Friday, January 17, 2014

Outlining for a Novel with Dual POVs

I'm baaaaack! 

Hey, everyone! I've rejoined the blogging world this month after my little maternity hiatus. And you know, I'm glad I took a break. Anyone who's had a baby knows that first month is a blur of feedings and poopy diapers and "Why is her head shaped like that? Is something wrong?" and drool (hers and mine). Blogging wasn't on my mind.

But now it is, and it has been since I started drafting again this month. See, I'm trying out this new thing: dual POVs. I've never done anything like this before, and honestly, I've never really wanted to. If there's one thing that bugs me about a dual POV book, it's when I have to keep flipping to the beginning of the chapter to decipher who is actually speaking. And you know, that happens a lot. So I decided that I wasn't going to attempt dual POV unless I was positive A) the story called for it and B) I could figure out a way to distinguish their voices enough.

(I'm still working on and failing at B, but that's another topic for another day.)

So since I haven't quite figured out B yet, let's talk A. How do you know your story absolutely needs a second POV to get the job done? The simplest answer is that one character has information that the other couldn't possibly know, and your readers need that information to make the story make sense. There you go. Think of Lena and Hana in Lauren Oliver's REQUIEM. They're at different, integral locations in the story, each fighting in the revolution in their own way from both inside and outside of the city. We need to know what's going on in both places in order to understand how the climax comes about, yes?

So I came to the conclusion that I needed both of my main characters, airplane mechanic, Nell, and her major screw-up BFF, Ronnie. Great. But how to outline?

I'm a Save the Cat beat sheet purist, and that method works well to outline when you're following one main character through a story. (I did a whole long post on how to outline with a beat sheet over on Pen and Muse if you want to check that out first for reference). So here's what I did to make this story structure make sense, and hopefully this can help you too!

When you're writing for dual POVs, I think it's important to remember that each of your main characters need to have their own, individually compelling plots and sub plots. If one is coming out as kind of the "sidekick," then you either don't need that character's POV, or you need to give him/her a bigger piece of the story. Example: When I first did the beat sheet for this story, it looked a lot like this:

  • Nell fixes the airplane engine, the fire alarms go off; Henry gets in the plane she fixed
  • Ronnie talks to her brother
  • Nell runs to the scene of the arson, finds a clue in the rubble
  • Ronnie talks to her uncle
See what I mean? I had to give Ronnie her own story. So this is what I did to make sure that happened: 
  • First, take a look at a beat sheet. Here's a quick reference guide.
  • For each section on the beat sheet, write two points: one for each character. Example: the first section is the Opening Image on the beat sheet, so if you're writing dual POV, you need to write a point for each character's opening image. On mine it's "Nell: working on an engine in her garage, pulls out her dad's old notebook. Ronnie: is sitting in the air traffic control tower with her uncle while he works because she's in trouble again, and he doesn't trust her to be home alone." 
  • Do this for every single section.
  • When you get to the start of Act III, your characters' stories should be converging. Right around the climax is when you want your reader to see why, exactly, you needed both of them in this story. Think of THE SCORPIO RACES. We had Sean and Puck's POVs the whole time, but it really made our hearts pound when we got to see their opposing thoughts during the race (Is Sean going to throw the race for Puck and lose everything? Is Puck going to let Sean win? etc.). 
  • From Act III until the end, both characters' POVs should help bring the story to a satisfying ending. They each should have their part in closing out the story. 
And that's that! Honestly, I'm still learning about this whole multiple POVs thing as I go along, but this method has worked pretty well so far. Have you written in multiple POVs before? Any tips or tricks to share? Add them in the comments! 

Andrea Hannah writes about delusional girls, disappearances, and darkness with a touch of magic. When she's not writing, Andrea runs, teaches, consumes epic amounts of caffeine, and tries to figure out how to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (unsuccessful to date). She's represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman-Schneider/ICM, and her debut novel, OF SCARS AND STARDUST, is coming from Flux in Fall 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

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2 secret replies:

  1. Good thoughts. I've toyed with dual POV and have not been sure if I needed to go that route.

  2. could you please use larger font or black as you font color - in as much as I want to read your blog, I find it near impsosible. thanks, Anita in DK