27 February 2017

Balancing Multiple POVs (with Flashbacks!)

Things are complicated here in Shiny New Story Land. The good news is that I think I've actually figured a couple things out. It has to do with the order of the chapters. Since I'm dealing with two first-person POV characters, as well as action happening in the present and the past, it seemed a little daunting before I even started planning it.

A big factor about this story is that there's a secret that I want to keep from the reader until about halfway through the book. The thing that bothered me is that it seemed strange for both characters to actively be keeping the secret from the reader. Character A has more people in his life and needs to try harder to keep the secret, so I thought he would be more likely to have his walls up, even to the reader. I think if Character B was by himself, which he often is, he would have no reason to hide it from the reader. Plus, when the secret gets revealed, I thought it would be odd for both of them to suddenly be open about it when they weren't before. They're not the same person so having them act the same way will not help the book.

That's when I realized I didn't actually need Character B's point of view in the present. Not yet, anyway. There's really nothing that happens to him that's very interesting. It's his flashbacks that matter, at least until later on in the story when the more suspenseful moments begin. So I figured out a plan.

Here is what I think I'm going to do. For the first half of the book, it will go:
  • Character A Present
  • Character A Flashback
  • Character B Flashback
And will continue in that order. Character B will only get flashback scenes for the first half of the book. Then when we get about halfway through, the BIG GIANT SECRET REVEAL happens. It will go something like this:
  • Character A Present--secret is heavily implied but not actually stated (if the reader doesn't get it then I haven't done my job, or they have serious problems paying attention)
  • Character A Flashback--origin of secret is stated and discussed 
  • Character B--Present--secret is confirmed again from his point of view 
This is where things switch up. Character B will get his first present POV chapter to basically confirm the secret. From here on out, the chapters will go like this:
  • Character B Present
  • Character B Flashback
  • Character A Present
Basically I'm trading Character A's flashbacks for Character B's present. Ok, that may be a little confusing. Character A's flashbacks were pretty much just leading up to the secret reveal. After that, there really isn't anything to tell from his past. Character B, however, still needs flashbacks because his past story will keep going up until pretty much the very end. But now I need his POV in the present when things start to change. And now he can be open about the secret because it's not a secret anymore (to the reader, at least). 

I still can't decide how I'm going to differentiate between the past and the present chapters. I'm sure the pattern will help a little, but since I'm going to switch it up halfway through, I know I need some more indicators. For the character POVs, I'll most likely just put their name as the chapter name. But for the past vs. present, I'm not so sure. I could write the present chapters in present tense, and past in past tense. But I really just think I suck at present tense so I'm not so sure. 

There are a few other options, I guess. I could put the characters' ages at the beginning of the chapters. A is 18 in the present and B is 23. A's first flashback starts at 16, but B's start when he was 14. Since B's flashbacks cover a long amount of time, I know I have to show when they're happening. Or I could add something like, "9 years ago," "7 years ago." I'm not quite sure yet. I'd like to read some books that have a good amount of flashbacks and see what those authors have done. It won't really affect how I write the different story lines, just how they're formatted, so I can keep writing as I'm figuring it out. 

The good news is that I *think* I've come up with names for my characters. I'm not 100% certain but I'll start writing with them and see if they stick. These characters have been particularly difficult when it comes to giving me their names, and considering the fact that the most difficult character ever gave me his name right away, it's been frustrating. Characters can be jerks. 

Ok, this was probably super confusing since I'm the only one who actually knows what's happening in the book! But what can I do? The characters aren't the only ones who have to keep secrets! ;)


  1. Characters can be jerks, but we like to torment them so! Good luck. Glad to see you're getting it figured out.

  2. Using chapter titles to indicate the character and the time (flashback or present) may help.

    Good luck!

  3. It sounds a bit like my plan for book 3, actually. One POV starts in present day, another POV starts 5 days ago, another POV starts 5 years ago, and yet another starts 25 years ago, and they all converge to the same point about halfway through.

    I hope you get it all figured out! Sorry I don't have any good suggestions for flashback books.

  4. I've had characters be stubborn about giving me their names too.
    Sounds like you have a crazy book to write! Good luck.

  5. Wow, that all sounds intriguing and puzzling, though more puzzling for you to figure it out, so well done :-) Gotta love characters that make you pull your hair out!

  6. I'm digging that format you've constructed. Good luck with it!