A novel with multiple characters and points of view:

I’m starting to write a novel told through different first-person narrators – like Tom Perrotta’s Election, Anita Shreve’s Testimony, or Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.

I’d like to organize the novel in two ways: in the order that the novel will appear (i.e., Mr. Sole speaks, then Sarah McCabe speaks, then Sheldon speaks, etc.), but I’d also like to be able to view each individual’s entire narrative – everything that Mr. Sole says, everything that Sarah McCabe says, and so on.

At the moment I have a “main narrative” folder and folders for individual speakers:

That obviously isn’t ideal, because if I changed what Mr. Sole says in the “main” narrative, I’d also have to change what he says in his “folder.” So I need a link to both places. The only obvious or easy way I’ve found to do that after reading through the Scrivener site and watching the videos is through references. If I write a section for “Mr. Sole” in the main narrative, I drag that section into the “reference” under the folder with his name:

This is okay and a vast improvement on other methods, but I have to double-click the little icon next to the description (I’m sure there’s a correct name for this) to get the text to show up. Is there a better way to do this? I can’t be the first person to have asked this question or worked on a project like this. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I would very much appreciate them!

Apologies in advance if I’m posting this in the wrong place; I’ve never used the Scrivener forum before, so this is a new experience.

Collections. Use them. Love them. :slight_smile:

What I’m doing in my current novel that has a few different POVs is to label each scene with the character’s name (renaming the “Label” meta-data as “POV”). I have the label color visible in the binder, so it’s immediately obvious even just through the binder (though I color it in the corkboard and outliner as well) how the novel is divided among the characters, whether it’s too heavy with one or if one character is overly concentrated in a certain area, etc. Additionally, though, you can easily search for all scenes with a specific label (in the search bar at the top, use the dropdown menu to select “search in label”–label gets renamed to POV, in my case–and then type the name you assigned) and you can save that search as a dynamic collection. This means that new scenes with that label get added automatically, so you don’t have to do that extra step beyond labeling the scene appropriately when you create it. If you move scenes around in the binder, they’ll automatically reorder in the collection, so you can open the collection in the binder and view all the character’s sections in their proper order, open them together in a Scrivenings session to see how they flow alone, etc.

If you’d rather use the label for something else, you can reassign the status to this purpose, use keywords, or create custom meta-data. Just keep in mind that though all of these can be viewed on in the outliner (and of course in the inspector, albeit not all at the same time), only the label, keywords, and status will be visible on the corkboard, and only label is visible in the binder. So it really just depends what all you’re keeping track of, how you’d prefer to engineer your project.

And that’s just my suggestion, though I’ve seen a lot of other people here do similar. Other people may have more ideas!

Perhaps I misunderstand your intent, or your system, but wouldn’t it be much simpler to construct your novel in whatever sequence you choose – with separated documents as each character steps forward to narrate – and then to assemble a collection for each character? That way you maintain your central narrative, but can at any time call up only those sections which are narrated by a particular person, without disrupting or repeating anything in the central story.


Thanks for the advice regarding Collections—I’ve started using them:

PJS, it would be simpler to construct the novel that way, but I basically want to be able to see the narrative unfolding in time AND what each character says (and where he or she says it). In essence, I want two pointers to a single scene, which could be ideally modified from either view.

It sounds collections will be the easiest way to accomplish that. If anyone else has advice, I’d love to hear it.