In March of 2022, I picked up an old piece of a manuscript that had been waiting for its turn since 2014 and started writing it as my main work-in-progress. If you’ve been following Authoring Arrowheads for a while, you may already know that this current work-in-progress is titled On the Flip Side, and that I’m still in the process of writing it a year later.
On the Flip Side is a contemporary Christian young adult standalone novel that follows the dual POVs of twin sisters, Kennedy and Katie Oliver, as one sister is trapped in a toxic relationship with a narcissist. Since On the Flip Side is the first novel I’ve written from a dual POV, writing this book has been both a fun and difficult learning experience. If you’re new to writing dual POVs, I pray these lessons I’ve learned can help you better narrate your own WIP from two or more perspectives!
Lesson 1: Your Characters’ Voices May Not Develop at the Same Time, And That’s Okay
Writing On the Flip Side has been an up and down experience mostly because, back in 2014, I had a better grip on how Katie’s character voice sounded than her sister’s; however, I didn’t take notes or write down my plans for her back then. Instead, I thought I had committed it to memory. When I picked the manuscript back up in 2022, Kennedy’s voice became easier for me to write than Katie’s, and Katie’s, at times, has been difficult for me to capture.
Last month (February 2023), I finally started to tap back into who Katie is. For a couple weeks, it was smooth sailing writing both… but just as quickly as the clarity for Katie’s voice hit me, Kennedy’s POV became more difficult to write. I’ve just resigned to the fact that capturing dual POVs is a learning process, and that, just like with writing from a single POV, not every writing day is going to be the same. Some days, it’ll be easy and the character’s unique voice will shine through. On other days, the character is going to come across like a stick figure if writing that day is a struggle. And that’s okay.
Now, just because we’re struggling to write the characters’ POVs at certain spots, does that mean the POVs are weak? Not necessarily.
Yes, in those scenes we’ve struggled to write, the POVs may be weak in spots; however, this is just the first draft. Those weak spots can be fleshed out during edits so the character’s voice is more consistent. So, if you’re currently writing from multiple POVs right now and you’re finding certain characters are outshining others, just know that it’s a normal occurrence and that it can be dealt with during edits. Unless you’re finding that the POV is hindering you from making progress on your other POV(s), it’s not a major issue. Just keep exploring with the character until you peel back their layers and discover who they truly are and how you can best portray them on the page.
Lesson 2: Having Multiple POVs Can Make Outlining More Difficult
I’ve struggled with pacing my books in the past, and through learning more about the three act story structure from Abbie Emmons on YouTube and from Jessica Brody’s book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, I thought I was finally getting the hang of it. Ha. Try throwing two POVs in there to amp up the difficulty. XD
When I first started outlining On the Flip Side in 2022, what I had come up with was basically two outlines: a full three act story structure map for Kennedy, and a full three act story structure map for Katie. Scene by scene.
Then, in the midst of writing, it occurred to me that if I keep going at that pace, that the book will end up being 160,000 words rather than around 80,000 – 90,000 like I was aiming for. And that, my friend, was not a path I wanted to go down. So, what did I do to fix it?
Now, I’m no expert at this, and I may find later on in the writing process that this method didn’t work at all, but instead of doubling up on the scenes, I instead divided the scenes out for each story beat. If this isn’t making much sense, let me explain:
In the Save the Cat! method of outlining, Jessica Brody defines percentages of the book that each beat should take up. Online, I found a free resource that then divided each of those percentages up into a specific number of scenes. For example, the Fun and Games portion, which runs from the 20% mark to the 50% mark, is made up of 12 scenes. So, when creating the new outline for On the Flip Side where I divided up the scenes, six of those scenes went to Kennedy, and six of those scenes went to Katie. During single-scene beats, such as the B-Story beat (where a new character is introduced to help the characters along the way), I just gave that scene to the POV character of whom the new character will influence most.
Again, I’m not sure if this method is foolproof for a dual POV setup, and I have no idea if this would work the same way for more than two POVs, but so far on this rewrite, it’s been working so much better than my original outlining method.
Lesson 3: Through Dual POVs, You Can Shed Deeper Perspective On Characters’ Issues That Wouldn’t Come Across the Same in a Single POV
I’m not sure how to put Lesson 3’s section title into a more concise description, but here were go. What I’m trying to get at is that while writing from dual POVs, especially if the POV characters are at odds with each other, you can describe the opposing POV character in a way that they, themselves will never reveal to the reader.
For example, in On the Flip Side, while Katie’s intentions for protecting her sister are good, the way she comes across to Kennedy is (in Kennedy’s eyes) “holier than thou” and “jealous”, perspectives we would never get to see if the story was just written from Katie’s POV. On the flip side (pun fully intended :P), when readers follow the story from Katie’s perspective, they’ll be able to see Katie’s true intentions for trying to help Kennedy, and how toxic Kennedy’s situation really is.
Revealing little tidbits like these while writing has been the most enjoyable aspect of writing from a dual POV perspective, because, in a way, it feels like I’m writing two unreliable narrators and the reader is having to figure out which one is in the right, if they’re both in the wrong, or if they’re both in the right. This back-and-forth has created so much tension (even for me as the author!) that last month I was pumping scenes out left and right just so I could enjoy how juicy it was getting!
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
If you’re a writer, have you ever written a book from a dual perspective, or multiple points-of-view? What tips do you have for those of us who are new to writing multiple points-of-view?
If you’re a reader, do you have a favorite book that is told from dual or multiple POVs? One of my favorites is 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons!
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.
2 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned From Writing Dual POVs for the First Time”
So glad you’re having fun writing dual POV. I had a blast writing through two sets of eyes for Wannabe Lifeguard on Duty! I laughed when you said you’ve been pumping out scenes because their unreliable narrations get so juicy – that’s how I felt too! I also love 100 Days of Sunlight and Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen, and I look forward to reading On the Flip Side!
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Thank you! I loved how you did dual POV in your book too! Ooh, Flipped is on my TBR for this year!! That’s a sign I need to read it soon lol. 🙂
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