Pros and Cons of Multiple POVs

If you were to open my writing folder, and look at the stories I've written, you would start to notice a pattern. At first most of my stories featured 'I', or a POV (Point of View) I kept forgetting to name. Then I experimented with two POVs, before falling in love with third tense and three or four perspectives.

Now almost every one of my stories feature multiple points-of-view.

What is it that draws writers and readers to stories that feature the viewpoint of more than one character? And what is it that turns them away, or scares them to explore multiple POVs? Today I'm going to be discussing my personal list of pros and cons for having more than one POV in your story!






Richer Story

As they say, there are two (or more) sides to every story. Having multiple POVs means the reader can explore more of the storyworld, see a different angle to events, and know the motivations behind many characters' actions. It gives a depth to the story, and shows more than one side to a tale.

Allowing the reader to get into the head of different key players in the story, gives secondary/antagonist characters, who usually might not be the POV, a moment to shine. It shows the reader that they too have goals, and are not there simply to carry the plot along.

Source of Greater Conflict 

If your POVs are in direct opposition to each other, and both are likable/sympathetic, the reader will be even more heavily invested in your story, as they'll be torn between deciding who they want to succeed. (For example, two POVs who are each other's antagonists.) This internal conflict in the reader will have them tearing through pages, eager to see how it ends.

Internal thoughts are also the best breeding grounds for secrets and misunderstandings. In one POV, the character might reveal they're going to betray another POV, which creates a tension in the reader throughout the book, making them question when this betrayal will take place, if they'll go through with it, and so on. In writing, more conflict is a good thing!


Improve Voice

There are two types of voice in writing: character voice, and an author's voice. Writing multiple POVs in a story improves both! Even without name markers at the beginning of chapters, readers should be able to know whose head they're in as soon as it starts. Writers are able to refine their characters' voices in each POV scene, really tapping into who their character is, and what makes them sound different.

While the distinction of voice between POVs is important, if the style of language and flow is too jolting between scenes, it could be jarring for the reader. The trick is to find the right balance between the character's voice, and the author's voice, and having multiple POVs is the perfect time to learn and practice this!




Possibility of Confusion

Though multiple POVs can bring the story great depth and richness, if it's not executed properly, it can seem as though some POVs were thrown in for no reason. It's important to give every POV a purpose in the central storyline, or hint at the role they'll have later on in the novel. Otherwise, the reader might grow frustrated at what they see as deviations from the central story, and why they're hearing the thoughts of characters who aren't relevant and/or as likable.

And in my personal experience, when you get more than four or five POVs, it can be hard to remember all the different character names!


Longer Wordcount

To coherently tell one POV's side of the story, they have to have many scenes over the course of the novel. When you have multiple POVs, each with their own climax, inciting incident, midpoints, etc. the wordcount goes up, and up, and up. Though this may not necessarily be a problem if you write short novels in general, if you're already a lengthy writer such as myself, the count might get a little too high to be comfortable. And of course, the higher the wordcount, the longer it takes to write and edit!




Can Lose Focus On MC

For every story, even ones with multiple POVs, there has to be one main character. Without this character, the story would not be possible. If there are so many events, new thoughts, and new characters being introduced all the time, it could be easy to lose sight of the core story. One of the tricky aspects of writing multiple POVs is not letting the MC, and their shining personality, get lost among all the other voices.



Do you prefer to write in multiple POVs or just one? What challenges do you have writing more than one POV? Who are the POV(s) in your story right now; tell me about them!
Good luck with your writing, and have a fantastic day! <3

Comments

  1. I'm writing with three POVs in my current novel, it's been a fun challenge, and I've learned a lot!

    Great post!!

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    1. That's great, three is a nice number! Thank you Gray! :D

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  2. I like having two POV's anymore then that and I start getting confused.
    I should probably work on that.

