1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    How many POV-characters...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tesoro, Mar 5, 2011.

    can you have in a novel? im talking about third person POV in this case.
    I mean, without it being too confusing to keep them apart? Is there a general rule about this? I have 3, 4 if you consider the little part of a char that figures in a side plot... i dont think that it is confusing or is it? or even if its not, is it still too much? does it make it less personal or somehow ruin the story? I stick to the same characters POV in each chapter, does that help?
    What are your opinions on this?
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a newbie: Don't try to juggle more then 3.

    As GRR Martin; Don't try to juggle more then 30.
     
  3. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    3-4 characters will be no problem for the majority of readers. I've read a novel with around 20 main characters, and I still managed to keep track of them all (though my mom was a little confused by it). Have you read White Teeth by Zadie Smith? The novel is imo a little boring at times, but she is very talented at switching between several characters and making sure we know them all (a little too well...)
     
  4. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Three is all right. Don't switch POV mid-sentence or mid-paragraph. The best is to keep each scene/chapter within one POV.
     
  5. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Story wise, you can have a few. Chapter wise, i'd try and stick to one, maybe two.
     
  6. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    What Speedy said,

    I have several POV shifts between characters, but of course they are limited to their own chapter or chapter half.
     
  7. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Why not? Guy Kay does it and it works.
     
  8. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I've only read one Guy Kay novel, but I don't recall him making mid-sentence or paragraph pov switches.
     
  9. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Read "Sailing to Sarantium."
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I haven't read Guy Kay, but I'll take your word on that. May be he pulled it off, and there is no definite rules in fiction writing, but I don't see any advantage of doing it. Will you say his work is better because he changes POV mid-sentence? Unless the answer is yes, I don't see the point other than unnecessarily complicating things for the readers.
     
  11. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Nah. If anything, I'd say it was a bit hard to swallow in the beginning, but then it grew on me, like almost everything else about his style.
     
  12. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    I have uh... 3 POV characters, but instead of giving them each separate chapters, I have so far managed to give them each some POV but switch between paragraphs, or even within a paragraph, do a transition. I think it works well, but I have thought about doing their own chapters though I think it would maybe turn out untidy for me. At the moment, using several povs at once, you get to learn about all the characters at once.
     
  13. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    My current project has four primary main characters. They frequently split up, in which case a chapter is told just form one character's POV, but they are also sometimes together, in which case I concentrate on one POV.
     
  14. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Don't overthink it, Tesoro. :) Three to four POVs is a very good start. If done well, I don't think it would be confusing at all. One of my new favorite authors writes in omniscient and jumps in and out of four main POVs in her books. She does it very well, and it isn't the least bit confusing.

    A lot of authors keep chapters dedicated to one POV of their group of characters. I think that's a good way to go as well. Are you writing in limited-third person or omniscient?

    To my knowledge, I don't think there's a rule as to how many POVs are allowed in a chapter. It's really all how you write them in. You can focus primarily on your main character's POV in a chapter but also break into lesser characters POVs. This is a good way to go. Your readers shouldn't be too confused, I would think.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    thank you all. Im not familiar with Guy Kay, but i have read a book recently that switches POV i the middle of the scene, and sometimes repetedly, so sometimes i have to go back and check who's head im in :) In a way i like it because you can see the same scene from more than one POV which can be nice and give a more complete feeling, but im not sure if i can master it so right now if i HAVE to i try and put a blank space between the POVs.
    Im not sure about the definition of Limited Third Person or Omniscient, but if got it right my POVs are Limited Third P. In omniscient POV, can you still "hear" the thoughts and feel the feelings of the Chars or does it just describe their actions without knowing how they feel and think about what is going on?
     
  16. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^No, you're right. Limited-Third Person is when the reading is limited to one POV. Your main character's POV. Omniscient Third Person is when you can jump into the heads of your other characters and get a sense of who they are aside from what you can see.
     
  17. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Limited third person point of view sticks to what the point of view characters knows. Even if you have multiple character is still Limited Third person.

    Omnisceint can also be used no matter how many characters you have and is not dependet of what they know, or that even any character at all is aware of something.
     
  18. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    And it is called Third Person Serial Limited, where you have multiple (two or more) viewpoints but limited. You are right, it is quite different from Omniscient POV. Simply put, in omniscient you have a narrator who knows it all like a God, the narrator's knowledge is not limited to what the chars see, hear, smell, or feel.

    Tesoro, I think you are writing in third person serial limited POV, which is fine. Omniscient is considered out of date and not usually used in today's fictions.
     
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  19. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, i cant come up with ANY book i have read that was written in omniscient POV. Maybe that is why i cant tell what its like... it does seem a little out of date...
     
  20. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Isn't Larry McMurtry's style considered Omniescent third person? Also John Steinbeck?
     
  21. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It not out of date, just out of fashion. It will come round. And most movies are filmed in this perceptive. So it very much alive in our story telling tradition.

    It used in humor and satire as well. Both Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett make use of it (even if Pratchett don't use it in all his books.)
     
  22. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    No one has mentioned length. For a 60,000 word novel 2 POVs is plenty. Between 70-90,000 words, 3 is enough. Between 90,000-140,000, not more than 5. You probably have 2-3 characters whose story comes in for more detail in a longer work. This isn't counting what I call the 'asides' you might have--when e.g. a taxi driver character has his five minutes of fame, like the cameos in a movie.
     
  23. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess I am out of step again lol I think Gus and Iris will be omniescent (sp??) Third Person. I am going to be the narrator.
     

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