Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Stiles on Which the Story Turns: Using Multiple Viewpoints in Fiction

Multiple viewpoints can enrich fiction
If you’re considering using multiple points of view for your novel or short fiction, take a page or two from bestselling mystery and suspense author Anne Perry.

Don’t let the “bestselling” label fool you. Perry’s stories provide some fine examples of literary writing, because despite being mystery and suspense, her fiction emulates that of the character-driven mystery greats, such as Dorothy Sayers. Dorchester Terrace, for example, provides a good example of which characters’ perspectives Perry will feature in the novel. If you’re having trouble deciding which viewpoints to feature, consider this: Select the characters on whom the story turns.

You only need to consider Chapter 1 of Perry’s 2012 Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery to see that although there’s a trace of omniscient third person throughout the work, Inspector Thomas Pitt, his wife, Charlotte, and the recently promoted Victor Narraway will figure prominently in the novel, because they are the characters on whom it turns.

Imagine a painting of a drawing room in Victorian England. More than one person is present in the work, but the light falls a bit more on some, and the rest are in shadows. This isn’t to say that the shadowy figures, the secondary characters in fiction, don’t have value. They’re simply not the main characters, and their stories, while supporting the main plot, don’t outshine it. Rather, they feature prominently within the subplots Perry is adept at weaving throughout the whole.

So, if you’re considering a story with multiple viewpoints, consider which characters are central to the story, and without whose personal insights the piece would be impoverished.

For more on writing, visit Word for Words.

Happy writing!

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