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    1. I can understand that -- though I prefer lots of POVS, it can get confusing who is who, and become hard to remember what their motivations are! :)

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    1. What? Longer word count... Nope, I would never do something like that. And my sequel didn't end up 20,000 words longer because of POVs...
      *cough*

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    2. Haha oh dear. xD Well, if it makes you feel better, when I fleshed out a single new POV in one of my stories, I added 33,000... You're not alone. :D

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  4. I'm soon going to start planning a story with multiple POVs, so this is really helpful things for me to consider/remember! (Gosh, Melissa, all your writing tips posts are SO HELPFUL) Thanks, girl! <3

    I've always been apprehensive about multiple POVs, especially if they're alternating first-person narrations. I don't want to confuse anybody. But the pros you mentioned sound awesome, so I think I want to try it sometime! xD

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    1. Awww thanks Lila, I'm so glad I can help you out! *many hugs* <3

      Ah yes, alternating first-person narratives is where it gets tricky -- personally I try to stick to a maximum of two POVs for that kind of narration, otherwise it becomes too confusing. In talented hands I'm sure I could handle more, though! xD Yay, I can't wait to see what you come up with!

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  5. I've been doing single omniscent POVs - that's my signature style. But I've been experimenting with a 4 POV work and am thinking of adding a second POV to Fair Winds to give the story much more depth.

    I'll definitely keep these pros and cons in mind!

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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    1. That's a very interesting style! Omniscient scares me a little, so you have my respect, haha! Experimenting is great though -- the perfect way to learn as a writer. :)

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  6. My current WIP has two /main/ POVs, and then two minor ones that don't show up that often, but show vital parts of the story. I tend to stick to my MC, but my MMC and two of the supporting characters REALLY REALLY NEED to get their parts in too. I love doing multiple POVs, in all honesty....XD

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    1. I have a smiliar structure to one of my works! It sounds like you've really thought out who needs 'screen time' and for how long, and the importance of POV to the storyline, which is so great! So do I, I love showing different sides to the story! xD

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  7. Ooh I loved your pros vs cons list for this! I used to honestly hate reading multiple POV but now I super much like it?! Oh how things change haha. 😂 I do need to not have too many perspectives though...if there's more than 3 I really start to get suspicious because I feel sometimes too many = none of them are fleshed out or complex enough? (Not always though! Like Six of Crows has 5 and I love it!) So I prefer 2 tbh. Although the book I'm writing right now has 3 so *zips lip* These things happen.😂

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    1. Thanks Cait! <3 Haha it is funny how reading tastes change! I used to be a strict contemporary and historical reader, and then I met fantasy and BOOM I was in love with it. xD That is true -- 4 is my limit, and then I start to get a little lost in general. :D Oooh 3 is a nice, evenly balanced number; excited to hear about this story!

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  8. Great list! I love finding pros/cons lists that I totally relate to as a writer. I have written both ways, from single POV stories to 15+ POV series and everything inbetween. Honestly, I don't know if I prefer one over the other, for me it just totally depends on the needs of the individual story and how expansive my world is. Sometimes it's sad not being able to explore another character's POV though when you've decided to use only one or two. To me, so long as the POV choices are consistent and helping move the story along, there can be any number of people telling their story (within reason, haha).

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    1. Thank you, Emily! :D Wowza, 15 is a lot, but since it's over a series, I can understand that, haha. Great point! Oftentimes how many POVs needed, is a decision that is individual to each story, and what kind of story you want to tell (and how many sides to it you want to show!). Thanks for commenting!

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  9. I absolutely hate different POVs written in first person (one is ok, more? not so much). I cannot stomach it along with present tense and when the two of them are combined...

    I don't really have that much of a problem when I see the name of the character before their POV but when there isn't even the slightest of clues whose POV I'm reading...Then I get mad XD

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when a series starts in a certain way, let's take Red Queen as an example. The story in the first two books is told from Mare's perspective but in the third book there are suddenly two more POVs! I just hate that, I believe in sticking to the way you've started and I always say that if you feel like you would need more POVs then it's for the best to write in third person :D I actually recommend it a lot.

    Some times, depending on the story, I would write in the first person and sometimes I would in the third. Right now I'm actually struggling with figuring out which way I should actually write. My recent idea is something like an urban fantasy and I personally believe that first person is better but I also feel like I would have to show somebody else's POV at some point and yeah XD

    - Yuli Atta @ Damaged Pages

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    1. Two, or three if done well, is usually my limit for first-person POVs, and then I can get quite confused.

      I feel you there. xD

      Ah that sounds very annoying. I haven't read the whole of the series, but a sudden shift from solely Mare's perspective does sound jolting.

      I understand the struggle! I'd probably recommend third person, but really, you know what's best for your story. :) Thanks for commenting Yuli!

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  10. This is a good list! Another con can be the POVs sounding too the same. I've seen that in way too many books. XD

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Victoria! Oh definitely, I've read a few of those myself. xD

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