Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to Switch Points of View

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Last week I talked about writing multiple points of view, and there was some confusion on how to do that.

There is no perfect answer for how an author chooses to switch POVs. Everyone has their own way of writing, and that's a good thing. But I thought it might be helpful to show you the breakdown of a section of one of my books. To show you why I chose which POV for what scene and what it helped me accomplish.

So here is the list of scenes from chapter 21 of By Darkness Hid. Like I mentioned last week, the points of view in this book switch gradually. The book is divided into five parts. Part one, the first three chapters, are all Achan's POV. Part two, the second three chapters of the story, are Vrell's POV. In parts three and four, I alternate chapters: one Achan POV chapter, one Vrell, Achan, Vrell, etc. And in the last four chapters of part five, I alternated POV scene by scene as the tension ratcheted up to the final conclusion.

FYI, in my story, some of the characters have a telepathic magic that lets them speak to and hear the minds of others, and sometimes, look through their eyes. If you'd like to read the full chapter, I posted it here.

Chapter 21, scene one, Achan's POV
Achan (who is in jail) is ignoring Vrell after she read the letter Gren gave him. He's mad that Vrell was so nosy. That letter was private. Plus Achan is angry because he can't read, which is embarrassing to him. And it also makes him angry because it means that Vrell knows what Gren said and he doesn't. And if he wants to find out, he'll have to admit to Vrell that he can't read.

Noises rise outside his cell. A man attacks the guards. He comes inside the cell and hits Vrell. Achan tries to fight him, but the man knocks him down and puts something in Achan's mouth that makes him drowsy. Then the man carries Achan away. He notices a cavern. A boat. Then he passes out.

Why I chose Achan: First, I wanted the reader to know why Achan was so angry that Vrell read his letter from Gren. Then I wanted the reader to see how Achan's kidnapper/rescuer got out of the castle.

What it accomplished: Further helps to characterize Achan as we see his pride in regards to his not being able to read. I got Achan out of prison and finally away from Lord Nathak. (Yay!) And we get to see the underground caves, which Achan will return to later in the story.

Chapter 21, scene two, Achan's POV
Achan wakes in a small room. Two other men are there. He speaks with them, trying to find out what they want. They talk about bloodvoicing. Achan argues that bloodvoicing is not real, even though he knows better at this point.

Why I chose Achan: I wanted the reader to see where Achan was taken and meet his captors. And since he was drugged, I thought it would be fun to have him wake up briefly and try to get away (since that's Achan's character too).
What it accomplished: Achan figures out he can't get away. And he finds out that these two men can also bloodvoice. There is also a hint/moment of foreshadowing in this scene as to Achan's true identity.

Chapter 21, scene three, Vrell's POV
Vrell is locked in Achan's jail cell. She bangs on the door until one of the guards regains consciousness and lets her out. She runs up to Master Hadar's chambers to tell him what happened. Lord Nathak is there. He tries to force Vrell to tell him where Achan is. She says she doesn't know. Master Hadar asks her to try and see Achan's location in her mind. Vrell isn't certain she wants to help these men find Achan, but she agrees to try.

Why I chose Vrell: I needed to get Vrell and Achan back in the same place and wanted them to be with the good guys at the end of the book. So I needed to start setting that up. I also went back to Vrell's POV so the reader could see what happened to her.
What it accomplished: Vrell sees Lord Nathak's desperation over finding Achan. We also see him almost use bloodvoicing on Vrell, but that's a subtle thing and some readers might have missed it. (Lord Nathak is not supposed to be able to bloodvoice, which is a lie he put out to protect his crimes.) We see Vrell use her magic to seek out Achan.

Chapter 21, scene four, Achan's POV
Achan wakes up to Vrell's voice in his mind. She asks if he's safe. He tells her that he's tied up, but no one has hurt him. She says that Lord Nathak wants her to find his location. Achan panics and pushes Vrell out of his mind. He does not want to return to Lord Nathak. His captors ask what's wrong, and he tells them that Lord Nathak is looking for him. The two captors argue whether or not Achan should block Vrell or see what the kid knows. Achan decides to see what Vrell knows. When he makes the connection, the old man Hadar and Lord Nathak are arguing, yelling at Vrell to find Achan. They're hurting Vrell. And then Hadar speaks to him though Vrell's connection. He threatens to kill Vrell if Achan doesn't meet him tomorrow. The connection ends. Achan and his captors talk, then Sir Gavin arrives and tells them to untie Achan. Sir Gavin mentions his plan to take Achan to the Council of Seven. And Achan tells Sir Gavin about Hadar's threat against Vrell Sparrow. Sir Gavin agrees to help.

