1. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

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    How many POV Characters do you have?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AndieBoDandy, Jul 6, 2019.

    Hello Everyone!
    So I've been working on a novel, and when I'm not here procrastinating, I'm often on YouTube procrastinating... by listening to authors who blog about writing and publishing. One of my favourite bloggers often goes into mistakes that new writers make--which was.. having to many POV characters.

    I think I may be guilty of this. She suggests that new writers limit themselves to 4 or 5 POV characters. So my question is: What are your feelings on this? and How many POV characters do you have or use?


    If this has already been addressed elsewhere in the forum; I apologize. Please redirect me there. =)
     
  2. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    My advice is stick to the Main character as much as possible (protagonist) and only switch POV when it is necessary
     
  3. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    I believe for a novel, sticking to the minimum of POV characters is wise. You want the reader to identify with them, and if there are too many this gets difficult; not impossible, mind, just dependend on the skill of the writer.

    I am writing (connected) short stories and a novel (connected to the shorts). My novel has two POVs. My short stories are standalones and told by one POV each, though a lot of them are written from the POVs of the novel. My hope is that the connection will become apparent if the reader reads them in the timeline
     
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  4. Lilith Fairen

    Lilith Fairen Member

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    One of my novels has six POVs—roughly 90% from the protagonist, 9% from the deuteragonist, and 1% divided among four other characters.

    Because that works for the story. And automatically following any "rule of thumb" other than "what works for your story" only weakens the story.
     
  5. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    I think if you're skilled and have characters with very different personalities you can pull off quite a few POV characters but that does mean you don't get so close to one or two - which is fine. Mine only has one because it's a very personal story and it's her story really, not anyone else's. We do see how the entire situation and her actions affect everyone around her but it's very indirectly.
     
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  6. Jovette

    Jovette New Member

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    I have 3 POV characters whose personal stories are all closely linked. I find too many POV can make relating to individual characters difficult and switching between POV can interrupt the flow of the story.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Loved by a Sweet lady. :) Supporter Contributor

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    III :p
     
  8. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

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    Thank you all for your replies. I am feeling bogged down as of late, and seem to be second guessing everything I have written. When I write, I picture everything as a little movie in my head as I try to weave it all together... I sometimes have little scenes with alternate POV characters for only a few paragraphs when my MC isn't present. So I guess I am wondering if I need to cut out or rework these scenes or if this is normal. I am wondering if I am confusing exposition with narrative in these areas. Is it possible to have narration without POV? I am having trouble defining my question here...
     
  9. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    Three of my earlier novels had four or five viewpoint characters (you should probably only have one main character, but viewpoint might alter in various kinds of work). Another of my novels had two, 95% of the space dedicated to the main character as viewpoint. The remaining thirty or so novels have one viewpoint character, even though half of those are in limited 3rd person.

    As a general rule, you will want to limit the main characters to ONE. If employing some form like multiple limited 3rd or limited omniscience, as few viewpoint actors as you can limit to. As well, generally speaking, you give more space to a main character as viewpoint. There are plenty of exceptions to all of this, but in those cases it is apparent why.

    Lots of writers (almost always new ones) want more than one main character. It is odd that new writers like that idea (particularly in romance), given it's nearly impossible to pull off, giving the new writer just one more hurdle to jump.
     
  10. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    If you are diving into a head for the convenience of tidbits of info and minor incursions, it is highly likely that all you're really doing is head hopping and ought to cut it out. WE READERS DO NOT HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING. Ambiguity is often the best thing possible.

    Then again, you mentioned exposition, and confusion, so let's do some thinking here. Always ask yourself who the view is. Any exposition is going to come from some source (Who is telling me this?). If it feels like the author is telling us the content, that author is the viewpoint (a generally frowned upon omniscient view, and not one of the actors.)

    If you are in view, that means that all epistemology resides from view. NOTHING exists unless the viewpoint actor is concerned about it, at that precise moment. As well, the source of us knowing it is the viewpoint, PERIOD. If a tree fell in the forest and the viewpoint is not concerned about it, NO DICE. Thus, what is the exposition all about, when you mention that word in conjunction with viewpoint actor? To me it means that for some reason the viewpoint has it on his mind, precisely at the moment you expose it. If you mean content that just happens to fill us in, that is likely author intrusion and in most cases it has to go.

