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P.O.V.

Jun 03 2008 Posted by in writing | 1 comment

My guy has multiple personality disorder, and I was thinking about doing each chapter from a different point of view. . .

That’s a lot of personalities. . . Or do you mean rotating through the cycle of a few personalities over and over? At least that way we could get to know them better as we return to their “character,” and placing each into multiple scenarios will flesh them out and add dimension. The irony of course being that there’s probably very little dimension, given that they’re all one man’s invention.

Still, though, I’d feel like I weren’t doing my job if I didn’t beg you to reconsider your basic premise. Unless you weave it masterfully, multiple personality is a big flaming cliché (just ask Donald Kaufman), especially if that’s the big twist you’re working up to. You’d be better served to simply employ that as a storytelling device for a tale that’s about something greater than just your own cleverness – something plotty. That, and we’ve just spoiled it here for the world already. Okay, 31% of the world.

Having multiple POVs, however, is not inherently taboo. Brett Easton Ellis did it with The Rules of Attraction. Each character got her own chapter. In a book I read last month, The Book of Revelation, the first-person narrator goes through a traumatic event, so all the chapters that detail his time spent in captivity are shifted to third-person. It provided a clinical distance to the proceedings, as if the character was removing himself bodily from the abuse he’d suffered. In other words, it was motivated. It had dramatic purpose. And it was seamless.

The wonderful thing about first-person is it lets us get inside their head. See the world through Malkovich’s eyes. The monologue can be more intimate, with more judgments passed, and more tolerance for flowery observations. But it also restricts what you can say about other characters. Your narrator’s not omniscient; he can’t know others’ thoughts or motives, only his own perception of the sensate details he receives, and don’t forget his past experiences and prejudices that all that gets filtered through as well.

. . . Do you think this would be believable?

As I said above, no, but it doesn’t matter. This is fiction. Lie your ass off. Tell us a fantastical tale. Make us believe it, or at least cast enough doubt in our minds that we’ll suspend this disbelief for the time it takes to read the book. Look what the Coen brothers did with Fargo: that opening title card claim of a true story. It wasn’t, but it helped belt us in for the ride through such absurd events.

  1. Gob06-12-08

    No, I didn’t mean like 30 personalities. Although it’s an idea. And that was my twist, so. Someone else told me about the movie Identity (Jon Cusack) that was too similar. So i’ll take the advice about replotting, even though I suspected it was too predictable. Thank you. And I enjoy the funny bizness here too.