Who Am I? The Challenge of Rotating Character Perspectives

Discussions on the use of multiple points-of-view (POVs) usually focus on what is best for the story, or most effective for readers. The questions are When to Switch? and How to transition in the writing?

However, there’s another question, at least for me. How to transition in your own head?

The novel-in-(slow-)progress RITN is told from multiple character POVs. Usually, the shift from one POV to another is occurring during chapter breaks. Each scene is in the limited third POV–more natural to me than omniscient third or first-person–but I struggle to do it every time.

Are they real enough?
Are they real enough?

I realize the problem is with characterization. The characters aren’t crafted in a way that enables me to pick them out of storage and put them on, quickly and easily. Instead of an elegant cloak, many of my characters are like a bundle of fabric I need to fold and tuck around myself to use.

Whenever I need to write from the POV of one of these characters, I must sit and think about his or her motivations, past experiences, and physical quirks before I can think and feel like the character. Every time.

I know why this happens to me. These characters are boring. Don’t get me wrong; there is conflict in their lives. The problem is they’re rather normal, which means I can’t relate to them very well.

Though they’re shadows of my own mind, they’re aliens. More alien than the actual space alien who’s a better crafted cloak, so to speak.

Sometimes I’m not sure why I’m writing this story… but I won’t despair. Nor will I continue trudging through without trying to solve the problem.

I’d love suggestions about how to make the transitions easier.


6 thoughts on “Who Am I? The Challenge of Rotating Character Perspectives”

  1. I don’t know what to offer here. For me transition just happens. I think that character and that is that. If it is not happening for at a given moment I usually cannot force it. At that point I will re-read from that particular character’s last writing. Sometimes I think I rely too much on my subconscious.

    1. I figure the subconsious should control drafting. That’s why I’m worried I’m working on something I shouldn’t be. I can jump into the mind of twelve-year-old Derran in DeCo but struggle with the mind of twelve-year-old Nate in RITN. Then again, Derran is incomparable to a real child. Nate is supposed to be normal…

      So, maybe my subconsious needs experience with normal kids. How can someone get that experience without making parents wary?

  2. This post was really thought-provoking! I found you through Jennifer’s post about Three-Word Wednesday.

    I thought back to when I identified precisely with this feeling you described, the feeling that you have to remind yourself of each character’s quirks and motivations and life experiences every time. I know I felt that way at one point, but for some reason do not feel it now, and I’m trying to pinpoint how I got out of it.

    I think the main thing that helped me was the book “From First Draft to Finished Novel,” by Karen Wiesner. She focuses a lot on cohesion of the novel, and of characters and their motivations. I used it as a tool to get to know seven of my characters better…like where do each of them start the story, emotionally and physically? What changes in them at each point of the story, and how does that affect their motivations/actions?

    I broke the novel into several sections of major action, then assessed each character at that point in the story. What I ended up with were seven different people who could have novels of their own, but since they are all in the same book, now I feel I know them intimately. Plus, it sparked some great ideas for sub-plots and depth to my main plot.

    I think that process, and the fact that it took time to do it (and therefore let them sink into my head) is what helped me feel like I can write them without consulting my notes each time.

    Wow. Sorry to practically write an entire novel on your comment board, but you obviously got me to think a lot. Thanks for that, and good luck with your characters!!

    1. Without knowledge, imagination must support the mind.

      Yes, I might need to analyze each character more. I have this irrational fear of writing too much preparatory material, as if notes can overwhelm me or as if I’ll be tempted to procrastinate from writing story draft. However, a writer who can’t face her fears isn’t much of a writer, is she?

      Thank you for your sharing your thoughts! I don’t know that I can acquire Ms. Wiesner’s book, but I can or find or create my own worksheets to improve my character profiles. I’ll start today!

    2. I share your irrational fear 🙂 In the past, anything I outlined bored me when I tried to actually sit down and write it, so I wrote the entire first draft with no plan, no notes. It was only in between drafts that I was able to face that fear and write preparatory material…to my pleasant surprise, it helped more than it hindered, though I’m not sure if it would have helped as much with the initial draft!

      Can’t wait to hear more about the progress of your work! 🙂

  3. *should have read “…then assessed each character at each point of major action in the story.” I re-read what I wrote in that fourth little paragraph and it sounded vague to me.

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