    Not sure what you are asking, but it is extremely easy to know what an actor is thinking without telling us what he or she is thinking, if that helps any. I never have any trouble doing that via other means.

    On the other hand, you might be asking if you can write omnisciently, such that the external narrator is dominant and never dives into any head at all (the external head is the only one we get). Definitely that is something we can do, but I strongly advise against it, particularly if you are asking the question because that will be a very hard sell.

    Let's backtrack a tad. All of this depends upon your viewpoint approach, which is never taught in school, incidentally. Consider, for example, what it means to be in 3rd limited view. That means that only one person is the window into the work. That person is the only one who can see, hear, smell, taste, feel or think. Everyone else is either in front of him, in back, to the left, right, up or down or in his imagination. He is the center of the universe (yes, in 3rd person). This grounds the work and sets the stake, as well as defines the limitations. We are assisted in stakes and we are gravely assisted in voice.

    Now, if you choose to make someone else the viewpoint, usually you wait until it's a good time, like a chapter break, and then we treat that person with the exact same respect.

    In some forms, this varies. For example, in limited omniscience, we have an external narrator who passes down view to one actor. That actor passes it back up and the external narrator can then pass it to someone else. Some choose to make that external narrator very human with a strong voice. Others might choose to only allow that external narrator to pass down to one person, through the whole novel. Others might choose to write it objectively, never visiting any head, like a reporter. The forms are many, but the issue is one of design, intent and control.

    In today's genre market, most tend to employ either 1st person or some form of limited 3rd writing. If they choose omniscient writing, the best of them tend to go for a strong and identifiable external narrator, and a limited pass off to viewpoint actors. Typically, new writers love the flexibility of some form of omniscient limited work, but for all the wrong reasons. Experienced writers can, of course, do whatever they choose. My advice, since you are still figuring this out, is to go with either straight limited 3rd or some form of multiple limited 3rd application, and skip the omniscient telling altogether.
     
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  11. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

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    Gary, thank you for your input. I greatly appreciate it. I was having a lot of trouble expressing myself; even when I was trying to explain my concerns to a friend earlier. I think my insomnia has just overwhelmed me and I was having problems thinking straight.

    I think this clears things up for me. I'm not head hopping, nor is it author intrusion. It also isn't info dump. So I'm probably doing a lot of worrying over nothing. I think the test would be whether or not the story will hold up if the scenes I am concerned with are removed.
     
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  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

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  13. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Senior Member

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    Hello, friend. :superhello:

    Hmm... I would say for someone that is starting a story, have five POV characters may be excessive; I will suggest two or three. This mainly because you are just beginning and that may confuse you a little during the process of your story. Not to mention that even if you plan to have five characters, you may realise that three or even four may not be your mains but just one.

    In my correct project, I have two main characters and six secondary characters. With just two POV characters is not only easy, but it's also good to focus on the plot and their motivations.
     
  14. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter Contributor

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    I'm usually not a fan of small throwaway POVs, though there are effective ways to use them. Right now I'm going with 4 POV characters for Stars Extinguished. Three generally good and one bad. Each is introduced through the story before their viewpoint comes up, and while they all go off and do wildly different things throughout the world, they do come together and interact some. This lets me do fun things with control of information and when the reader receives it. For example, one POV character starts acting oddly and the POV shifts to another character before we can see why.
     
  15. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I had never heard of limited omniscient. I may look it up, as well as the "passing down to one actor" and so on.
     
  16. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If your story is plot-driven, I think you can get away with more POV characters. The reader is more interested in the story's events rather than the development of the characters. Multiple POV characters can put lots of 'eyes' in lots of different places, so this works. The reader doesn't need to get emotionally involved with the characters in a plot-driven story.

    If you are writing a character-driven story, however, it's usually a good idea to stick to one main POV character, with maybe only one or two secondary POVs to achieve insight. In a character-driven story, the reader's interest lies in watching that character change and develop during the course of the story. It's the inner person, not the events, that makes the story. A single POV helps to keep the reader immersed in that character's inner life.
     
  17. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    The concept is actually quite simple. In most omniscient writing we have a godlike or grandfather like or something-like invisible narrator who is presenting story from some distance. Now, at some point within the story that invisible narrator hands the viewpoint off to an actor on the ground and limits the view to that perspective. Later, that limited actor might hand the viewpoint back to the omniscient invisible narrator, and that narrator might hand it back again, or if within the design, hand it to someone else. Thus you have moments of omniscience and moments of limited 3rd. Generally speaking, if you control it and are fairly persnickety about not wandering afield willy-nilly, it's a bonified limited omniscience handling. Two things, but handled by the author with what we hope is a level of expertise, so as to employ the best of both worlds, without head hopping.
     
