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  1. Violet1

    Violet1 New Member

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    How many POVs is too many?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Violet1, Jan 3, 2021.

    Hello! I'm new here so I had no idea where to put this but I have a question. So I have seven main characters. Yes, seven. Presley, Thea, Kaleb, Audrie, Chloe, Leo, and James. I know that might seem excessive but each of them is vital to the story. The thing is, their thoughts and memories are just as vital to the story as they are. I have been writing the story in all seven of their POVs but I am starting to wonder if it's too much. I'll be fine writing it, I'm just worried about whether it would be too complicated to understand? Further in the series, two character's POVs will be dropping out (one character dies and another goes evil) if that changes your opinion or advice. In conclusion, I was wondering if I should keep all their POVs like I am doing now or if I should alter it just a bit. I hope that made sense and please help!
     
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  2. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    There is no set number of POVs that you can do, but overall if the story starts to become confusing or difficult to get yourself into because you're constantly switching POV's, then it might be excessive. For me, personally, a lot of POV switches starts to feel like the car is stopping and starting again.

    Consider for a moment that maybe, just maybe, not every single memory being told in every single POV really is that necessary. Especially if these things relay no new information.
     
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  3. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    without knowing your story, how should we advise? Yes, 7 is a lot and not common, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. I ran into a writer on FB who signed with an agent and her book had 7 POVs (high fantasy) - mind you, she's said the agent has now asked her to cut back on the POVs. Either way though, clearly it's possible. If it's your first book, it might be a hard sell, but if the story needs it, it needs it. Finish the book the way you envisioned it - at the end of the day, bringing your vision to fruition is the only reward and satisfaction you really get from writing - it's the only thing that's guaranteed. Finish it. Worry about how to sell it later. If it's written well and it works, it'll find its audience.
     
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  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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  5. hirundine

    hirundine Contributor Contributor

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    Mine has three in the first half (that's how many main characters I have) and four in the second when a fourth main character is added in.

    Occasionally there will be a scene from the point of view of a supporting character, but only when there is an event happening in the present that the readers need to see, but that the major characters are not present for.

    It can be done with seven, but I agree with the people who are saying it could get confusing or irritating if done badly. I would suggest cutting it down to three or four if you can.
     
  6. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

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    I'd say too many is either more than you can handle or more than you need.

    While, being a fan of fantasy, I love multiple POVs, I feel like adding more tends to weaken the story more than it strengthens it. Which is why it's important to keep it to as few as possible. Though that could just be me getting frustrated reading POVs I don't care for when I'd prefer if the book focused on the ones I liked most.
     
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  7. s.j

    s.j New Member

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    I recall reading a book where every chapter had a different character's point of view. There's no rule saying how much varying povs you can or can't have. Just as long as it's well written and thought-provoking, and doesn't confuse a reader, it should be good.
     
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  8. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Supporter Contributor

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    If you're doing them well and they mesh in their narrative, you're good. If you leave the reader annoyed because as soon as he's deep in one character he has to get out and into a different head, it's too many. I guess it depends on the execution.

    This might be a sign that your subconscious tells you yes, they are too many. Whenever I find myself having doubts about something, it usually turns out that I should have listened. I don't know how well your internal shit-detector is honed, though.
     
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  9. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    Writing is like cooking. And as such context is king. You wouldn't limit a chef on spices but at the same time. A chef shouldn't just add spices cuz he can.

    The thing you have to remember is that. You know your story. You know context. You know why this is being added. But a reader doesn't. And if it feels like things are there just to keep piling on to the stack of "it will make sense later" most readers will stop caring.

    I mean perfect example. I was reading a book and in it. There were 2 pov at first. And I was fine with that. I liked both characters and wanted to see what happened to them. But then suddenly. Half way through I got hit with chapter after chapter of new characters. Don't know exactly how many but it felt like ten. And I just gave up. It felt like a different book.

    The thing is though. It doesn't matter if it is 10 or 2. Shifting pov is essentially changing the story. And if I only like 1 character. That means I inhierently only like half the story if there split between 2 evenly.

    So inhierently less is better but more can be done. Just it's such an uphill battle. Cuz essentially you have to make them all interesting. Make them all relivant. Change between them at times that audience will enjoy.

    And like doing this for 2 is incredibly difficult. So 7. Certainly an uphill battle.

    I also challenge the notion they all matter. Like I am sure the way you see the story they do and you could give me ten pages of context why that is. But like. Usually this isn't the case. Some details you think are vital aren't. Or some that you wanted from this one pov can be achieved if you rewrote the scene a bit.

    Ultimately it is up to you to write this in a way that people enjoy reading. If you can manage that with 7 shifting povs. Well then we should be asking you for advice. Not the other way around. Nothing wrong with trying. Just understand your biking uphill on that one. Fair?
     
