When I got the idea for writing about three sisters in my new book, "The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June", my first thought was, "Ohhhh, SISTERS." My second thought was, "Ohhh, sisters with SUPERPOWERS." And my third thought was, "Ohhhh, NOOOO."
|The tattoo that began it all.|
For me, though, the hardest part was figuring out how to write April, May, and June so that each girl would be able to show who she was. I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to do that well enough, and I especially dreaded trying to write three first-person narratives. So I got creative.
It didn't work.
I tried writing each character in the second person. Major, major disaster. No one will ever see that because the mere memory of that writing experiment makes me want to crawl in a hole. I also tried writing everything from April's point of view, the oldest sister who can see the future. It wasn't as big a disaster, but it didn't work. It felt forced and phony and sort of made me want to bang my head against a wall, and it also made April sound like a crazy oracle from a Greek tragedy, which wasn't the vibe I wanted.
Finally, my agent and editor gently pointed out that I would probably have to write each sister in the first person. "Just try it," my agent said. (She's smart like that.)
So I tried it, and what I discovered was that by writing in first person in three different ways, it made me find my characters for the first time. I had to discover their individual voices, their words, their thoughts and ideas and emotions. They had wanted to talk all along, but I had been stopping them.
If you're working on a project with multiple POVs, here's some things that I learned. Maybe they won't work for you, but they definitely helped me. (They helped April, May & June, too.)
1) Let your characters tell you who they are.
When I first imagined the middle sister, May, I thought she'd be shy and sweet, a pale little wallflower who has the ability to become invisible. When I wrote in her POV for the first time, though, she came roaring to life! She was mean, tough, and most importantly, hurt. I hadn't truly seen who she was. I even felt a bit apologetic towards her!
2) Let your characters tell their unique story.What I discovered while working on "AMJ" is that each sister reacted to situations in a completely different way and it was my job as a writer to let them describe it. April, for example, is horrified to discover that she and her sisters have superpowers, while June, the youngest sister, is thrilled to discover that she can read people's minds. I had originally thought that all three sisters would be traumatized by this development, but not June. Who knew???
3) Write each character one at a time.
In the beginning chapters of the book, I'd be writing in April's voice and think, "Oh, May's gonna hate this." Or I'd write in May's POV and realize that June would disagree completely. And that was totally okay. I finally learned that I had to write each sister separately, without worrying what the other ones would say or do, just like real-life sisters. Once I realized that, writing became fun! I loved watching the girls react to one another, and it was especially interesting to see how each of them reacted to their parents' divorce.
Will I write another multiple POV book again? I would love it! And hopefully April, May & June would love it, too.