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Using multiple narrators to tell your story from different points of view is a popular and fun storytelling device in New Adult literature. Multiple POVs are great for injecting conflict by having two characters report the same event differently (with neither one lying!), for causing conflict by having two characters process the same event to different ends and requiring different actions, for allowing readers to connect intimately with multiple characters, for working in information that a single narrator couldn’t know, and for providing alternate insights or opinions. But there are risks if you mishandle your multiple POVs. Switching from character to character can distract or jolt your readers or stutter your story’s momentum. Or, your efforts to connect readers with multiple characters can overwhelm those readers—and you. You may use multiple narrators in a single book, or you can switch narrators from book to book within a series.
Molly McAdams, the author of the New Adult contemporary romance series Taking Chances and Forgiving Lies, weighs in on the challenge of making sure a sequel with a new POV covers new ground in her Writing New Adult Fiction special feature “Author Insight: Giving Chase a Voice”:
“The times when I was mirroring Taking Chances [book 1], Chase was difficult—he’d hide in the background, and I could picture him smirking at me, saying, ‘This isn’t my story.’ But the second I’d veer away into the parts we hadn’t seen before, the parts that made Stealing Harper [book 2] so different, it was as if I’d been holding him back while he’d been screaming at me to tell his story, and now that I’d started, there was no stopping until it was all out. He finally had a voice, and he was using it.”
As Molly’s experience makes clear, switching narrators is most powerful when each narrator can contribute something new to the story—new insights, information, or opinions—rather than simply offer a second voice. This is especially important if you’re covering scenes that readers already witnessed through another narrator (“mirroring”). The switching should add depth, not just pages. Otherwise you’re just rehashing the same scene, making the POV shifts feel repetitive rather than revelatory.
Are multiple POVs right for your NA lit? No device should be used just because it’s popular; plenty of great NAs use single POV. When considering your story’s POV, ask yourself…
- Who is the best character(s) to tell this story?
- What will an additional perspective add to the story? Can I show readers what’s going on in the other character’s head through his actions, body language, dialogue, and choices instead?
- Can each character consistently bring new information to the story to make the switching rewarding for readers?
- Do my readers need to know what’s going on in that other character’s mind? In real life, we can’t know exactly what’s going on in our closest friends’ heads. Miscommunication stems from that blind spot, and miscommunication is a novelist’s friend.
If you decide that multiple narrators are best for your NA fiction, go for it! Here are tips for smooth, strategic POV shifts…
- Give the narrators vastly different voices and outlooks on life.
- Trade narrators at scene or chapter breaks rather than mid-scene, reducing jolts or pacing stutters.
- Be consistent about switching, establishing a rhythm or pattern that you can strategically break for powerful dramatic deviation.
- Use the switching as a tension-increasing device, timing some switches to create cliffhangars as you temporarily deny readers the information, insights, or reactions they crave.
- Clarify the switches. You could write one narrative in present tense, another in past; use first person (I, me) for one, and third person (he, she, they) for the other; or use the narrators’ names as the chapter titles.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the perfect mix of POV strategies for your NA lit. A few days of experimentation pay off big time when you end up with the perfect balance for your story.
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