Why I chose Achan: I wanted Achan to be in charge of the negotiation with Macoun Hadar, so I felt this scene was better done in his POV. That way we could hear Vrell in the background, and I could give hints to her secret (that she is a girl and that she is Lady Averella Amal). But Achan wouldn't catch on. He only wants to help his friend. And then I wanted Sir Gavin to finally arrive and get Achan one scene closer to finding out the truth about who he is.
What it accomplished: We see Macoun abuse Vrell. He is a bad man. (As she feared, he is using her as a tool.) Achan sees that Vrell is a true friend to him---despite having read Gren's letter. Vrell is being tortured and is still trying to help Achan. So Achan decides he will rescue his friend. We discover that Sir Gavin is behind Achan's kidnapping/rescue from prison. It's now clear that these kidnappers work for Sir Gavin and are the good guys. And Sir Gavin hints and his plans for Achan. And it sets up that a rescue of Vrell is going to be attempted.

Like I said, if you'd like to read chapter 21 of By Darkness Hid, I posted it here.

I hope that was helpful. Everyone tells stories in his or her own way. And even I don't tell every story the exact same way that I told this one. But can you see why I switched back and forth? Any questions?


  1. Yay! First to comment...I think.
    I don't write in multiple POV but I think I will bookmark this for future reference. Good post!
    Check out my blog at:

  2. Great inside to get, thank you! How do you feel about switching POVs within a chapter? I know you have said you did so in this chapter; but your other chapters are single POV? When should or shouldnt you stick with one POV per chapter?

    1. I didn't switch POVs in scenes before this chapter in this book. But all the chapters after it switched by scenes.

      I think switching by scenes for the entire book works if you have a reason for doing it. (See my post from last week on some reasons for switching POV.) I've seen it mostly done that way in romance novels, but it could work in other circumstances. It might jolt the reader. It did for me in Burning Sky (which is written by a romance novelist), but I got used to it in that story. But at the start I was confused.

  3. I just started writing a story with multiple POV and this post helped a lot. Thanks!

    1. Cool, Katie. I'm glad it was helpful. :-)

  4. Sometimes I do it by chapter and other times within the same chapter. Multiple POV's are fun, but I mostly do it with the characters I really know, so that it's a bit easier, if you know what I mean. I learn more and more with each post, so thank you, it means a lot. : )


    1. You're welcome, MJ. And, yes, I do know what you mean. :-)

  5. I tried it once with first person. I got stuck in a deep hole. There were two POVs, a old woman an a 13 year old. Quite a gap, but it actually went well for awhile, and then went downhill. :P I'm thinking about rewriting the story with only Sofia (13 year old).
    Great post, Jill! Thank you!! :D

    TW Wright

    1. Yeah, sometimes stories need that trial and error. I went through a season in which I rewrote the first half of The New Recruit with POVs from Arianna and Nick. It was fun, but it didn't really add to the story. So I switched it back.

  6. This did help explain it a bit more.

    Yeah, hey--I think I might've missed that little mistake Lord Nathak made! Hmmmm. ;)

  7. I'm writing a book right now with different POV's. This was really helpful thanks Jill.

  8. I so want to read your books, Mrs. Jill!! As soon as I can get to Barnes and Noble I am getting the series!! =)

    I loved the post, and will keep it in mind when writing my different POVs. :)

    1. Thanks, Brooke. It's likely B&N won't carry the Blood of Kings series, but they should be able to order it for you. Otherwise it's available online at B& or, etc.

  9. I certainly agree that it's important to have a good reason to choose your POV. In one of my books, I toyed with adding another POV because I hated my main character. Problem was, he didn't have much to do, and only came in to the story two-thirds of the way through.
    Eventually, I made my main character more likable instead.

  10. I also agree with having good reasons to switch your POV. I have a small layout of scenes for a book I'm beginning to draft, but I have a question. My main character, Elizabeth, is trying to forget her past and make sure that no one knows who she used to be. With the position she's in, she wants a fresh start. So she takes on a nickname. Later, she meets a man who consequently ends up being the other POV character. His name is Benjamyn.

    So, to avoid a big sloppy description, here it is: She eventually decides to tell Benjamyn that her real name is Elizabeth. The reader, up until that point, will know her as Blade. When switching to her POV, should I continue to label it as "Blade", even when the reader discovers her true name?

    Thanks for taking the time to read this. I love the advice on this blog. <3

  11. I'm no expert, but I think it might depend on whether she still goes by/ thinks of herself as Blade, or whether her primary name is now Elizabeth. I once read a book where the POV character went by "Day." You find out that is not his given name, but he never stops going by it (at least not in the first book in the trilogy I read), so his chapters are still labeled "Day."
    My book is going to get confusing in a similar way in the near future, when my main character Meredith takes on a new identity/ disguise and starts going by Lydia. But my book is in third limited, so the narration will call her Meredith but everyone around her calls her Lydia. Dialogue headaches...

  12. Thanks so much for the post! exactly what I needed!