On the Exponential Difficulty of Juggling Many Narrative Voices

On the Exponential Difficulty of Juggling Many Narrative Voices

In my , I often begin a scene by drafting two versions of the same event: the event as it would look captured on camera, the “view from nowhere,” in as much as such a thing can ever exist—and then the scene as witnessed by a primary character. What do they focus on? What is the unique piece they will take away, the piece that someone else might not? In my first , I performed this trick with relative ease. I wrote Friends From Home in singular first person—and from the point of view of a twenty-something woman, who is not me, but to whom I once bore, let's say, more than a passing resemblance. When I started my second novel, Who We Are Now , I imagined it as a of four friends, and I wanted each of their perspectives to carry equal weight. I decided to write in close third-person, multi-POV. Four backstories, four points of view. Because while my first novel “came to me” in first person, I admit that I have a personal preference for a different style: I love sprawling, multi-POV novels. They create complex layers within a story, as well as juicy potential for dramatic irony when readers get a glimpse of something other characters do not know. They're so like life to me, suffused with a realization that grows with age: that we are not the only players in a story, that there are always secrets yet to be revealed, and perceptions we might never understand even as we are so sure of our own. I embarked on writing this way with a bit of trepidation, but mostly enthusiasm. I think I estimated that writing from four points of view would be, through simple math, about four times more difficult than writing from one. But I was wrong. The unexpected math of multi-POV writing My sense of each of my characters—Rachel, Dev, Clarissa, and Nate—came quite easily. They felt like people I'd met, old college classmates of mine that I'd lost touch with, perhaps, and their extrinsic qualities were clear to […]

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