Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writer's Wednesday --Dual Point of View

PHS Editor Michelle Styles why she loves writing in dual point of view rather than any of the other options available.
For many years, I wondered what sort of point of view I wrote my romances in. It wasn’t single person as I had both the heroine’s and hero’s point of view. Neither was it multiple (limited 3rd person or omniscient) as I only had the hero and heroine’s. Earlier this year when reading Elizabeth Lyon’s The Manuscript Makeover, I discovered the technical term for what I write (and indeed what most series romance are written in) – dual point of view.

The main advantage of a properly established dual point of view is that you do have the opportunity to explore two characters’ reactions in greater depth. A properly established dual means that you can go back and forth between the characters’ POV within a scene without pulling the reader of the book, particularly when both characters have everything at stake.

The key here is properly establishing the dual POV. And in order to do that you need to know that the reader is always looking for the main protagonist, the driver of the story if you will. Generally unless given a good reason, the reader will glom on to the first POV character as the main protagonist. This is particularly true IF the first scene is a long one. Sometimes though, the other character has the more dramatic opening scene. For this reason sometimes, authors will do two short scenes – one from each of the main characters’ POV. A brief introduction if you will and then onwards with the main character.

An easy way to establish dual POV is to have one scene/chapter/section in the heroine’s POV, then the hero’s, then the heroine’s etc. Or vice versa. It is methodical and it means that once fully established, the author switch easily between the two and shorten the distance between switches. If the story calls for it, the author can even braid the POV if she has established the POVs correctly – switching POV from page to page or even paragraph to paragraph, depending on the needs of the story. NB it is very hard to do well!

When to make the switch? Particularly if one character is basically carrying the story? Leave it for too long and the reader is pulled out. Too quickly and the reader does not have time to establish rapport. The short answer is that you always have to go with your gut. Also if your heroine is starting to think about what your hero must think, you might want to see if switching the POV ups the tension.

When you do switch, you have to make sure the reader knows whose POV they are in. You always need to anchor your POV. You also have to make certain that your transitions between POV are seamless and the reader is not left scratching her head, wondering when the shift took place.

The main thing is not pull your reader out of the story. Knowing what sort of POV you are writing can help. Ultimately with POV as with most other aspects of craft, you do need to keep your focus on the demands of the story rather than craft rule as it were. A strong story will hold the reader.
Personally I adore writing in dual POV because it allows me to explore two characters’ lives and their reactions to each other. I like the challenges created and also being able to braid if the story calls for it. What do other people think? Andwhich point of view do you prefer to write in?

Michelle Styles writes historical romance in dual point of view for Harlequin Historical. You can read more about her books on


  1. As a read I love the dual point of view, reading much older M&B titles (thank goodness for 2nd hand shops) the single POV can now feel staid and clunky - we often miss completely the heros reasoning / motivations.
    But the writer needs a clear plan of action, I hate re-reading a passage and trying to figure out whose POV this is.

  2. I *love* reading and writing dual POV - it makes for a much deeper story IMHO. Merry Christmas - Caroline x

  3. Dual all the way! I do like reading multiples esp in longer works, but with my romances I generally prefer dual. For example in suspense sometimes it is nice to get the villian's POV, etc.

    I really liked your comment about if a character is thinking about what the other character might be thinking - I've already revised my scene but wonder if I did that? Either way, switching the POV worked beautifully I think.

    Sometimes if I have a flat scene, I try writing it from the other POV and it comes alive. Then again, sometimes it doesn't, too...but that's another problem and blog. LOL