Have you ever read a story where almost every main or semi-main character got a POV section at one point or another? Sure, it may seem cool at first, because you get a lot of different viewpoints and such. But is it possible you’re harming your story’s intrigue with too many POVs?
To me, one of the greatest intrigues about characters and story is looking into the deep yet subtle nuances of their emotions and actions to draw a conclusion. Rather than just knowing a character is unhappy, it’s much more interesting to see a little hint of something seeming ‘off’ and let my brain start turning it over, thinking about it. Did she storm off because she was mad, or because she was about to cry? And maybe, just maybe, that ‘villain’s actions don’t have such a…villainous root. Maybe they truly believe they’re doing the right thing. Interesting…
But, if you get to look inside everyone’s mind, a lot of these secrets quickly vanish. You know what all the characters are thinking, how they react to things. Unless the characters are fantastic liars who can manage to fool the reader as well as everyone else, the intrigue level drops a lot when you know everything. After all, it’s the unknown that intrigues us the most, wouldn’t you agree?
Now, I’m not going to say that having many POVs never works. I just think you need to be careful how you do it, as with everything else. In a murder mystery where all the characters would most likely be lying about their actions and motives anyway, it could probably be pulled off well. But I think it’s good to stop and consider this: Do you really need that character to have a POV?
I know, I get it. They’re your characters, you love them like crazy and you want everyone else to know them as well as you do. But haven’t you ever fallen in love with a character mainly because you don’t know their whole story, and that intrigues you? You wonder what the story behind their motives and actions are, but you don’t honestly want it all at once, as much as you think you might. It’s much more satisfying collecting bits and pieces and inferring things and creating an understanding of the character at the end. And, if you never truly get into their POV, you only have the other characters’ opinions to go on, and that can make things very interesting, because who knows, maybe that character isn’t what everyone else thinks. Time to go scrutinize those scenes again for clues. 😉
And I have to say, the worst use of many POVs I’ve seen is when I read a scene that introduces or displays a non POV character, and they do or say something that kind of makes me tilt my head and think. Maybe they just hate everyone, and another character has hinted at the fact that that character was not always like that. Oooh, backstory! Now I’m intrigued. I want to read on and find out about this mysterious character’s backstory.
However, my excitement is surprisingly quenched rather than satisfied when the very next scene is said ‘mysterious character’s’ POV and they immediately explain why they’re upset, or actually not upset at all.
Suddenly, all my excitement is gone, and not only that, I feel…cheated. Because really, we go into a story not wanting to know everything until the end, right? We’re promised a long and exciting journey of ups and downs, frustratingly delightful teasers and secrets that we can only guess at until we exclaim “Ohhh. That’s why.” and close the book with a smile.
But that satisfaction just isn’t there if there was no journey, nothing to figure out. If all the secrets are just thrown out there right away, what are we doing? We might as well be reading a textbook of facts rather than a story.
A few other things to think about: When you have many POVs, you get spread out more and don’t get as deep into a single character’s POV as you would with a one or two POV book. Plus, it can be rather confusing and straining to stretch yourself out and try to be invested in 5 characters at once rather than growing to love one, then another, then another, all through one character’s eyes.
So, next time you’re tempted to give every character a POV, consider this: Will it ruin the character’s intrigue if you give them a POV? Plus, is it even necessary to give them a POV, or do you just want to because they’re your character and, well, you want to?
Wow, this post has gotten quite long. Kudos to you for getting all the way here! I might have to have a sequel to this post, because there’s even more I could say on the topic. But for now, I’ll leave you with a question:
What is your opinion on many-POV stories?