Monday, June 27, 2011

Multiple POVs, All Male, What's a Gal To Do?

This week we're talking about head hopping. Interestingly enough, this means two things in writing.

One, which is the most common for writers -- you are deliberately switching point of views (POV) to give the reader new insight into a character.

Two - you accidentally do it mid-scene when you reveal something or state an opinion that is outside of your POV, and is therefor a no-no.

I've done very little of the second because most all of my work has been in first person, which makes the accidents rather infrequent. I have been known to make a mistake with an assumptive phrase that was omniscient and the head I'm in could not know it, but for the most part my peers pick these slips up before it ever gets to the reading public.

I never set out to head-hop and write multiple POVs when I started writing urban fantasy. One of the things I love about the genre is the kick-ass female or male first-person POV. Primarily these stories are told from the same narrator's view the entire tale.

I thought mixing up the POVs would be fun and a great way for the readers to get to know the other characters in my series, and trust me, I did the big "no-no" and have a ton of characters! So many that there is a glossary of terms and characters in the book. But, I have to admit, I used to refer to those all the time when I was reading complex fantasy worlds, so adding one to my own work was always part of the plan.

The hardest part for me was doing male point of views -- and being consistent. I have five male and two female POVs in The Hunt, which is releasing this week. The female ones were a breeze, for obvious reasons... the male ones... well, I quizzed my husband a lot, my medical massage therapist who helps with my rheumatoid arthritis and various muscular issues, my friends (dads on my kids sports teams or in my neighborhood), read the status updates on all the twenty-something guys I'm connected to on Facebook through my nephews, and I eaves-dropped quite a bit.

Did I pull it off? The reader will ultimately be the one to decide, but I can tell you it was hard. The hardest thing I've ever done in writing, actually. Most people might think the hardest thing in my writing is present tense, but you get into the groove and once you master the flow you just get better over time.

What did I learn with all my fact finding?

  • Some guys swear a lot, some don't. A few reserve such vocabulary for times of stress. 
  • Not all men think with the dicks, but quite a few make comments and observations that appear as if they do. 
  • The young ones still care what their friends think (even though they like to think they don't), the older ones could give a rat's ass and seem more comfortable in their own skin. 
  • Some men have a tendency to "size up" other men when they meet them (can I take him in a fight), but the majority probably don't.
  • They love to laugh at each other (not with them, there is a difference) and will bust a rib laughing if one of their friends hurts themselves.
  • They speak in short sentences, for the most part
  • They are not overly flowery in descriptors or in compliments.

Men are a lot like women - each one an individual, but with a lot of the same underlying traits. How they speak and act is directly related to their recent environment exposure -- like a college student will act different than a military man of the same age. Yes, one person can be both at the same time, but you're missing my point.

Just like with all of us, our character's pasts reflect how they act in the here and now. In order to write multiple POVs in one story at the same time you must know how that person will react in the situation. I had one beta reader out of a dozen who told me only one of my male POVs sounded unique, and that the rest all sounded alike. But eleven said they loved reading the different POVs and getting to know the characters-- so I went with the majority.

Perfecting the initial chapters with the individual voices took me weeks. I keep going back over them again and again to make them each distinct. In the end, I know I won't please everyone with my work. Perhaps, this reader felt my style of writing lent to each person sounding similar, I'm not sure.

All I can say for sure is I really enjoyed the multiple POVs. Sure, it was hard as hell to plot out the book hopping from one head to the next, but in the end it flowed well -- like a baton being passed in a relay race -- the story moved from one person to the next, never replaying action over the same scene again.

Will I do it again? You betcha.

How about you - do you like to read multiple POVs in books or do you like to write them? Tell me how you master writing the opposite gender!


  1. I ask my boyfriend how a guy would act/think or I let him read over the parts that are writing in a male character's POV. And I agree, it's hard to master the way the opposite sex thinks. They see the world in a different light than we ladies. LOL.

    I also write in first person. I hate head-hoping in third person and will only tolerate a small amount before I put the book down. A different POV per chapter usually works and keeps the story mysterious because you don't know what the other characters are thinking during that chapter - but when you have 3 pluss POV in one chapter, the story loses tension IMHO.

  2. Well said, J.D. I agree on the multiple POVs in one chapter, too. Maybe that's why I started liking first person so much better? *shurgs* Why ever it is, I now prefer to read it over third!

  3. Egad, looks like I'm way behind the eight-ball on this subject.

    As for what guys like, I ask myself that question constantly. Unfortunately, I keep getting different answers each time.

    Good luck with the book, C.J.