Writing in Dual POVs (or more)

I’ve always loved Dual Point of View (POV) stories. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because that’s the way my favorite authors wrote. I have no problem switching characters, I can hold them and their storylines in my head readily. I thought everyone did this until I found out from another reader that they hated multiple POVs because their brain didn’t switch gears very well. They wanted a linear storyline.


That made me take a few steps back. I’m not a fan of first-person novels. I don’t like the intimacy. I don’t like the singular POV keeping me from knowing more. Is this how people react to multiple POVs? With exasperation? As much as I hate being trapped in a first-person POV, do they hate being trapped with multiple character’s thoughts? Let’s not even talk of alternating First Person and Third Person novels. The stuff of nightmares.

Digging Deeper

Dual and multiple POVs satisfy the need inside me to examine a story and its characters from different angles. How a character visualizes herself versus how another character sees her. The dawning realization of a character finding out the world might not revolve around them. Other people have problems, too. I like getting deep knowledge from more than one person. Everyone has secrets and it’s interesting knowing what one person is keeping from another and why. I think I’m a frustrated psychologist at heart. 

Even though I write multiple POVs, I have a primary protagonist. Their POV is the one I most readily identify with. The other POVs are the ones trying to understand the protagonist and help/hinder them. In one novel I also have the antagonist as a third POV but with less page time. My favorite writers often had far more POVs. Yes, I admit to being frustrated at times when a chapter ended and we flipped to another POV—but only because the previous chapter stopped at an exciting place. It forced me not to gulp down novels like candy. I had to learn to savor one chapter at a time. 

Ditching the Daily Grind

I used to be one of those people who slogged through a novel to the bitter end, no matter what. Now I allow myself to say it isn’t working for me and stop reading. I’m better at analyzing what made me stop reading. Since a tremendous amount of current novels are written in First Person, I know part of my problem. They are too intimate and make me uncomfortable. I dislike First Person multiple POVs even more. It’s like torture. I like the distance Third Person novels offer me, even deep third POV. Could be a neurodivergent thing. 

Maybe that’s why I like switching gears for another POV. It gives my brain a break and time to reset from its usual squirrel mode. I tried writing my latest fantasy in First Person and had to retool after three chapters. It didn’t work for me. I’m trying again with the idea for a new fantasy/superhero novel, where a First-Person POV makes sense because the whole story can be told from her POV. (I think) 

This essay has all been from my biased POV. Your Mileage May Vary. What’s your preferred voice for reading? Do you actively seek out books in that preferred voice? Or do you read whatever the wind blows your way, and deal with it?

A Meditation on Walking and Writing

The good thing about going to college was it introduced me to a lot of new ideas. I latched on to philosophy that first year and stuck with it through classes I knew nothing about but opened my eyes to experience new things. After Buddhism 101, I tried for a long time to sit still, meditate, and empty my mind. It never worked. My mind is its own special blend of ADD, PTSD, and flights of fancy. Sitting still was dangerous. Sitting was non-productive. Then my college philosophy teacher introduced me to walking meditation. 

Philosophy for the win

The philosophy department offices were in a back building on a little-used side of the campus. The building echoed when you walked around. The professors shut themselves up in their offices and read or graded, or stared at the walls. (I assumed) It was the perfect place to learn walking meditation. The upstairs hall was maybe 50 feet long. Just long enough to get into the groove before the wall triggered you to turn around and start again. 50 feet for me to concentrate on the feel of tile under my sneakers, the stretch of muscles in the back of my legs. The curiously loud sound of my breathing. 

My arms hung like bricks at my side, moving very little with each step. At first, I chanted in my head, “I’m walking down the hall, I’m walking down the hall. Left, right, left, right.” Each time my squirrel brain skittered off I reminded it I was walking down the hall. Repeat a word or phrase often enough and it becomes meaningless. White noise. Eventually, I graduated to walking around the courtyard of the building. More distractions outside for squirrel brain, but even those faded until the breeze on my face and grass under my feet became the new normal. 

