Advice

3 Ways to Manage Multiple Narrators

A story told through the voices of various characters is a sure-fire way to capture different plots and different personalities in the same narrative, while engaging and exciting your readers. Here are the different ways that you can dance between the different voices in your narrative.

Alternative Chapters

You can switch between two (or more characters) by writing different chapters from different characters’ perspectives. This works particularly well when two characters are separate and then finally come together, such as Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green. This way you could see the perspective and better understand the distinct personalities of the two protagonists, as each chapter switched between their first-person perspectives, allowing for a more well-rounded experience of their two worlds colliding.

Likewise, this works well for complex storylines with multiple subplots, for example the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, which conveys the points of views of multiple characters through the books. If you find you have a large range of characters, and the readers would benefit from seeing the action through their different eyes, this could be a good way to make it easy to follow, while still ensuring multiple narrators.

Ensure the characters you choose to narrate will not only help move the plot along, but will add a depth of intrigue for the readers, such as by contradicting what another character has said, or seeing an event from a different and contrasting perspective.

Subheadings

If you feel having whole chapters dedicated to different voices is too much, and you would rather dart between voices to capture short snippets of the story, you can use subheadings to distinctly notify when the point of view is changing. Simply putting the name of the character before writing their point of view will distinguish within chapters whose perspective you are reading and ensure it is easy to follow. Be wary that too much chopping and changing might be quite chaotic within a chapter, but likewise it can propel action and create tension and pace. Always make sure what you include from each characters is important and intentionally – don’t just waffle!

Splitting the Narrative

Choosing to split your whole book into parts can work really well if your story involves a twist or if you want to play around with the chronological order of your plot. Fingersmith by Sarah Walters changes perspective for the second part of the book following the plot twist you never saw coming. You could change perspective to tell the rest of the story from another character’s point of view, or use it to go back and recount the already-read events from a different angle. In doing so, the readers feel kept on their toes and driven to know what will happen next. Ensure it is clear to the reader when you are changing perspective, and make sure the voices (if using first person) are distinctly and characteristically different so your characters are enjoyable and well-written.

So whether it’s two, three or even ten characters’ perspective that you choose to write from in your story, always ensure you choose the right ones which will develop your plot and that will interest your reader. Not all readers enjoy multiple narrators, but when it’s done well, it can create the multi-faceted and twisting plot to keep readers on the edge of their chairs.

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