Currently, I’m writing a psychological thriller about two guys who last met when they were ten.   A serious crime occurred in the woods near their home and the main character managed to escape, but he has no recollection of the events or the person he ran from.   Twenty-six years on, he is reconciled with his former best friend, also present at the crime scene.   Soon, however, a set of disturbances occur, triggering a set of flashbacks about what really happened twenty-six years ago.

The central character’s wife has recently run away with someone, leaving him with a vulnerable eight-year-old son who has become withdrawn after a stint of bullying at school. At the start of the novel, the central character moves to his sister’s country cottage.   The story is told from three viewpoints – the central character’s (first person), his sister’s (third person) and his best mate’s (third person).    Each chapter is limited to one viewpoint.   The viewpoints rotate.

The advantages of rotating viewpoints are:

  • Greater psychological intensity and immediacy;
  • The viewpoint characters might have different interpretations of the same events;
  • By introducing back story, the varying viewpoints and time shifts expands the story, giving it a fuller feel.

However, watch for the pitfalls:

  • Story runs the risk of becoming laboured and repetitive;
  • The constant moving between character viewpoints and past and present could prove confusing.

In all, I’m enjoying this form of narration and feel it best tells the story I’m writing.

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4 thoughts on “Rotating Viewpoints:The Advantages and Disadvantages

  1. Thanks for commenting. Yes, viewpoint takes some getting used to. When I first started, I used to accidentally go into minor characters’ heads without realising. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable working with more than three points of view, but I can’t imagine not using more than one viewpoint unless it was first person. I also like hidden viewpoint where the third person narrator hides behind the character so it seems like the character is telling the story.

    Hope your writing’s going well,

    Regards

    Lawrence

  2. Hi.

    You peaked my interest in this. I realize that being on the other side of the pond that we will have a bit different lingo here, so bear with me.

    I am wondering about what you think the limits of Rotating Viewpoints is?

    In Lord of the Rings, whose head were we in? I am asking because I realized (because of your post here) something in my own writing.

    Are there times it goes from person to person? Does Saruman get his POV? Gandalf in others? I am wondering because it could affect a scene I wrote. I noticed that in my book I am careful to describe everything from perception and experience of two characters. But, just as the book is getting to its most exciting part we introduce a third major character and we have the first character meeting this third character.

    It would be like if we met Frodo and had Frodo scenes. Then we meet Aragorn and have Aragorn scenes. Well, then we have Frodo meet Saruman and they have a scene but then when Frodo leaves Saruman thinks and plans something dark.

    I am wondering if I should keep it all from Frodo’s perspective and not have Sarumans thoughts and observations.

    Obviously, there are no Frodos or Sarumans or Aragorns in my book, but that is the easiest way to describe it.

    You made me think hard about this! Thanks.

  3. Hi J1,

    Some good questions there….I think the best thing is to establish a rhythm so that the reader can guess whose point of view we will be in in the next chapter. Then, occasionally, the writer can get away with altering the plan, perhaps even introducing new points of view. I think simplicty is the key throughout (part of the reason I don’t like the “omniscient”).

    The question of whose point of view to follow when both viewpoint characters meet in person is complex….basically, I think the section in question should be told from the character who has the most to lose, the protagonist (?)

    Thanks for your comment,

    Lawrenceez

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