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Switching Writing POVs and Voices

As writers grow, so do their ambitions. Trust me. There will come a point in time when we're sick of writing for only one person and become greedy. However, how do we switch writing POVs in the middle of a scene or book? Is it allowed? Is this recommended?

Today, I shall answer your more common questions.

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Some writers who primarily write ML genres tend to stick to the main character regardless of 1st POV or 3rd POV. I know of ML authors who want to make a switch and try writing FL for a change. They often get stuck at knowing who to follow in an FL story. Sometimes, they ask if it is required to explain both the perspectives of the ML and FL.

My answer? Yes. You should explain both POVs, but the trick here is to decide on the weightage before delving into switching up a writing POV. Today, I shall explain how and when to switch a writing voice and if you should change the writing POV from 1st POV to 3rd POV and vice versa.

#1: POV Weightage

Not everything is 50/50. We all have favourites. When writing a book, the main focus should be the protagonist for obvious reasons. You can have more than one protagonist but chances are, it is impossible for both protagonists to be in the centre of the limelight all the time.

Your job as the writer is to decide who you want to give the job of pushing the plot or story development to. Who would have a better chance of engaging with your readers and making them react to what you have in mind? Find the right person for the job and give that person the POV rights.

For example. I have a dating scene coming up. Both my ML and FL are preparing for it in their apartments. The man simply throws on what he has, but the lady fretts over gaining weight. In a situation like this, the lady's POV will be more interesting, so I would go for it. I could throw in the man's POV at the end a little as a form of contrast for comedy's sake, but I wouldn't go 80% into what the man was doing for the date.

#2: POV Limitations

As mentioned in earlier blogs, there are limitations to 1st POV and 3rd POVs. Know your limitations before you decide to switch. If there is a way to work around a scene's development in the same voice, use it until it is completely exhausted.

Switching should be a last resort. If you choose to switch simply because it is 'easier', that's not skilful writing.

For example. You have a scene of two boys discussing ice cream flavours. Both boys are present in your scene, and one of them is your protagonist. Don't cut the scene and switch to the head of his best friend when he is there! Use his eyes to form that conclusion instead. You've not exhausted the limits of your existing POV!

Bad Switch

"What flavour did you get?" Mike asked.

Ben grinned and showed his cup of green ice cream. "I got green tea. The girl recommended it. Wanna try a new flavour?"

Mike grimaced. That was horrible. Who would even eat that shit?

"No thanks," he told his best friend. "Vanilla for the win."

Ben rolled his eyes. "Whatever, loser."

Good Switch

The sun was hot, so the boys decided to get some ice cream. Mike waited for Ben as he bought his. The line was long.

"What flavour did you get?" Mike asked as Ben walked over.

The chad had a green scoop of ice cream.

Grinning, Ben proudly declared he bought green tea.

"The girl recommended it. Wanna try?"

Grimacing at his friend's questionable taste, Mike shook his head. He would rather stick with regular vanilla.

#3: Scene Sequence

The order of your story-telling matters. If it isn't a strictly chronological or linear unfolding, it is harder to tell a flashback with a 1st POV. Not all readers enjoy time skips back and forth. If you have to do a lot of jumping in sequence throughout your story, a 3rd POV is easier.

However, if your time skips is in a linear fashion like in quick transmigration stories, 1st POV works better. The main character will be as clever as the readers because he will learn about the new world alongside them. It's better to use a 1st POV for those types of works in my opinion. The engagement and suspense are easier to stage using the limited POV for quick transmigrations.

Personally, I write using a lot of snippets back and forth. I like sprinkling in little details about the past to back-tell a character's origin instead of weaving it in chronological order as part of my writing style. If anyone else has a similar habit as seen in my writing examples and demonstrations, you can follow the 3rd omniscient POV style.

#4: When to Switch

I mentioned this a little in the second point. There are no rules about when you should switch. However, the only rule to follow is to execute the switch cleanly and effectively. Do not become a lazy writer!

The show vs tell rule is the basic skill all writers should master. If you're switching the POV because it is 'easier', chances are, you are telling instead of showing. Exercise a little more patience and self-control when crafting your scenes. Ask yourself the following questions to help you know if you should be switching voices.

a) Are your characters in the same place and scene from a wide angle?

If yes, don't switch. If no, find a good time to cut a fully explored scene from one POV before transitioning to the next.

b) Can your plot be told using the same character's voice without switching?

If yes, don't switch. If no, bridge the existing voice to the new voice with an interraction. SHOW the readers, don't tell.

c) Have you exhausted all your available skills to move the story along in your present voice?

If yes, switch with proper preparations. If no, get back to work!

#5: Switching Back

Here comes the question. Should I switch back to my original storytelling POV after I switch it out?

It depends. If your book is written from a limited 3rd POV, please switch it back. If it is written in a multiple 3rd POV, it's up to you to decide if this current voice is still suitable for telling the rest of your plot. If your book is written from an omniscient 3rd POV, the world is your oyster.

If your book is written in a 1st POV, stop switching back and forth so casually! Characters are not heads of lettuce for you to chop so casually!

In conclusion...

I would dissuade new writers from switching voices or POVs as this is a rather advanced technique. If done right, it provides the readers with a more colourful immersive experience. If done poorly, it ends up getting messy, and readers might drop your work as they are unable to follow your flow.

When in doubt, I highly advise sticking to a flexible voice that works easily for switching. It's called the 3rd omniscient POV. Read my previous blogs to know more. Feel free to check out the rest of my free e-course on my website as well!

Important Announcement:

As I have been writing this free e-course for over two years, I think I have included everything that new e-fiction writers need to know. Hence, the blog will be on hiatus unless there are topics people want me to cover specifically that you can contact me on my socials to request.

Thank you all for being wonderful readers and writers. Let's build a healthy and happy writing community together. Best endeavours to whichever project you decide to work on!

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