Yesterday I talked about point of view and how everything needs to be filtered through the POV character. One way to check whether you’ve wandered away is to consider the subject scene as if it were written in first person. That will usually identify anything that doesn’t belong.
If you’re having a difficult time getting a grasp on POV, perhaps writing in first person will help you get a better feel for it. However, that can be limiting, depending on the story. I would have a very difficult time writing strictly from first person, though I know of at least one very skillful author who has her protagonist’s scenes in first person while other characters are written in third person.
It’s okay to tell your story, or sections of it, through the eyes of different characters. However, IMHO, these should be as separate sections, not all run together, which would constitute omniscient POV. Some books work in that mode, but if you really want your reader to relate to your characters, it’s best to give them their own voice in their own sections or chapters. Otherwise it can get confusing and far more difficult to get into their inner thoughts and feelings.
Another thing that can be a real challenge for new fiction writers is the concept of point of view. Even if you’ve read a thousand novels in your lifetime, until you start to write a story yourself there are certain things that don’t come naturally. One of them is point of view, which is the person who is telling the story, or through whose eyes it is being observed.
Consider point of view carefully. If you really want the reader to relate to your protagonist, the story should be told through their eyes, even if you’re using third person narrative and not first person. If you have a single viewpoint story, then your main character is the only person whose head you can get inside for their opinion or feelings. The opinion or feelings of anyone else can only be expressed through what the main character observes, i.e. their physical reaction.
Another way to maintain continuity for various viewpoints is to cut and paste relevant scenes into a separate document so you can read them in sequence. That way you don’t have to dig through anything in between to make sure there’s a logical flow to what they’re doing.
I don’t always write scenes in sequence, but skip around. Since it’s important to keep the flow of the story going in the proper order, I find this is helpful to maintain character development within the story. Characters should change and evolve, and by having all their action in a single document makes it easier to see the story through their eyes and how their motivation or attitude might change.
When writing a story from multiple viewpoints, I find it helpful to concentrate on one character at a time. That way I can really get into his or her head and trace the story line as it plays out for them. Maintaining the proper chronology seems easier as well. This is most common for secondary/supporting characters as opposed to your protagonist, who is driving the story.
I tend to get ideas for scenes that don’t necessarily fit where I am writing, especially a first draft. In other words, I don’t start with Chapter One and proceed in order. When an idea comes, I need to get it written right away, or it will evaporate. This works for me, but does require paying attention to the story’s timeline and keeping everything in the proper sequence. My main point is not to ignore an idea when it comes your way. They can be fragile and disappear if you don’t capture them when they’re fresh in your mind.