Multiple Points of View

NatureoftheBeast_lrgcovWhile reading The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, I realized she switched between points of view without the traditional section or chapter breaks. All scenes were written in third person limited, looking over one shoulder at a time and listening to inner thoughts one character at a time. Penny ignores the general ‘rule’ of third person limited which is that one shouldn’t change viewpoints mid-scene. (That’s saved for the fancy third person omniscient.)

I am taking a break from edits on a cozy mystery at the moment for two reasons: one, there is a major plot overhaul that needs to occur and two, I’ve been debating the point of view.

I’ve written the new outline so step one is complete but the POV debate ensued in my head.

The mystery is about a mother and daughter team of amateur sleuths and I want to show certain scenes from one of their points of view. I’ve lined up the character POV and scenes purposefully to help build the mystery and back stories.

As I was reading the most recent draft, I found a handful of scenes where I switched back and forth between the mother and daughter on the same page. The scenes are pivotal and there is reason to have access to both of their thoughts. I’ve been tinkering, trying to figure out if I should be looser with POV or tighter.

After reading The Nature of the Beast, I’ve decided my mystery is going to be tighter third person limited. I will end a scene and insert white space or start a new chapter to delineate a potential change in POV. Not that I’m against a seamless movement of third person limited. I just think it should be purposeful.

My goal is to have the mother and daughter each have clear goals and secrets and desires. No confusion.

The Nature of the Beast is served by the constantly flowing points of view because the story is about a small town deeply affected by the death of a child. There are several scenes in which many characters congregate and the scene plays out with the reader getting to walk around the table and listen in on the thoughts of each.

I haven’t read any other books by Penny so I don’t know if this is standard fare for her or used specifically in The Nature of the Beast. As with all writing, I say, write it anyway you want. Just have it be on purpose. And Penny’s choice served her story.

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