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I’ve read books where the POV changed two or three times – in the same paragraph – her heart is pounding, he’s getting aroused, she dribbles wine down her chin, he thinks she’s adorable… I’ve tried not to create this kind of intense back and forth writing, but I have been known to use two different POVs in my books.
In my first novel, H10 N1, my two main characters, Rick and Taeya, share quite an adventure together, but they absolutely do not get along in the first portion of the book. I thought the best way to give them equal time in their disdain for each other was to include both of their perspectives on what was happening, and what they thought about the other.
Even if you only switch POVs a chapter at a time, it still gets a bit tricky. The author usually doesn’t just cover the same ground from a different point of view (though I’ve seen that done, too). I read a novella where the author wrote the scene from the female lead’s perspective, then went back and did the whole scene again from the male’s POV. Going back to rehash the same scene twice really threw me out of the story. So, my thinking is that unless the opposing POV is critical to the plot, I keep moving forward.
Once I’d written the first draft of H10 N1, I actually went back and changed whole chapters because I wanted the scene to come from Taeya’s point of view instead of Rick’s. That made it possible to add comic relief, or ramp up the drama, just by switching the perspective, and I had more leeway in telling the story when one of the main characters wasn’t around. In fact, it was a great way to show the reader something that one of the main characters of the story didn’t know. A glimpse behind the curtain, so to speak.
The Ups and Downs of Being Dead, my second book, is told strictly from Robert’s point of view. The reader follows his journey as he waits to be brought back to life, along with other cryonically-frozen ‘ghosts’. It felt natural to tell the story from this one perspective.
But for my third novel, Losing it All, I went back to a dual point of view, not because the two main characters are adversaries, but because their lives are in two really different places at the beginning of the story. Frank is a homeless man living on the streets of Atlanta. Chloe is a young mother of two small children who may be struggling, but she has a job, an apartment, and a husband.
The reader observes both Frank and Chloe as their lives draw closer together (kind of like Sleepless in Seattle). Even when Frank and Chloe do meet, circumstances keep them apart until Chloe is at the end of her rope. Here are two short excerpts that introduce Frank and Chloe (the story takes place in 1984).
CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT
Pain’s a bitch.The doctor at the VA called it phantom pain, nerve trauma that would eventually go away. Yeah, right. Frank was twelve years and counting. This morning, he woke to a cold, sluggish fog that had his foot throbbing before he even stood. His only relief was to shift his weight to his toes and keep pressure off the heel. Of course, the gimp-walk didn’t do much for his appearance. People already shied away from his long hair and shaggy beard. The shuffling limp and tortured expression convinced onlookers that he was a derelict.
They should have seen him twelve years ago at the VA. The pain was so intense all he could do was lie in bed, groaning and thrashing, his hospital gown soaked in sweat. Once he was up and around, he’d rolled down the hallway in his wheelchair, ranting at other Vietnam veterans with missing legs and arms. His rage seemed to ease his pain, but like a drug, he needed more. So he started ramming into other wheelchairs, then chasing after those who could walk, bruising their ankles with his metal foot-plates.
On his feet, Frank was a regular fighting machine, wielding a crutch like a club, or throwing sucker punches when least expected. It never occurred to him that those guys were battling their own pain. In desperation, he pinned a doctor to the wall with his own clipboard, threatening to decapitate him if he didn’t up Frank’s morphine dosage. An orderly put him out on the street. Then the pain really took hold. The dribble of morphine still in his system wore off while he slouched in the back of a city bus headed for downtown Atlanta. When he threw up in the aisle, the driver tossed him off. Unable to stand, much less walk, Frank crawled into an alleyway and passed out.
A wino rummaging through a trashcan woke him. Frank offered the bum some dough for his bottle of Thunderbird, and slugged the wine down in one long gulp. From there it was all downhill.
CHAPTER TWO EXCERPT
Clutching a metal cash box, Chloe slipped into her checkout lane at Foodtown, a pitiful excuse for a grocery store, with rusty stains on the floor tiles, and the rancid odour of old meat. She slid the box into her drawer and turned on the light.
In the next lane over, Jennifer popped her gum as she swiped food items across her scanner. “You’re late again.”
“Sorry.” Chloe gave a weak smile. Just because she worked in a rundown part of town didn’t mean she shouldn’t look her best. It took time to find just the right shade of eyeshadow to coordinate with her lavender blouse from K-Mart. Chloe wasn’t the type to just smear a quick coat of lipstick on her mouth. She outlined her lips with a deeper shade, like she’d seen in the magazines. And after what she had paid to get her hair colored, she wanted to make sure it was teased and sprayed to look just like Lucy Ewing on Dallas.
Jennifer’s Foodtown smock was unbuttoned enough to show a peek of the red bra she wore. Chloe bristled as a construction worker buying a sub sandwich and a quart of beer bent in for a closer look. His hands were filthy. Was he going to wash those hands before he ate?
Puffing out her chest, Jennifer grinned at him! Sure, Duane loved to see Chloe dressed in short skirts and low-cut blouses. But not the whole world. Once the construction worker left, Jennifer leaned against her register, and dug something out of her teeth with a polished fingernail. “So, what’s your excuse today?”
Chloe reached under the counter for a bottle of glass cleaner and spritzed her scanner. “You know how my niece Staci has been babysitting for me? Well, she was late because she had to stay after school to meet with a teacher.”
“Yeah, right.” Jennifer snorted a laugh. “You believe anything, Chloe. That’s why you’re in deep shit.”
Chloe glared at her. “I do not.”
“Right. Your husband took off, and you think he’s looking for a better job in Chattanooga.”
“He is!” Chloe felt the heat rising up her neck. “He should be back any day now.”
“Back my ass.” Jennifer’s glossy red lips curled into a sneer. “It’s been three months.”
“He’s training for a career,” Chloe repeated what she had been told. “Not just a job.”
Jennifer wasn’t buying it. “Wake up. He hasn’t even called you. And as close as Chattanooga is, surely he could get away to come home some weekend.”
Chloe’s bottom lip quivered as she swirled her paper towel over the glass.