  10. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    As always it depends on the story you want to tell. I think that many POVs are good for grey and complicated stories with plots that goes into each other, but that can also bloat the story and confuse the reader as to what's important and how its all connected. Single POV stories are better for a clear narratives and perspectives but can, in my opinion, be simplifying things for the reader when other perspectives on an issue or sequence of events is not offered on the same level of importance by the author. Thus a situation which is complex can gain the illusion of being simple when we only have a single perspective on it.

    That's how I see it.
     
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  11. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    There is no limit for how many POV character's you can have.
    But I would ensure each character was important enough to have one, just because a character is vital to a story doesn't mean they need to be a pov character. But knowing so little about your story it's very hard to give any real advice.
     
  12. ruskaya

    ruskaya Contributor Contributor

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    if you are set on the essential role each of these character has on your story, then just make sure you label clearly when each POV is speaking. One way is to make each POV speak in one (separate) chapter that you can carefully label with that character's name or else as reference for the reader to know which POV is invoked when.
     
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  13. baboonfish

    baboonfish Member

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    this! Im trying to think of books ive read with multiple POVs but struggling a little. Something like Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haunted_(Palahniuk_novel) where all the stories are connected is about as close as I can get. But yeah, seven is a LOT, not sure I would be able to keep up personally. Can you not tell a few of them via another character's POV to get it down to say 5? I think I could handle 5 lOl. But at the end of the day its your story and its for you, if its gotta be 7 then write 7 and reader be damned!
     
  14. FlyingFishPhilosophy

    FlyingFishPhilosophy Member

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    The wheel of time series has 147 unique POVs..

    Admittedly, there are 14 books and they are all huge, but still. It can be done.
    Robert Jordan did start his story with only very few POVs. Most of the POVs added in later played only small roles which were often closely related to the plot at hand, making it less confusing.
     
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  15. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    I choose the MAIN main character and try to make half of the chapters from their POV. I then alternate POV in the other half among the "secondary" main characters. I've never attempted seven but I think it would work fine if it was a series.
     
  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm thinking of the first Dune book, which is relatively short and easy to follow as far as Sci-fi goes. There's got to be... what? 10 - 12 POVs? Paul, the Duke, Jessica, the Baron, Feyd, Yeuh, Gurney, Chani, Stilgar... okay, that's only 9 but there's probably a few more. I get that Herbert head-hops four times a paragraph, but each of those characters has at least one chapter-scene primarily through their "POV."

    It's probably easy to follow because the majority of the characters are in the same location and constantly interacting with each other along the same basic storyline. More difficult when they're doing their own thing throughout multiple locations and never really meet each other.
     
  17. Idiosyncratic

    Idiosyncratic Active Member

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    Another way to think of it, you have too many points of view when the costs outweigh the benefits. The benefits are fairly obvious, you can easily show the thoughts, memories, and emotions of different characters, and can explore plot elements that a different character may not be present for. The costs can be trickier. The more you swap between characters, the less time we have to get attached to each pov. Some readers will like some points of view more than others. The more you have, the greater the odds of annoying the reader by leaving behind their favorite pov, not spending as much time in their favorite pov, or even having pov's that they skim and dislike. More pov's are also sometimes used as shortcuts; easy ways to convey information or emotion when there might be more creative or interesting ways to do it.

    To give a common example, A Game of Thrones has eight pov characters, nine if you count the one from the prologue. It's 300,000 words long, and the first in a lengthy series, which mitigates many of the issues with switching too rapidly or not getting enough page time in the most important pov's. It also has an epic-scale plot with many pieces moving in different locations, so there are strong benefits to using a larger number of POV's that most books don't have.
     
  18. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    Too many POVs is when you a) start repeating things already seen by other POVs, b) start giving stuff not relevant for the story or c) cannot keep up with various POVs. Whichever of these points you reach first, you should stop. For example, compare Tolkien and Martin. Martin has a huge number of POVs telling a hugely complex story. It is good, because that story is about politics and stuff, so massive detail may help. But I have seen comments (by some GRRM fans) that Tolkien's lack of similarly diverse POV cast is a shortcoming in the story. Except... it isn't. A Song of Ice and Fire reads like history - as I mentioned, details, politics, names and so on. Lord of the Rings however is fantasy, with major elements of mistery and unknown; adding as many PoVs as Martin had and as much detail as he did will have been detrimental to the story - it simply would not have fit what Tolkien was writing, which was mythology, not history.

    So:
    1) Figure out what you want to do - not every story needs multiple PoVs, so pick whichever fits the best
    2) Figure out what you can do - no use in writing 15 PoVs if you can hardly keep a track of three
     
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