Expanding horizons

Outside of school, I learned to walk in a circle around the tiny backyard of the townhouse I rented. Circles were good, walking back and forth in the hall made my turns more conscious, more military-like than I wanted. A circle, now there was my meditation home. Slow, steady walking, each step mindful, each breath relaxed. I became aware of how my heel struck the ground first, harder than my toes. 

Walking on dirt, I applied that knowledge to my footsteps in the soft ground then observed other people’s footprints and how deep the heels or toes went. Walking meditation improved my connection with nature when I went to the woods. I was aware of each step, I made less noise, which in turn let me see more wildlife. It also helped me stand still and observe without impatience. 

What’s this have to do with writing?

This is the way I approach writing, walking an idea or scene around and around in my brain until I circle in on what’s right, what matters. I’m more mindful. It’s my non-corporeal walking editing. Sitting still never gave me the images that flow through my head when I walk without a specific purpose. The good thing? The crow in me ceased to look for the next shiny object.

Now, when I feel my brain winding up to scatter, I walk back and forth, even the act of circling the living room is calming if I do it mindfully. The cat, of course, thinks I’m nuts and lounges in his window perch, watching and silently judging. As long as I don’t judge myself, I’m okay with that. He disappears into the background as I circle the room, carpet underfoot, stretch of muscle in my calf and thigh, breath lighter with each circuit. The illusion of progressive movement was all I needed to let meditation into my life and writing.

Other Essays on Writing:

Staying Afloat in a Writing Ocean

This is Your Brain on Writing

Digging Weeds from the Story Garden

Outside Links on Walking Meditation:

Instructions for Walking Meditation

Walking Meditation

How to do Walking Meditation

Sometimes You Just Need to Get Out of Your Own Way

Now and then I need a boot in the ass and just get out of my own way. I thought I stalled out on writing my next book as I fine-tuned the previous one. And figured out how to write a query letter. A synopsis. A pitch for Twitter. An interpretive dance of my main plot points. So, with Book 1 occupying my brain space, how was I going to move forward on Book 2?

Turns out I put roadblocks in front of myself when there didn’t have to be any. I wasn’t using my lateral thinking. Don’t underestimate your brain. It’s capable of holding two stories, several poems, and an essay without breaking a sweat. I just had to compartmentalize. I thought. Book 1 in the top file cabinet of concrete things to get done. (I don’t like to think concretely, it hurts my brain. Probably why I don’t get along with Scrivener.)

Poems are stuffed in the middle file cabinet of ways to play with language. Essay lying on the top in a folder overflowing with ideas. Book 2 in the bottom drawer of long conversations with myself. The child playing dress-up, but dressed in the persona of my characters. (For the record, the characters are snappier dressers than I am.) Sometimes I rearranged the files in the cabinets willy-nilly. That shook loose a lot of ideas. 

Looking for answers

So did meditating with my character in my head, posing a problem for my character and consulting Tarot cards for an answer, and writing a variety of solutions on 3×5 cards, shuffling them, then picking one to play with. Or alternatively, burning the cards. Because it felt good. 

My panic was, “I’m not getting this down on paper! Ack!” Logical me, who stops by to visit infrequently, pointed out I’m writing it down in my head. Whole conversations I revisit and revisit, smoothing and refining until it’s just like a memorized poem. Then I can put it on paper. I’ve finally accepted that’s just how my mind works. All the writing advice in the world can’t help if it doesn’t mesh with the way you do business. My ND brain wants to look at the outline, pick up on a scene, play with it from every angle until I run out of steam, then write the best parts of what went on in my head. 

Head Hopping

It’s still a first draft but it’s one I can live with. Book 1 took so long because I word vomited on the page after a year of thinking about the book. I overthought the story arc and had to step back, reoutline, and cut about 12,000 words in the rewrite. Scenes fleshed out in my head that were more background than was needed for the story. That’s when I stopped and wrote a long background novella for the story. Once I got it out of my head, it was easy to move forward without thought ghosts rattling my brain. 

