Planning for Multiple POVs

Ciao, amici. We’ve been discussing story bibles. So far, in addition to the overview, we’ve covered the series premise, character sheets, and setting descriptions. Today, I’ll be discussing outlines, specifically outlining for multiple POVs.

If you only have one POV character, the information still (mostly) applies. You can just eliminate the additional columns.

This is the method I use to prepare for writing multiple POVs.

Multiple POV

My latest project is a five-book sci-fi series with multiple points of view. In the past, I’ve technically written multiple POV works. I usually use the hero and the heroine, and in one series I added a third POV when I occasionally put in passages from the villain’s perspective.

This time, though, I’m writing a multiple POV in the true sense of the word. Not two or three characters, but a whole handful of them.

I’m an outliner. I can’t wing it and let my muse direct me. I tried it once. It wasn’t pretty. Outlining for me makes sense. It keeps me on track, but I’m not so wedded to my plans that I can’t veer a little bit if an opportunity presents itself. And my outlines aren’t extensive; just a line or two per scene so I know what I need to accomplish.

I never needed anything resembling a chart to outline my other work. But now, with so many people to keep track of, I was confusing myself. That’s when and why I created the rainbow-colored chart you see above. (And if this method of outlining interests you, just click on that graphic. You can download the associated Word file for your own use.)

It’s a pretty simple procedure, but it really helped me keep track of everything.

  1. I created a table. The first column is my action items. Each additional column is for a POV character.
  2. I color-coded each character’s column so they’re easier to track.
  3. I added the big points I needed to hit to the first column:
    • hook
    • inciting incident (plot point 1)
    • pinch point 1
    • midpoint
    • pinch point 2
    • dark moment (plot point 2)
    • climax
    • denouement
  4. I put at least one open row between the plot and pinch points, but as I create the beats I need to hit, I add more.

Now it’s as simple as filling in the blanks. Instead of writing an outline that jumps all around between people and scenes, I can write one plot line, beginning to end, for a single character. Then move to the next, then the next, then the next, etc.

Once I have all the individual POV plot lines, I create my master outline, putting the scenes in the order I want to write them, making sure it all happens chronologically. Once nice thing is to have a cliffhanger ending for each scene. It virtually guarantees the reader will keep going because they want to return to that character (whenever his or her POV comes up again) and find out what happened.

This method makes it simple to keep track of all my character arcs and their progression through the story. You could also repurpose this for multiple timelines rather than multiple characters.

Have you written multiple characters or multiple timelines? Did you outline first? Do you have any tips to share? Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo Bio

43 thoughts on “Planning for Multiple POVs

  1. Pingback: Story Development and Execution Part 2: The Story Bible | Story Empire

  2. Love this idea, Staci! I can see how this would help with more POV characters. I haven’t written anything with more than 2 or 3 character POVs so far, so it isn’t too tough to keep track. I like using a timeline chart for scenes, with a few sentences on each day for each scene, then I add the POV character to make sure everyone gets their time in the spotlight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Julie. Three POVs I can (and have) handled without too much trouble. But I’m writing multiple now, and it’s unwieldy. I needed something to rein it all in. But I’m the same as you with the scene cards—a few sentences is all I need.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  4. I like this idea, Staci. I started a spreadsheet for my new trilogy as I also have a few characters who I need to keep straight. Mine had their names, where they are from, their role in the future society, that sort of thing. I have also done an outline for my two longer books. I need to know where I am going with the story even if it evolves along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I included a character table in my last post (there’s a link above if you missed it). I don’t do a detailed character sheet, but I do keep track of a few essentials. I’m glad you have a method that works for you.


  5. Another practical chart. Right now, both of my series are told from single POVs, but I can see how a chart like this could be used in my Jazzi mysteries to keep track of suspects and witnesses, etc., to keep track of what they’re doing when. It’s sort of easy to lose track of a cast of potential suspects, and this would keep them all in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like playing with all the tools. I had one with a first person POV that never varied. I’ve done multiple POV several times (Currently doing it again). I like your charts. They’re simple and easy to understand. They could easily be modified into the Hero’s Journey, or Three Act Structure, or other methods.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I can see where this really worked for you while writing The Gate because each chapter ended with a powerful hook.

    I generally write multiple POV (and dual time lines), but admit I’m not structured about it. I’m still adjusting to plotting at all, but probably work more like your original way of doing it–a few lines here and there about what I want to happen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s still what I eventually end up with. All the cells in the table become a sentence or two in my outline. But you have to plan (or not) however it best works for you. Even if your critique partner is nagging you to plot more. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, Staci! You amaze me with your organization of thoughts, plots, themes and now POVs! This is a fantastic chart and would totally prevent head-hopping as you know exactly who is going to tell each scene. Fantastic tool! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Another useful tool. You know me, I “wing” it and I do write in multiple points of view. I make sure that each scene is written from one character’s POV. I hate head hopping and I’ve caught a few times I did that in edits. If I need another character’s POV, I simply change scenes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Honestly, Joan, Scrivener has saved me from head-hopping more than any other tool or method. I’m usually pretty good about it; when I “get in a character’s head” I’m usually invested and don’t veer. But sometimes I think of something that would be perfect for another character and start to slip out. Then I notice what color I’m in and realize I can’t. The color cues are ideal for that.

      For me, anyway.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. With my first novel (before a great editing), I had major head-hopping going on. My novels are told from multiple points of view. I learned quickly that I needed to keep track of each character’s clear voice, motive, story line, etc. This chart would have come in handy back then. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Pingback: Planning for Multiple POVs | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

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