Switching between multiple POV (point-of-view) perspectives can be an amazing way to build your story world. Here are some prompts to get you started and a guide to using them:
Ever thought about writing a story where you switch POVs? There are many reasons why you might want to consider doing it—but the strongest tends to be that it gives the reader unique perspectives of the story world. In real life, the way many people view an event can differ widely between eyewitnesses. When you bring this POV perspective shift to your story, you offer readers the opportunity to see different sides to plot points, to characters, and to the story world. You can even increase reader tension by giving readers a preview into a future event that another character doesn’t know is coming.
Still unsure if you should use more than one POV for your story? It may be helpful for you to check out this article on Juggling Multiple POVs. But for those of you who know you want to want to write in multiple POVs, it can sometimes be useful to springboard ideas from writing prompts. In this article, we’ll get into how to best use writing prompts and some POV switching prompts. But first, it might be useful to talk about some rules of multiple POVs:
Rules for POV switches in stories
In general, when you write POV switches in stories, it’s important to do it in such a way that readers don’t get confused about whose perspective they are immersed in. It’s also really important that the POV doesn’t switch non-stop within scene. If you go back and forth between two or more characters’ thoughts, this is considered “head-hopping” (in other words, going from one character’s head to another’s very quickly). This is hugely frowned upon in writing and you will lose reader interest by doing this.
As a result, to keep your readers invested, POV switches must be done with care. The best way to do this is by scene or chapter breaks. Many dual or multi-POV stories will take the opportunity to introduce the other POV in alternating chapters. You can also use omniscient narration, but it must also done with care to avoid head-hopping. For more information on how to transition seamlessly between POVs in a story, check out this article on shifting POVs.
How prompts can help you switch POVs
What you’ll find when you write a multi-POV story is that creating and describing events from different perspectives in your story can be challenging work. This is because it’s not enough to simply change viewpoint—readers need to feel a shift in character voice as well. So, for example, if you’re writing a dual-POV story from the perspective of an old man and his twenty-year-old grandson, there should be a noticeable change in the way they think, view the world, their interior monologue, etc. For more about managing more than one voice, check this out.
Regardless of whether you plan our your story in advance or if you like to discover as you write, you should have some idea of where you want your character to begin and end their journey (their character arc). That arc will inform the way your characters make decisions and the way they react to the challenges they are presented with.
Writing prompts are a useful tool for helping you write in multiple POVs because they help you take a deep dive into characterization. Figuring out who your characters are is necessary to being able to write from their unique perspectives. With that in mind, here are some writing prompts!
With all of these, I would encourage you to pick one POV and start writing from it. Then choose someone else (either as inspired by the prompt itself, or someone in the story you write) and write the same or an adjoining scene from that new character’s perspective.
- Start your story with the phrase, “The first time I met my father…”
- Write about a mysterious object being dug up from the sand.
- Write a story about a couple who can’t agree about a paint color.
- Set your story on a boat in the middle of the ocean.
- Start your story in a storm, with the power out.
- Write a story about a character who can’t go home for some reason.
- Visualize a red heart-shaped box and make it a key object in your story.
- Set your story in a town of people who are all hiding a big secret.
How to best use writing prompts
When using writing prompts, there are some methods you should use to best help you. To begin with, remember the prompt is just a starting point. If a writing prompt gets you started and then you find yourself straying from the prompt into something else—that’s ok! (Unless you’re trying to enter a contest with specific guidelines.) But, in general, one of the best ways to use writing prompts is to get your creativity going. The same goes for length. What may be a prompt for a short story or flash fiction can easily be more—so if you feel a novel in it, write it! (And vice versa.)
When you get a writing prompt, try to relax and just have fun with it! If a prompt isn’t really inspiring you, move on to the next one. The best thing about working with prompts is that they should be a fun exercise in writing. If you can, try to approach the prompt from a unique perspective. This can be particularly good when the prompt refers to something you may not associate with a genre. C.S. Lewis was partially inspired to create the tale of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when he thought about the unusual juxtaposition of a lamppost in a fantasy story.
And don’t forget to use a variety of prompts. The prompts included here are all written ones, but photographs and artwork can also be good ways to get yourself writing.
Hopefully these ideas will help get you on the path to something great. And remember to have fun!