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READ LIKE A WRITER, a teaching blog


NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is told in two points of view--that of the WWII Japanese soldier who hid for 28 years on Guam and that of 15-year-old Kiko whose family suffered an atrocity during WWII.

In children's lit, editors prefer single point of view (POV) because readers identify more strongly with one main character. Children's and teen (young adult—YA) fiction today are character -driven, especially middle grade (MG) and YA novels.

In adult novels, authors often use multiple POVs. Some writers even head-hop within the same
chapters. (I, personally, do not like head-hopping.) Two examples where multiple POVs are used in adult books and it is more defined, but in my opinion messes up in the endings, are BALZAC AND THE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS by Dai Sijie and THE CAPTAIN AND THE ENEMY, a novella that could be classified as YA, by Graham Greene. I love all of Greene's other novels, especially THE POWER AND THE GLORY, but imho THE CAPTAIN doesn't work because toward the end the main character (MC) dies. That's why he has to switch POV. In BALZAC I don't like how at the end he switches to minor character's POVs. To me, it was like, who cares? What does this add?

In children's lit, editors insist on single POV, or separating multiple POVs into different chapters. In MG & YA novels, if the author decides the story is best told in multiple POVs, then not only do the chapters need to be done separately, but alternating. Editors are concerned one character will be dropped too long and readers won’t care about the character whose POV is dropped.

One challenge in writing multiple POV is to make the different voices and characters very, very distinct. Adding to the distinctly different voices, you can change tenses and/or person (first or third).

In Linda Sue Park's historical MG novel MY NAME WAS KEOKO, one sibling POV is in present tense and one is in past tense. I do something similar in GRIDIRON GIRLS with three POVS. The two football girls' POV chapters are in present tense and Missy the cheerleader's POV chapters are in past tense. The football kicker, Lupe, is Hispanic, so she does not use contractions in her speech— dialogue, internal monologue, and narrative –and her sentence constructions are often reversed since she is ESL. Whereas in the quarterback’s chapters, Dallas not only uses contractions but a strong West Texas dialect. By writing Missy’s chapters in past tense then she can cover the same time frame as Lupe and Dallas’ accounts, which are in sequential “real time.”

SKINHUNGER by Kathleen Duey is a stunning YA fantasy novel in two POVs. Kathleen does a fascinating thing with time. I read this novel twice. The first time it took me part way into the novel to realize the one POV is past, leading up to the resurrection of magic. This is really hard to explain unless you have read SKINHUNGER because Kathleen does it in a way totally different than most present tense/past tense POVs. [Note: SACRED SCARS is the second in the “Resurrection of Magic” trilogy by Simon and Schuster.]

The MG historical novel that possibly holds the record for the most POVs is BAT 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff, told in 21 POVs by two opposing girls’ baseball teams.

NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, tbr Jan. 2014 by Merit Press, is told in two POVs because the WWII soldier, Isamu Seto, is hiding in the jungle. In 1972, when Kiko’s story takes place, no one knows the soldier exists. If I had told the story in a single POV, then it might have still been suspenseful for Kiko to discover the soldier, but I would not have been able to show the reader how and why Seto hid and survived for 28 years in the jungle. Both POVs are in past tense since this is a historical novel.

However, 15-year-old Kiko’s POV chapters are in first person, whereas Seto’s chapters are in third person. I wrote it this way so the reader could identify with Kiko, and not Seto. The third person puts a bit more psychic distance between the reader and the character.

In the YA sci-fi thriller NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE, tbr December 2014 by Knopf, author Amy Nichols uses two POVs, alternate chapters from Danny Ogden and Eevee Solomon. Both are in first person, present tense. However, since the characters are different genders, their voices are distinctly different. Here’s how Amy arrived at the decision to write her novel in two POVs:

[Amy says] I initially wrote it in a single first person POV (the female character in the story), but found it very limiting. I switched to third person briefly, but that also didn't work. Personally, I don't like reading third person omniscient (i.e., head hopping). If I write in third person, I typically stay very close to one character, so writing in third person just gave me another kind of first person, which still felt very limited. Then I remembered how Lauren Baratz-Logsted wrote CRAZY BEAUTIFUL, with two alternating POVs, and I decided to give it a try. The minute I started writing the boy's POV, I knew it was the right decision for this story. Because the characters are each experiencing such drastic and personal life changes, it made sense that getting both sides of the story and experience would make for a deeper, more satisfying read. [end quote]

Notice that Amy wrote her novel in several different styles, trying out which worked best for her story. So don’t be afraid to experiment, write and rewrite, until the characters are telling their own compelling stories—a story readers can’t put down. So don’t be afraid to experiment, write and rewrite, until the characters are telling their own compelling stories—a story readers can’t put down.

For an excellent series on using different point of views (POV) I recommend Nancy Butt's blog series on POV
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