This random writing thought is a little on the long side. I intended for it to be short and sweet but as I continued to think about the topic, I found that it was much more complex than I originally thought.
The question that started it all is:
How many is too many when it comes to point of view characters?
A POV Character is the character whose perspective will carry the reader through a scene.
All POVs out there, with the possible exception of Omniscient will be using one of your stories characters to draw the reader into your world and show them what's going on.
In some cases, like with the novel I am currently writing, you'll be using two or three characters as POV characters. In these cases, you might find yourself getting overwhelmed by all of the possible characters you can use in this position.
Even first person POV isn't always safe from this question as I have read a few that switch POV characters.
Well, what's wrong with that, you ask. I have these awesome characters. Why not use them as much as possible?
There are a few reasons. And those reasons are what this post is all about. :)
1.) Jumping in and out of different characters heads could mess with your pacing.
Just think about it from your readers perspective.
One minute they are in the middle of a chase scene, and then suddenly you switch to a slow scene from another characters POV. Now they have to become invested in a completely different character and set of circumstances.
You have to remember that all of the tension you worked up during the first scene will have ample time to dissipate depending on how long you make the next scene. And while cliffhangers can work for you in some cases it's important to keep your pacing in mind.
One way to do this is to keep the scenes connected.
An example would be a scene where your heroine is getting attacked, followed by a scene where your hero/love interest is nearby but unaware of the danger. Doing this will have the reader yelling at him to hurry up and get to her so he can help. (A bit cliche perhaps, but still a good example if I do say so myself.)
2.) Your characters might not become "real" to your reader.
In a book where there is one POV character your reader is forced into their head 100% of the time. This gives you ample time to share their personality, backstory, and character flaws with your reader.
Now imagine you have two POV characters. Suddenly you only have half the time to share facts about your character and get your reader engaged in them.
The more POV characters you have the more the time on the page gets divided.
This isn't always a deal breaker.
You don't necessarily need to get your reader into each characters head to show them off. Showing the way they act and speak through your POV characters eyes is always a valid way to introduce others. (Come to think of it, all books do this to a large extent.)
But it is worth keeping in mind.
3.) Having a lot of POV Characters could lead to confusion.
Not just for your reader but potentially for you as well.
Keeping track of who knows what is always a challenge in writing a complex novel.
Now add what you need your readers to know and who tells it to them/how they learn it and things can easily get out of hand.
If you have one POV Character, say your protagonist, you know that your reader knows only what you have revealed to him/her.
If your protagonist hasn't learned the villains scheme yet, then neither has your reader.
If they're in the dark about the sidekicks backstory, then your reader is as well.
This can make plotting easier, as you will know exactly what needs to be revealed to your reader at any given time.
Now, imagine you have two POV characters. Your protagonist and your villain.
Suddenly keeping track of who knows what is much harder and you have to be more careful with how you write out a scene.
If your villain doesn't know about your protagonists counter attack, you have to be sure you don't reveal that information in a scene where he's POV C.
Likewise, if your enemy is closing in on your protagonist from the shadows, you can't say anything about it if you're in your protagonists head.
Again, this is not a deal breaker. Just something to keep in mind when writing from multiple characters POVs.
So do you have too many POV characters?
If you find you're struggling with any of the above mentioned issues. The answer is probably Yes.
The solution would be to rework scenes until they all revolve around fewer characters.
What do you think?
Have your read any books lately told from multiple characters POV? Did they suffer from it or did it work?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. Next week I will be continuing this line of thought with the question: How do you know if you're using the right POV character? So be sure to check back in next Tuesday. (Or you can subscribe to get new post notifications sent to you via email!)