Finding the right voice was one of the most difficult challenges I faced while writing ALL THAT IS SACRED. The novel involves five primary characters, women who have been friends for twenty years.
At first, I tried developing 1st person POVs for each of them. Alternately, they narrated their own chapters, but we also saw them through the lens of the other characters. I wanted the reader to get the full-circle view of their friendship. I soon discovered that five narrators was a lot. Too much. The trick to having multiple POVs (I use the word trick purposefully because to achieve it well, a little bit of magic is involved) is to make them distinguishable from one another. I paid attention to the ways each would use diction, syntax, and key phrases, factors that made them unique.
1st Person: Jules
My early readers pointed out confusion about who was speaking when as well as some continuity issues. I knew I needed to address a change in perspective. I tried writing from an omniscient POV, but the 3rd person felt too far removed from this story that occurs both in the present and past.
3rd Person: Omniscient
I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to return to the 1st person, but my conundrum then became: who will tell the story? In the 2nd chapter, one of the main characters, Lynn, dies (which sets the story in motion). There is a different character, Jules, who could naturally tell the story because her role is the storyteller. However, the problem I faced now was: How can we hear from a dead character when an earthbound character is narrating? My only solution was to have Lynn, the dead character, narrate the entire story. This came with a new set of obstacles. To what degree can a person who’s passed see, hear, feel what’s happening on earth from heaven? How would that look? After working on a bit of world-building, I finally found the voice of this novel in Lynn, the young woman who dies tragically but can’t fully realize heaven until her loved ones find closure. This story became her story, as I believe it was meant to all along.
1st Person: Lynn, MC
One of the things I love most about writing is giving into the process, allowing myself to discover what the story is and who the characters are through my journey with them. This time, it meant struggling with POV to hit that sweet spot.
In the early stages of your story, experiment with POV. Write the same part of your story (it can be an opening chapter or something later) from different points of view and different character’s perspectives.
Pay attention to what allows you to achieve what you want (and conversely how you are limited by others).
I hope you enjoyed this look behind-the-book. If you have any tricks for working with POV, please add them in the comments below.
Stay tuned for the next part in the series where I reveal how I came up with names and setting.