Almost There: Tv Inspiration + Lost: Multiple POVs

Friday, June 7, 2013

Tv Inspiration + Lost: Multiple POVs

TV Inspiration is a Summer blogging series that the Annes came up with to help spread inspiring content based on two popular TV series. Holli Anne's series is Parks and Recreation. Her Intro post can be found here. Tyler Anne's series is Lost. Her Intro post can be found here
This post is Tyler Anne's Tv Inspiration. 

When I think of multiple POVs in writing or reading, I think of Lost and its use of a very large ensemble cast. Sure, Jack is arguably the main main character but you also bounce around to more than a handful of other characters. This was a big reason why I was hooked by the first few of episodes.

You have a plane crash and multiple survivors. The hope of rescue is pretty slim to none. Then during the pilot you start to meet these random individuals aside from Jack. I have to admit the first two episodes (technically the Pilot) I started stereotyping everyone.

Kate was just another pretty face.
Sawyer was just another dumb redneck.
Charlie was a just another musician with a drug problem.
Jin was just another overbearing jackass of a husband.
Sun was just another passive and abused wife.
Shannon was just another stuck up rich girl.
Michael was just another struggling dad trying to connect with his son.
Locke was just another creepy old man with a lot of knives.
Jack was just another hero.

These are some of the characters you follow throughout the show--whether following them around the Island or watching some of their flashbacks. The stereotypes you put the characters in start crumbling as you progress through each one of their stories. Some fall away quickly, others take time to undo. For example, by episode two you get to see some of Kate's backstory and realize that she's not your average Jane. However, you definitely don't have her pegged down completely either.

What is the point I'm trying to make?
One of the wonderful reasons I love Lost is because I get to experience it through multiple POVs. By following these different narrators I'm able to appreciate their development and the story more.

Now, let's talk about...

Multiple Points of View in Writing & Books
I have to admit that up until a few years ago I was a one-character type of girl. Whether it was first person or third, I was content with only following one person around the story. Sure, I had read a few books that had more than one person that told the story but the authors had lost my interest with some very common multiple POV snafus. Now, I'm more open to the tactic and even have become fond of certain books because of it.

Common Multiple POV Mistakes
One book I read a while back was written in two parts--one was from the POV of a boy, the other from a girl. The author chose to have two POVs because the characters were on the opposing sides of a political and religious battle. Having two different perspectives throughout the book was a smart choice because it helped enrich the overall story. However, when the narrators were in the same scene the author showed us each perspective every single time. I understand that this technique can work to further the character's development but sometimes readers don't necessarily have to be in the same room twice to understand what happened and what was seen and felt.

Another reason I have disliked the multiple POV style is lousy transitions from one person to the next. I've read books that break POV shifts into different chapters or marked off sections and I've read books that simply pick up during the next paragraph. This is the easiest way to lose me as a reader. You've chosen to have multiple narrators and that's fine but please make sure your transitions are clear and keep the readers from mass confusion. If we are reading Becky's thoughts about Jeff in one paragraph and then suddenly we're in Michael's head thinking about how he wishes he could still play football, chances are we will get annoyed as readers.

The last multiple POV ick that I've come across is switching to a narrator for no reason at all. Sure, I'm a fan of Becky but don't take me out of Michael's intense fight aftermath to only plop me down into her life while she does her mundane routines. Make sure you put me there for a reason and not just because you wanted some filler. I didn't buy your book for filler. I bought it for a good story. If you aren't furthering the character or overall plot, then don't make me read about Becky brushing her teeth.

I've recently found a writing blog that's extremely helpful and well-written. It's called The Other Side of the Story and it's by Janice Hardy. If you're an established author, an aspiring writer, or somewhere in between I suggest you check it out. She has many posts about POVs that can be found here.

Thoughts on Multiple POVs
I decided to ask the members of our Writer Talk group on Facebook (if you want to join go here) about their thoughts on one narrator per story versus multiple narrators. Here's some good points they made on the subject.

Aine Crabtree, a soon-to-be published author of The Thief, praised multiple POVs.
"As someone whose book is from multiple POVs...very much prefer it that way. I tend to get tired of one voice over a long enough time, and I get curious about what's going on in the heads of other characters. Inevitably I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of levels of the story if I'm restricted to one character's head."

Eli Carnley, another writer from the group, agreed.
"I'm starting to prefer or at least enjoy stories with multiple perspectives. My current project is first person from one character's perspective and I'm finding the constraints to be more than I'd originally bargained for."

My personal thoughts on the matter have started to change recently. I love following the one person through a journey and, just like real life, never knowing everything that goes on with the other characters and some parts of the story. However, reading stories like The Thief (you'll be able to read it soon too!) has made me reevaluate my earlier nose-wrinkling at them. I guess, to me, it all boils down to the quality of the characters you have. If they are good then I won't mind being passed around between them.

Pros & Cons
I feel like I'm almost bashing the idea of having multiple narrators in this post but I really am not. This is, as a writer, one of the first things you have to figure out before starting to write your book. Will you have just one POV or multiple? I've wrestled with the idea many times and created the following pros and con list to help.

  • You can add more interest, story, and character development by having more than one narrator.
  • You avoid being monotonous if you aren't stuck with the same person for the duration of the story.
  • You can explore and control larger settings and situations.
  • When the story starts to lag, switching to another narrator can keep the readers entertained.
  • You can lose reader interest if you have too many narrators with weak transitions.
  • You have to make sure each character is solid so the reader will follow them.
  • You may lose a more involved intimacy with your characters that you might have if there was only one. Typically, readers invest a lot in one character. With multiple POVs this could be harder for them.
  • You can lose the tension you've spent building up by switching to another narrator. 

Now, there are more of both, but for brevity's sake (because this is already a pretty big post!) I only listed the pros and cons that stick out in my mind. I guess, for me, it all just depends on the story and what I want to accomplish with it on whether or not I break out multiple POVs.

Which do you prefer?

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

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