The Craft of Writing

POV’s – How Many is Too Many?

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I love books written in multiple points of view.

LOVE THEM. LOVE THEM. LOVE THEM.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed single POV books, because I certainly have.  For me, those books tend to be plot driven.  THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT are a couple of well-known examples, and those also both happen to be YA (which is usually the case for that genre).  But if I want to read a good thought provoking story, I just need more.  Perhaps I get bored staying inside one person’s head for an entire novel, or perhaps it’s the analytical side of me that yearns to understand every possible angle.  Multi-POV’s help me satisfy both.

Everyone has a different opinion of the world and the people in it.  Everyone has a different past that has led them to those opinions and beliefs.  I’ve changed my feelings toward a particular subject on more than one occasion, simply because I was shown the world through someone else’s eyes.  This is one of the reasons I love a good anti-hero and coming up with extremely flawed characters, because it reminds me that everyone is right from their own perspective.  It’s easy to forget that through the fog of our own prejudices.

But how many is too many?  How many views do you really have to show to achieve this?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because my editor believes one of the POV’s in my latest WIP isn’t necessary.  It’s not the first time I’ve heard this, so when she mentioned it I didn’t put up a fight.  In fact, when I went through my WIP and took out the scenes from this character’s POV that didn’t damage the main plot, I cut 10,000 words out of my manuscript.  10,000 words!!  Given, I still have some scenes that will have to be rewritten through another POV, but damn that’s A LOT. And I have to admit, it sounded good telling my husband, “I edited 10,000 words today,” when he asked how it was going.  I was on cloud 9!

But then my dear cousin, who so graciously read my manuscript for me, tells me she loved my book and really related to one of my characters.  Can you guess which one?

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**Big Sigh** I can’t win.

NOW what do I do?  This is the EXACT reason I wanted this POV in the first place.  I knew someone out there could relate to her position, and I thought it was important for the reader to see my main character through this person’s eyes.  Could I achieve that without going inside her head and dissecting her thoughts?

After A LOT of debating, I’ve decided the answer is yes.  She’s still there and definitely an important part of the story, but it’s not her tale I need or want to tell.  I was sacrificing the depth of my other characters by wasting page time on a thread that really doesn’t relate to the main thread, all in the name of developing a character whom the story wasn’t meant to be about.  And, while it might not be as easy, I can express her viewpoint through her interaction with the other characters without digging too deep into her psyche, the way a POV character deserves.

And, again, that’s 10,000 words!  10,000 words I can devote to my other 3 POV characters, increasing their depth and their pasts.  Because really, this book was meant to be about them.  About their screwed up little family and how they find a way to make the dysfunctional functional.

So how many POV’s is the right number of POV’s?  I really do not know.  But for this book and this family, it’s 3.  And I’m not going to change my mind again.

At least I don’t think.

Jenna P

4 thoughts on “POV’s – How Many is Too Many?

  1. Sometimes we can switch that person’s pov and add it on to another character’s pov to make a more rounded character and cut out the extra one. Could you do that without sacrificing your inner story? I like about three or four (at max) povs to round out the story without narrowing the focus down to “he said, she said.”

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