I love novels with dual or multiple points of view (POVs). I find it so interesting, because we see the story through multiple eyes instead of just a single narrative. Multiple POVs are great for showing misunderstandings between characters, different sides to a romantic (or other) relationship, or different perspectives on a crime or accident (think the movie “Crash” or the book “Gone Girl”). There are many genres that can utilize multiple POVs.
My last MS (which is coming out this spring from Omnific Publishing!) is a romance(ish) and told from the perspectives of both protagonists. However, one thing I really struggled with when writing was how to make each voice unique. After all, developing ONE voice is challenging enough – now you have to develop MULTIPLE voices?! While many authors of multi POV books choose to title each chapter with the name of the character narrating, each voice should be unique enough so that the reader doesn’t need the header – he or she can figure out who is talking in each chapter solely based on voice. But how do you, as an author, do that?
Part of creating unique voices has to do with knowing your characters. Here are some characteristics that can help differentiate POVs and give your character a unique voice. Please note that I am not trying to make assumptions about anyone; I’m only creating a list of traits to think about when developing your character’s unique voice.
- Education Level
A character with a master’s degree or doctorate will probably speak differently than a high school dropout. Even if you don’t reference a character’s education level in your book, knowing that information can help shape your character’s voice.
Think about the character’s knowledge base / career when having him or her describe certain scenarios. An average person might not know complex medical terms, but a doctor will. Likewise, your lawyer character will probably use legal jargon that other people won’t know or understand. A doctor would describe the aftermath of a car crash differently than a cop, who would describe it differently than a worker cleaning up the wreckage, who would describe it differently than an auto mechanic fixing the cars involved.
Grandma Sue will probably talk different than her teenage grandson. While a teenager might say things like “this sucks” or talk about using Instagram, an elderly person probably won’t. Likewise, a young child will have a less developed vocabulary than an adult. Even a few years can sometimes make a difference. It’s always a red flag for me when I read a teenager who talks like they’re 40 – or vice versa!
Okay. I might be reaching a little bit on this one, but in my personal observations, men and women tend to talk differently. Men seem to speak in shorter sentences, while women tend to use longer sentences. Also, think about your character’s observations. A woman might notice what another woman is wearing, but a man probably won’t as much. Like everything on this list, this isn’t true in all cases. However, it’s always a red flag for me when a straight male character notices details about what another man is wearing. It just doesn’t usually happen! Also, think about romance between your characters. A man probably won’t be talking about hearts and souls and stuff like that.
Another way to differentiate POVs is by regional dialect. For example, a person from the northeast might use the word “wicked” instead of “really,” and a southerner might say “y’all” instead of “you all.” Region can also dictate whether a person says soda vs. pop, water fountain vs. bubbler, and mountain lion vs. puma. Where your character is from or where he / she was raised can influence their voice a lot.
Here are some other small ways to differentiate your POVs:
——Just be consistent – if your character sometimes drops his / her “g’s” but not all the time, it will make the voice weak.
Hangin’ vs. Hanging (and other assorted words that can lose a ‘g’ at the end)
Until vs. ‘til
I guess vs. I suppose
Wondered vs. thought
Doesn’t vs. Does not (and other contractions)
The character who curses like a sailor vs. the character who says ‘darn’ and ‘shoot’
Also, they might use phrases like “I mean” or “of course.”
Use of sarcasm
You can also use sentence structure to help differentiate voices. Some characters might talk with clipped sentences, while others might be more flowy and poetic.
These are just a few ideas. There are plenty of other ways to find your character’s unique voice, and in the end, it just takes research and plenty of time getting to know your characters. I hope this is helpful!
Please find me online at www.meredithtate.com 🙂