1. Jarvis XIX
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    Jarvis XIX Member

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    How Many POV characters is too many?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jarvis XIX, Aug 27, 2016.

    Whilst comparing notes with a friend, I realised that I have ten different perspectives on the relatively small scaled events of my novel, whilst my friend who is writing an epic-scaled fantasy has only three. I'm writing in the third person, and switch between the characters infrequently. Typically, they have their own chapters, but three of the "villain" characters are close, so they often share chapters, and I have two detectives who work together. The one leads, but the other will sometimes have paragraphs or sections to himself. The final perspective is from a disembodied narrator figure.

    Is this a case of too many cooks or is it just down to style?
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Anything can be pulled off if the author is skilled enough. For most of us? 10 is too much. I know I couldn't pull that off!

    I'd write it how you envisage and then let beta readers tell you if it's worked or not.
     
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  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think I would ask why each one needs to be a POV character. I recently went through this on my latest revision and found that I really didn't need that many. I revised several chapters to consolidate POVs.

    Good rule of thumb: is the specific POV necessary to the story?
     
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  4. Domino355
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    Domino355 Contributing Member

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    One of the reasons the Song on Ice and Fire books are so long is that they're written in so many different main character perspectives. Each POV character you add will be drawn automatically towards the main char slot (although you can have POV secondary characters). Now each charcter will need his own arc, and his own divelopement, which translates to a high word count. So, especially if you're a beggining author, I'd say that 10 POVs is too much.
     
  5. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    It sort of sounds like you'd be better off writing in omniscient third - no one "perspective" but the ability to switch from one character to another's thoughts in a moment.

    eta: Or, rather, it kind of sounds like that's more or less what you're doing but maybe you should commit to it more fully?
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ten is a lot. Not saying it can't be done, but... wow. It's a lot.

    Are you telling ten different stories? The same story from ten different perspectives? Do all the plots mesh together or are the characters spending significant time on their own projects?

    If there's a way to simplify, I'd be tempted to take it.
     
  7. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    Look at your POV characters. Really think about why you need to see the story for their POV. Consider that you could tell their story just as effectively, if not more effectively, from another character's POV.

    The reason you have a POV character is to provide scope for your storytelling. By narrowing the perspective, you get a more focussed view. There might be things you desperately want your readers to know about all your characters but trust that the perspective of one allows your reader to challenge their observations and speculate on what might really be going on. This invites your readers to engage more deeply.

    I would suggest that you look at who your characters are most interacting with, and pick 2 or three common denominators. For example, if two or three characters tend to be spread across all necessary scenes relevant to the plot then only their POVs are necessary to tell your story.
     
  8. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    You can still have ten characters, for sure, but why would you want ten points of view? That's a lot. Is there a reason you didn't choose to write in omniscient? It really might be a better option for you.
     
  9. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I second others here, ten sounds like a lot to manage. I think the biggest POV cast I've juggled was six and to be honest, 3 were MCs and 3 were supporting, although the latter also had POV chapters when needed. So far three has felt like the sweet spot for me, but of course anything can be made to work.
     
  10. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    And what always goes along with a POV is an important (to the story) character goal and if that particular goal doesn't shed light on the central ideas of the story, it doesn't need to be followed through to a conclusion.

    Yes, all characters still need goals (otherwise, why are they in the story?) but whether or not the reader needs to see them fulfilled is quite another thing.
     
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