  18. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    In my soon to be released novel, Daniel Fights Racial Bio-Genocide in Sting of the WASP, I have Daniel and his team, the FBI, Homeland Security, the antagonist, and that guy who’s supposed to be a protagonist but does more damage than the antag. I couldn’t think of a way to show all the different things that were going on without a change in POV. Maybe I need to learn how to write in omniscient ltd
     
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  19. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    Sounds to me like you need someone else to be the viewpoint for a while, which would call for multiple limited 3rd. One person is viewpoint for a chapter or so, then someone else is, for a while. The intrusion of a distant narrator seems like something different, as I hear you describing it.
     
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  20. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    @Gary Wed I dropped a couple of examples in the novel workshop.
     
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  21. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    One quick question: are we talking about different scenes here, or the same scene?
    I've tried to look it up but searching "limited omniscient" all I get is limited 3rd vs omniscient.
    You don't happen to have a link by any chance, if only to get me going?
     
  22. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    Viewpoint, in general, is rarely covered well, particularly using sources on the web. I feel for you, there. In fact, I went to about twenty sites that seemed to be interested in explaining limited omniscient, and all twenty were utterly useless and mostly misleading.
    So, I found one small source that does sum it up, though without much help in defining HOW it is applied:
    ***
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narration#Third-person

    In this source it calls it third-person alternating (also sometimes called omniscient limited or limited omniscient) simply says:
    Third-person, alternating[edit]
    Many stories, especially in literature, alternate between the third person limited and third person omniscient. In this case, an author will move back and forth between a more omniscient third-person narrator to a more personal third-person limited narrator. Typically, like the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, a switch of third-person limited viewpoint on some character is done only at chapter boundaries. The Home and the World, written in 1916 by Rabindranath Tagore, is another example of a book switching among just three characters at chapter boundaries. In The Heroes of Olympus series, the point of view changes between characters at intervals. The Harry Potter series is told in third-person limited for much of the seven novels, but deviates to omniscient on occasions, particularly during the opening chapters of later novels in the series, which switch from the limited view of the eponymous Harry to other characters (for example, the Muggle Prime Minister in the Half-Blood Prince).[10]
    ***
    What this basically means is that if you have an external narrator who might see many things broadly, at some point in time that external view hands view down to an actor, through whom the story is then told, until that actor hands it back up or has it taken away.
    There is no rule to when that happens, other than it is suggested that it is clear and necessary. I would not wait for a chapter break because it would seem like the external narrator is not controlling the pass, but that's case by case.
    Further, you might only have one limited view actor or you might have more, each in well-controlled turn, of course.

    All of this differs from head hopping, which by definition means the writer is showing no control, completely the opposite from being very much in control of where that view is passed.

    One interesting book that shows how creative you can get with viewpoint is Gregory MaGuire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. In that book he has a narrator who we sense as external, but in the end realize is not. From that source, we sometimes visit other views, from time to time, chearly handed to by that "external" narrator. At one point in the book there is a ball scene, wherein viewpoint swirls around the room, from one actor to the next, like the energy of the ball itself. Then in the end you see who the external is, and why that external narrator is always a little constrained. The book is a masterpiece of alternative viewpoint work.

    And, I say all this from the perspective of one who has written many novels, none of them limited omniscient. I could do it, but I'm just not interested. (Full disclosure)
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
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  23. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    @Gary Wed

    Thank you. "A Song of Ice and Fire" seems what everyone is doing these days. I like to think of it more as a collection of chapters in 3rd person limited than omniscient narrator. My idea of omniscient narrator is more around the 19th century classics. Yes, with head hopping and narrator intrusion and all.
    But I haven't read any of the mentioned books. (I read the first Harry Potter but I wasn't paying attention to POV. I never did when I was a "normal" reader.)
     
  24. C.D. Silb

    C.D. Silb New Member

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    Unless your story is massive in scope, pushing well beyond the 100k words range, then I wouldn't shoot for too many different POV. Even in those instances, having too many can become confusing for some readers or make them lose interest because they aren't connecting with specific characters that they like.
     

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