My current novel has two Points of View (POV), and boy are they completely different. One is the quirky, slightly dorky heroine from modern-day America, and the other is a sweet, hunky hero from 1834. (It’s a time-travel romance). As you can imagine, their voices are completely different in tone and syntax. I thought I’d share my method of making damn sure they didn’t sound alike, not because I think this is THE WAY to do it, or that it is in any way groundbreaking, but just in case it might work for another.
- First and foremost, this WIP is an outcome of last November’s NaNoWriMo, and so as such, I didn’t have a lot of time for research and dilly-dallying. I wrote quick and dirty (not that kind of dirty; the sloppy-kind of dirty) and let the characters talk to me and tell me about themselves as I wrote. I didn’t worry too much about the hero’s voice other than writing his without contractions (which had the added benefit of adding to my word count. Weee!). I just let his voice come out without forcing it at this stage or worrying if it was anachronistic. I think this part is important, because if you worry too much about anachronisms at the creation stage, you can stifle your creativity. That’s what revision is for (and critique partners!)
- Starting in February I reread all of Jane Austen’s novels (I know, what a chore! <– sarcastic tone) and watched the adaptations I have and loaded up my Netflix queue with the rest. Basically I breathed, ate, slept and slurped Austen. Total immersion.
- When I was dreaming, thinking and accidentally talking like Austen’s characters, I knew I was ready.
- While doing this, I started a notebook where I wrote down patterns of speech she employed and also made a sort of glossary of words (modern word – Austen word pairing)*
- Next, I got some pink and blue post-it flags from Office Depot and went through my draft and marked the respective boy/girl POV switches.
- Then, I flipped to each blue section and revised the sentence structures, rhythm and word choices. I probably made about 2-3 passes total through it, just focusing on this and nothing else (not continuity, not plot, nothing but his voice).
- I then integrated these changes into a new draft and went from there. Of course, this method skipped any dialogue of his while in her POV, but by the time I got to those, I had his voice (I hope!)
The biggest problem that evolved out of this was my heroine picking up word choices that she wouldn’t normally use. I tend to write more formally also (this blog is helping me shed this habit) and so on revision, I had to concentrate on analyzing her word choices and syntax and making sure it was modern-sounding. Reading her parts out loud helped to catch more. However, I allowed her tone to get more formal as she stayed longer in the past, as I think that would be a natural evolution.
I didn’t always catch her old-fashioned word choices, so luckily my fellow critiquers on critiquecircle.com pointed out when she sounded too much like the hero. They also helped me dial back the hero a bit. I wanted his tone to sound 19th Century, but not so much so that it left people scratching their heads (like my mom does when she
reads tries to read Austen). One sentence of his that I liked because of the emphasis it gave to the starting phrase, one critiquer said sounded too much like Yoda. Yikes! Can’t have that, so had to revise that one.
I still worry I overdid him, so am biting my nails waiting to hear back from my Beta readers.
*Would anyone be interested in this list?
Have you written more than one POV for a novel? How did you keep their voices distinct?