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Tip Tuesday #103

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where writers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today's tip was sent in by Kristin Lenz who contributes to the group blog YA Fusion. When you're done reading her tip below, make sure you hop over there. She's featuring an interview with authors Erin McCahan and Vicky Alvalear Shecter and editor Cheryl Klein called "2 Authors + 1 Editor = 3 Free Books." Yes, there's a giveaway too! But before you rush over, here's Kristin's tip:

Barbara Kingsolver’s epic novel, The Poisonwood Bible, has five alternating narrators. During her revision process, Kingsolver wrote scenes from the point of view of each and every one of those characters.

“I spent nearly a year getting the hang of the Price girls, by choosing a practice scene and writing it in every different voice. I did that over and over until I felt the rhythm and verbal instincts of character.” From: http://www.kingsolver.com/faq/previous-books.html#32

Later, Kingsolver chose which voice was right for each particular scene. And this was a 500+ page novel. Can you imagine?

Yep, that’s the tip I’m recommending, but on a much smaller scale. Do you have a rough draft that feels kind of flat? Are there actions/dialogue/scenes that don’t quite ring true? Do you have characters who are only two-dimensional?

Try writing some of the scenes from that under-developed character’s point of view. In my work-in-progress, I discovered that the boyfriend spoke and acted differently when I wrote from his perspective. For example, in one of my original scenes, he responded passively when his brother was rude to his girlfriend. I had been primarily focused on my female protagonist’s actions and emotions. But in the scene rewritten from the boyfriend’s POV, he jumped up and told his brother off.

Now, I need to decide if I want to keep the alternating narratives in my story, or fold these new scenes into my old scenes for richer characterization.

Of course, if you have Pulitzer Prize aspirations like Barbara Kingsolver, go ahead and write each and every scene from multiple points of view. Good luck with that!

-Kristin Lenz


  1. Thanks for the great tip Kristin. Sometimes I have the problem of my characters sounding too much the same. I'll have to try your tip.

    And I loved your interview on YA Fusion. What a great idea.

  2. Wow. That would be ambitious. Still, you make a great point. Even knowing how a scene would work from another POV, even if you don't actually write it out, is a great way to better understand your story and your characters.

    Great tip, thanks, Kristin, Casey, and Natalie! I'm off to follow those blogs.

  3. This is a wonderful tip. I am working on a YA paranormal in 1st person POV from two alternating perspectives. I can definitely agree that a scene feels different, even characters show something different when told from a different POV.

  4. Thanks for posting my tip, Casey!

  5. Great tip, Kristin. My critique group sometimes uses that as a writing exercise. It really helps.

  6. This is a great tip. I'll definitely be using this down the line.

  7. Nice tip. It's always good to try different angles.

  8. Excellent tip!

    My MS switches between two character's POV and I can concur that it really does pay to write in both perspectives for the same scene. It helps to strengthen how the character should be acting in any given situation and also serves to present the strongest version to the reader.

    Sometimes the powerful and emotional scenes are from the view of the one you wouldn't expect...

    Think of a break up scene. Would it be more intense to be in the mind of the person being abandoned or the person running away?

  9. Great tip! So much can be learned from the eyes/POV of another character. And it's a terrific way to find your voice.

  10. This is such an amazing tip (yes, I'm raving like everyone else in the comments). This'll be a really fun writing exercise for me to try asap. I can't wait to see how it helps me develop my characters!

  11. Great idea! I can see how it would be a great character-building exercise, even if you end up re-writing the scene from your main character's point of view after all. I think it's easy to forget that our protagonist isn't the only one with goals and opinions.

  12. This idea is something I've just recently started trying and I love it! I highly recommend trying it.

  13. Great tip! And how about doing stream-of-conciousness writing from each characters viewpoint?

  14. Great Tip, Kristin! I can also see doing the stream-of-consciousness writing for each character.

    Oh...my poor fingers! They're going to be even bloodier...


  15. Wow - I never knew that Barbara Kingsolver did that with The Poisonwood Bible. Fascinating! There really are no shortcuts to great storytelling are there?

  16. This really is a fantastic tip, Kristin! I've done this a little and it's a lot of work but so worth it. It's important to understand all the characters, particularly their motivations. I need to do this for my current WIP!

  17. "Write one sub one" always have great wrting tips. Also Michael Offut and BR Barkowsky have great tips.

  18. Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, and The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite Kingsolver books, partly for the story, and partly due to such distinct voices. Great tip. I actually experimented with changing voices in my current WIP, and found that the wrong character was telling my story. It's still just through one character's viewpoint, but this time around it's the right one. So that is a tip that really brings about results. Thanks for posting such a good reminder.

  19. Great tip, Kristin! It's amazing what your charcters say and do when you shine the limelight on them:)

  20. OMG, it's like the internet is one big hive mind this week. I just blogged this yesterday. Switching up the POV is a great way to get to the heart of what's really going on in a scene or, ona larger scale, ina manuscript. I don't think I'd go to the lengths that Kingsolver did, though - LOL! Well, maybe if I didn't have to do anything else. Like when my kids have moved out.

    This is awesome advice - I've tried it, and it helps a lot.

  21. Holy Bananas, I can only imagine how much work that would take, and the perseverance to stick with it!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  22. What a great idea. I can't imagine how much time this could take, but I'll keep it in mind for the next time I'm feeling stuck or need to add more depth.