When I thought of Book 1 as the backstory for Book 2, it all fell into place. I could do the analytical part of prepping to submit without stepping all over Book 2. With analytical-me (I know, I know, shocking to me, too.) safe in her office down the brain hall, I could move between invent-a-story me, and write-poetry me. Poetry-me likes to wander the Big Horn mountains in my head while story-me traipses around cities and towns. Easy enough to keep separate. It’s kind of like having a work persona, a friend persona, and a home persona.

Does everyone do it that way? Or do all your brain parts just play together? I love hearing other people’s writing methods. Maybe there’s something I can steal.

Other articles on writing

My Wips Get an Intervention

Pulling Words Apart to Smash Writing Together

Advice Paralysis

Genre Reading and Writing. Arithmetic Free.

My WIPs Get an Intervention

Confronting Your Works In Progress

As it often happens with me, once I start writing, the writing takes over. Because I began a new Urban Fantasy and got engrossed in the Work In Progress (WIP), Poetry came pounding on the door snarling “What about me? I got ideas too, you know.” So I’d scramble to write some poetry, locking my WIP characters in their room until done. Of course, they’d shout and try to distract me until I had a sit-down with both my writing types. 

“Look you guys, I need to get work done. I understand you both want to be finished first but we need some ground rules. Novel. You are long and complicated. I can’t spit out 10,000 words a day. So be happy when I eke out 2500. I have an arc to follow, so quit trying to distract me and sneak in a love story.”

“Poetry. I know you are so close to being a chapbook you can taste it. But you have to be the best you can be. That’s why I’m writing new poems to flesh you out and solidify your theme.” Poetry puffs its chest and sticks its tongue out at Novel. “Enough of that. You’re entirely different than Novel, so it really isn’t a competition. Novel is 7 times you, so Novel needs more words. Poetry, you take as much care, however, so don’t get your panties in a twist.”

The Juggling Act

“Here’s the deal. Poetry, you get the mornings. I’ll work on you until noon. Then you retire to your computer file and unwind. Poems are better after they rest awhile, and congeal.” Poetry grimaces. “Okay, congeal is a bad word choice. That’s why I have to go slowly with you. To choose the best words in the best order.” Poetry gives a smug smile.

“Novel, you get the afternoons and evenings.” Poetry opens its mouth to snark and I hold up a hand. “Longer. Deal with it. Novel, we don’t have time to rest. I have to get your first draft down before you sidetrack me from my mission.” Novel gives a guilty look. “Hey, I know you like some side characters better, but they need to stick to their lane. I promise when you are done, the second draft will have as much hands-on attention as Poetry.” Novel sits back and nods its head.

I raise my voice. “Essay! Stop lurking outside the door.” Essay slinks into the room with a sheepish grin. “I know you don’t get as much attention as your brethren, but you have an important function also. You help me deal with reality.” Poetry and Novel snort. “Essay, you get to discuss Poetry and Novel, so don’t take their shit. All of you are important in your own way. You will all get attention, I promise.”

A knock sounds on the door. “This is Non-Fiction, are you having a meeting? Let me in.” 

“Quick, hide,” I hiss as I slam my laptop lid then raise my voice. “Sorry, no super-secret WIP intervention here. You have the wrong author. Come back next year.”

Non-Fiction gives an evil chuckle. “Next year? See you next week.”

Other Posts on Writing

Killing Pesky Cliches

Taking Inspiration by Force

The Trouble With Being a Poet

Listening to Poetry vs. Reading Poetry – Part I

Listening to Poetry vs. Reading Poetry – Part II

Looking Down to Find Yourself

The Journal Jungle

It’s Drafty in Here

Advice Paralysis

Outside Links

How to Juggle Multiple Writing Projects

Juggling Multiple Writing Projects at Once

The Benefits of Multiple Writing Projects

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