When fiction authors are beginning their longer works, they are faced with a choice: how do they plan to narrate their stories? This question pertains to both the perspective of the narrator, as well as the number of narrators.
In the order of my longer form pieces, I have done a certain amount of experimenting as to the number of perspectives I write from. There are certain advantages to both single perspective and dual perspective writing. Single perspective gives an author a chance to delve into a single character’s psyche on an incredibly deep level, then use that proximity to change a story to fit a certain person’s outlook on the course of the story. Dual perspective does not allow for as much of a deep dive into a character’s head, but it allows for objectivity. Sometimes, an author who becomes very close to the figures they are writing about becomes skewed in their portrayal of a world and the people in it due to an inherent bias. Working from the perspective of multiple characters, especially two, forces the author to take a step back and really investigate what they are trying to say. They must look at how the characters are different, and how those differences change how they look at their surroundings.
Working from the perspective of multiple characters, especially two, forces the author to take a step back and really investigate what they are trying to say.
There are countless things to consider when writing from multiple perspectives, and a remarkable number of nuances to keep track of throughout a very long amount of writing. For this reason, many authors tend to shy away from a dual perspective novel. They feel that there is too much risk of losing the small details over the course of writing, and becoming untrue to who the characters are. It is true that dual perspective novels are quite difficult, but executed correctly, they can create a much more whole sense to a story and give the audience more to consider and learn.
As to whether there is a certain way to decide how many perspectives to write from, the first place authors usually begin is in the planned length of their piece. Shorter form works usually tend to stick to a fewer number of perspectives, due to the lack of space. When you have less page space to work with, remaining with one character and finding out everything about them is a smart concept. It maximizes the time and space you have. Long form works, such as novels, however, are an entirely different playing field. You have hundreds of pages to fill, and plenty of space to concentrate on multiple areas without losing the point of your work. Using multiple perspectives is also an excellent way of approaching the plot and world in a new way if you become stuck in the head of a single character.
Ideally, when you involve multiple characters in a single storyline, they should interact in some way, even if it is not directly.
In addition, dual perspective is a device to add a level of complexity to the plot. Ideally, when you involve multiple characters in a single storyline, they should interact in some way, even if it is not directly. The two strands should influence each other, and sway decisions on either side. It creates more for your reader to become entranced with, multiple storylines winding together to keep your audience guessing right along with your characters. A creative, thoughtful author can allow your characters to operate separately, but still pull them together enough that there is a throughline to the plot that can be manipulated and used to knit many threads into a fascinating story.
Dual perspective is only one way of making your story more nuanced and unique, but for an author who focuses on character and multiple plotlines, it can allow for higher levels of innovation. Using multiple characters is a perfect draw for readers who like to become invested in the people they read about, and even better for the authors who do the same!