I’ve committed the big “no-no” – multiple viewpoints in junior fiction.
I didn’t start out wanting to break the rules, it just happened. I’ve always written stories for children. I’ve always written them from the traditional single point of view. No dreaded head-hopping for the younger reader here.
Everyone’s heard the horror stories of authors who wrote books for young readers with dual points of view, being cited for their foolishness in the media. I remember reading an article in a children’s literature magazine a couple of years ago, where the critic said it was a pity the story was written from two different viewpoints, because this had “alienated potential readers.”
The general attitude towards head hopping junior fiction is roundly and rightly frowned upon.
I had no intention of deviating from this rule. Why risk dividing the small number of readers I might be fortunate enough to attract?
Then, in 2005, after attending a couple of weekend workshops with Kate de Goldi I started writing an epic-length story, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver,
A few years after this, I went to a writer’s class led by the wonderful author and columnist, Lindsey Dawson. One afternoon, I stayed behind after the session. I told Lindsey the essential elements of my story and asked her opinion on how to improve it.
Lindsey went up to the whiteboard. She drew an image which she said had “just come to her.” There were three different strands of helix spiralling up around a central column. Lindsey said that the central column was the plot and the strands circling it were the different characters’ story threads. And she encouraged me to think about the lives of the secondary characters.
I went home that night, I picked up my pen and started writing. To my surprise, the stories rushed out. Almost as if the other characters had been bursting to tell their sides of the tale.
Then, I wove the new story threads in and out of the old story thread, and it came together in a unique and interesting way. Did I dare show this mutant baby to the rest of the world? I knew they would come out and beat it to death with sticks and clubs.
When I worked on the first book in the series, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ my critique partners made it clear they did not believe head-hopping worked in junior fiction. I agreed, but what could I do?
Hoping for reprieve, I asked another friend who is an author for his opinion. He said, ‘Shifting POV is generally frowned upon, since the last thing we want is a confused reader.’
Although I wished to be able to adhere to the principle of single pov, I simply felt compelled to stick to at least two ‘heads’ for Book one. I couldn’t make the complex tale work otherwise. I knew I was treading on dangerous ground. Yet, I published my book anyway. And I expect to be lambasted for it at some stage if anyone beyond the circle of my friends ever reads it.
Currently, I’m writing the follow up in the series, ‘The Sasori Empire.’
At the outset, one of my critique friends suggested that I try writing the sequel from Aden’s point of view. ‘It’s much better because you allow the reader to have the experience of reading the story through Aden’s eyes. There will be more tension and surprises this way especially for your younger target audience.’
I agreed a hundred percent. So with the rough, raw material for book two, I went through the entire manuscript and changed it to a single ‘head.’ Only problem was, I felt as if all the life had been sucked out of the material.
Deflated, I went to my friend, kiwi author, Donna Blaber, to ask her opinion. Donna is a traditionally published author with 30 books to her credit. She knows her stuff. And she’s familiar with this series, having helped me out by being a beta reader with book one. I told her what I had done with changing everything in book two over to Aden’s pov. And I sent her (on her request) two chapters illustrating the changes.
I waited anxiously for her response.
Two days later, Donna emailed. ‘My thoughts are that the second book should follow in the same vein as the first book, otherwise I think it will be confusing. Save the different style for your next story/series. I (sometimes) give little regard for the so-called ‘rules’ because I believe they are there to be broken. However, in saying that, I think consistency in a series is important.’
I cannot even tell you the relief! This is what my gut instinct was trying to tell me. And don’t you love that freeing type of thinking? I was inspired.
It’s hard to explain. Even though I personally would prefer not to be the author of this Frankenstein: this multiple pov, anthropomorphic, fantasy fiction for ‘tweens, I am. It’s what the story wants. I shall have to take my lashings as they come.
What story wants, it gets. The dreaded, hoary-breathed, two-headed gargoyle of multiple viewpoints is what this story demands. That’s all I can tell you!
Has your story ever taken you where you didn’t want to go? Ever taken a risk and gone against conventions?
Keep on creating!
See you in the funny papers,
Yvette K. Carol
Your intuition knows what to write so get out of the way. ~ Ray Bradbury
The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write, and draw, and build and play and dance and live as only you can. ~ Neil Gaiman
Ultimately, you have to be your own North Star. – James Preller