Walking in Your Main Character’s Shoes: Multiple POVs and More than One Pair of Shoes

Work finally slowed down for me this month (the perks of being a teacher – yay!) and I’ve been getting back to writing. I write in first-person and am writing from three different characters’ point of views (POVs) this time.

It’s been fun, but challenging.

I’ve been trying to sink my brain into the characters and walk around in their skin. Three skins in total: a teenaged female, a teenaged male, and a five-hundred-year old male. I once asked Ally Condie on one of her Twitter #AllyChats about how she does it (if you haven’t read her MATCHED series, she alternates chapters among different POVs in books two and three — great series, by the way 🙂 ). She told me that she writes one character all the way through and then layers the next one. I’ve also read posts from various publishers’ interns, and the one resounding piece of advice is that if you write in first person, your characters’ POVs should be distinct enough so that the reader should know who it is without having to do gimmicky things like changing fonts or formats. A good test of this would be if the reader can know even without having a chapter heading with the character’s name.

I tried to write a character all the way through but that didn’t quite work out for me, as I think I have to write a little more linearly in terms of plot-line. But I do try to write whenever a particular character speaks to me (yes, I have voices in my head). So here are some of the things that I’ve tried to do for my three voices:

My teenaged female: This character has a lot of unsolved mysteries in her life and is experiencing very new things, as something very life-changing happened to her in my first book. She’s more descriptive about her actions than my other characters and very reflective about everything that happens around her. Sarcasm is also one of her trademarks.

My teenaged male: I consulted my husband a bit when I first started to write his chapter and his take after reading a sample was, “Yeah, guys don’t think about things that much. Too much narrative.” My response was, “I can’t just have 15 blank pages and call it Micah’s chapter.” Counter-response, “Do whatever you want. That’s what mine would look like.” Micah is deeper in thought than my husband (Sorry, honey, but it’s probably true. I do not know where your socks are.) and is motivated and therefore thinks about how he can help other people but is also more focused on actions. Thoughts that just “come to him” are terse and separated in prose from his actions.

My five-hundred-year old: His mind makes a lot of connections with things from his past. Five hundred years is a long past. He’s also kind of a man of action and very controlled about his emotions. He also tends to speak and think without contractions.

If you write from different POVs, what are some things that you do to keep the voices distinct?