Writing from the other character’s perspective has been really eye-opening. I mostly write from first-person perspective because I enjoy the deep dive into the character’s head and the way that allows me to play with narrative voice. I find it quicker to write that way, as well, most of the time. It’s like writing a diary entry.
But there are times when it comes with challenges. You can only write what the viewpoint character knows. If something happens and the viewpoint character isn’t there, she can’t know about it. She has to learn about it some other way — someone tells her, she sees security video footage, she reads about it. You also don’t get into other characters’ heads, and that’s where you can end up with plot problems, if you let the other characters do things you need them to do rather than what they actually would do in that situation.
In the book I’m working on, the viewpoint character isn’t in the know for much of anything. In one respect, that’s good because it means that all the discovery happens on the page. There’s no info-dumping of information she already knows because she doesn’t know anything and has to get information and figure things out. But it makes things a bit challenging because I have to figure out what everyone else around her knows, what their agendas are, and what they might say or do.
In a lot of scenes, the narrator is driving the action because she’s investigating, but there are scenes in which she thinks she’s driving things because she’s investigating and asking the questions, after having tracked down that person, but the other person is actually driving the action because they know what’s going on and have an agenda, so they have reasons for what they do and don’t tell the narrator. That’s where I’m having to go back and write the scene from the other person’s perspective, to see what they’d say, what they’d tell and what they’d withhold, and why. After I write it that way, I can go back and put it in the perspective of the narrator. The dialogue I can just copy and paste, but I have to take the thoughts and figure out how that would affect that character’s nonverbals — body language, expressions, tone of voice — and how much the narrator would notice of those nonverbals.
In the scene I was working on, looking at what the other character knows and what this person wants totally changed the scene. And now I’m at a point where I need to figure out what’s up with some of the other characters.