allowed the “other” side of the tale, and gave opportunity to show how much stronger the bad guy is, thus causing worry in the reader’s mind.

The fourth POV evolved from the story itself and was unplanned, and she ended up being one of my favorites.

Whether you are an outliner or not—or something in between like me—consider adding additional Viewpoint Characters to give your story a grander and more complex feel.

There are innate difficulties when using multiple characters, but also a number of benefits as mentioned above. Some of the problems are:

  1. Each POV must have their own specific plot line, and their movements through the novel need to, in some way, coincide with the Main character.
  2. Being a POV character requires each have their own goals, strengths and flaws, success and failures, which prompt them to their own resolution. Resolving their issues may or may not parallel those of your main character.
  3. Each POV must have a unique voice, outlook, background, fears and frailties. If an additional POV has essentially the same views or even speech pattern, they should be removed. If two people think exactly the same about each issue, one is unnecessary.
  4. Each POV must appear on occasion to fulfill the reason they are a viewpoint character in the first place.

Point 4 can get a bit dicey. I read a fantasy series where one of the POV’s disappeared for a couple hundred pages. When they returned, I had to go back and remind myself where in the plot line they had last appeared. I felt jolted from the story flow, and it took a bit to get back into the story’s rhythm.

When writing my novel, I kept a separate list of POV characters and where they appeared, both as a Viewpoint and when they appeared in the story but were not the POV. This is how I kept track during the first draft: the number in parenthesis is where the POV appeared, but was not the viewpoint character during that section.

Frank     1, 2, (3), 6, 7, (8), 8, 10
Mitzi      (2), 3, (5), 8, 9
George  4, (6), 9 (9)
Amy      (4), 5, (7),

By setting the story up this way (and keeping track), two things happen:

  1. Ensures each POV has reasonable time within the plot line, and the protagonist (in this case, Frank) gets most of the story time;
  2. Assuring each POV does not disappear for too long.

Using the 3rd person Multi-Viewpoint is not Omniscient Viewpoint, which is to say that each POV needs their own chapter, or at the least a section of a chapter indicated by a break (#) in the story—why Frank and Mitzi both appear in Chapter 8. Notice in the first part of Chapter 8, Mitzi is the POV character—Frank is present—and the second part of the chapter is within Frank’s view with Mitzi no longer present.

The Multi-POV offers unlimited possibilities. If you have never tried this particular option—it’s hard enough to keep track of one, you say—the attempt can deepen your ability to see a scene through a different character’s peculiar view. You might find you enjoy the multiple POV like I did.

See you on the next page,


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Author: Rick "C" Langford

Writer, blogger, Business Owner, dreamer, and fantasy lover

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