I recently read an excellent novel called The Catch by Tom Bale. Tom is one of the undiscovered gems of
thriller writing. UK
Such was the brilliance of the writing, I campaigned to my editor at Crimesquad.com to make Tom Bale our Author of the Month for April. He duly got that honour and my review and interview may be found here.
The novel focuses on a tired friendship and moral choices and uses multiple viewpoints to tell the story. As my own humble work in progress uses multiple viewpoints I was keen to seek the author’s opinion. So here it is.
Everyone’s got a point of view. That might be true in life, but not always in fiction – and the matter of perspective is one of the most important decisions that a writer has to make.
It was Graham’s recent question on the subject that made me appreciate how strong my preference is for writing in the third person with multiple viewpoints. Even as a reader, I have to confess that I sometimes recoil if I pick up a book and see it’s written in the first person. The story has to be all the more compelling to overcome my reluctance to spend an entire novel inside the mind of just one character.
After all, if prose fiction has a unique selling point, surely it’s that it allows the writer to convey what his or her characters are thinking? We can explore their deepest fears, secrets and desires in a way that’s simply not possible in other forms of storytelling: cinema, theatre, gaming and so on.
And if you have the ability to reveal that inner dialogue, why limit it to only one or two characters? I tend to like populating my stories with a large cast, so it seems natural to explore the viewpoint of most, if not all, of my main characters. It certainly helps to enrich the story – and in crime fiction in particular, I think it’s a lot easier to create complex antagonists if you can explore their motivations and reveal their psychological make-up.
Switching viewpoints helps to keep the story fresh and interesting. Adding the viewpoint of a minor player can be a great way of providing insight into the main characters. In my novel
there’s a character
called Vic Smith who only appears in two chapters, and yet quite a few readers
have mentioned the impact made by his little cameo role. BLOOD
But for all my love of multiple viewpoints, there’s one strict rule that I try to adhere to: no head-hopping. That’s when we’re privy to one character’s thoughts in one sentence or paragraph, and another character’s in the next. Not only is it confusing, but it also has a strangely unsettling effect, jolting the readers out of the story. Far better, I think, to use scene breaks to denote a change of viewpoint, much as a filmmaker will switch between cameras to tell a story from different perspectives. Used effectively, it’s a device that can bring your characters to life as vivid, three-dimensional people.
Massive thanks from me to Tom for this post.
April is the month for guest posts so here is the line-up to date.
22nd – Matt Hilton
29th - Howard Linskey
To follow later in the year
Tom Cain / David Thomas Guest Blog
Lee Child Interview