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Thinking about certain scenes in my book and the messages/themes I want to convey, it seems best to write from two different POVs: the young adult female protagonist and the older male protagonist.

In previous questions I have asked about viewpoint (1st or 3rd person), and I think I have settled on 1st person. If, however, this wouldn't work well with dual POVs I'm happy to consider switching.

What would the advice, tips and rules be to writing dual POVs well in both 1st person and 3rd person (limited)?

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    In my opinion, all you need to be careful about is: Make it clear at the beginning of each chapter whose viewpoint we are reading (unless you intentionally want to mislead the reader). Everything else is just like any other kind narrative. Don't worry about it.
    – Ben
    Mar 16 at 7:02

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I have read many books with two first-person narrators and enjoyed them quite well. The trick is to give each a district voice and personality. from the other, so readers can easily tell them apart. If you're not sure if you can do that, you can always just write the characters name before you start the scene in their POV, so the reader know who's who.

I have also read short stories that have a first person and a third-person narrator, but I do not recommend it. While it was easier to tell the characters apart it was also consistently broke my immersion, and I'm not sure it's any way a standard.

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  • I think that voice of viewpoint is overrated. In the popular genre fiction novels that I have read, I could never tell different viewpoints apart by their voice alone. Usually every viewpoint in one book is written in the same voice – that of the author. What is different are the perceptions, thoughts, and emotions, that is, the interiority: one character will feel calm while the other feels nervous, for example; one thinks about failing an exam, the other will feel confident that failing that exam won't be the end of the world. That, and what they do, is quite enough to keep characters apart.
    – Ben
    Mar 16 at 6:58
  • I think we're using voice to mean different things. By voice, I mean internal voice. Each character usually has a different way they see the world, and between that, and their context, it is really easy to tell them apart. I edited my answer to add personality with voice because that's closer to what it should be. Mar 16 at 11:50
  • In, writing, I understand voice to mean the choice of words, of syntactic structure and so on, that is, how the way a character speaks is recreated using written language. I rarely see a difference between different characters in that respect. But I agree with a difference in personality, as it becomes visible through the thoughts, emotion and behavior of that character. I think we just use different words to mean the same thing, and I agree with the essence of your answer.
    – Ben
    Mar 16 at 12:03
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POV is 1st, 2nd, 3rd and past, present, and future.

Having multiple POV characters in your story is completely normal. It's easier to have multiple POV character's using 3rd person, compared to 1st person, because 3rd person has narrative distance. Your narrator doesn't always have to be inside the POV character's head. That 3rd person narrator can describe the location, the time of day, a character's appearance or manner of dress, and who is present in the room in ways the feel every natural to reader.

Compare this to 1st person, were the narrative distance is very intimate. Everything shared is either what is in that character's head at that moment or is a reflection on that moment from the point in time when they are telling this story about their experiences: the point of telling.

It is very immersive to express the moments in that 1st person but doesn't lend itself to efficiently describing the space to the reader. How many times have you thought to yourself about the decor of the room and how well do describe it to yourself. It feels unnatural unless it is called for given the situation -- need to escape from a locked room. We don't think about our clothes and appearance -- not in details. This makes it more challenging in 1st person to avoid white-room syndrome. Descriptions need to come through character actions and not narrative. Having multiple 1st person POV means having to find unique ways to relate world around them to reader. Because if you keep using the same techniques, it reads like the same character.

We all notice different things about the world as we move through it. A man might notice women and dangerous men and not pay attention to men that aren't perceived as threats. An engineer might notice how things are built. An architect notices the differences in cornices used in different buildings. A saleperson might notice selling opportunities and filter out time wasters.

Developing multiple characters to the degree you can relate who they are to the reader by how they see the world is hard enough with one character. More characters increase the challenge geometrically.

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