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How many POV characters does a story need?

So, I'm making decent progress on my WIP, nearing the end of the opening Act of the book. At this point I have 3 POV characters. Each is fast heading towards events that will imperil them and cause them to make choices that will stay with them the rest of their lives. For now, the three are enough to tell this story.

Yet, as I begin to think about Act 2 of the book, that middle that can be long moving the characters from dire situations to dire situations, heaping on the punishment, daring them to give up, I'm wondering if I will need to expand the view of the story and add any other POV characters.

It is a possibility. I'm toying with making the current antagonist a POV character. He's an interesting fellow, a bit different from his own people, who are quite foreign to my main characters. I just don't know enough about him or his culture yet for him to be a POV character at this moment in the book. I'm learning about him as one of my current POV characters learns about him. Though he would make for quite an interesting POV as he is an outsider and can give the reader a different view of the land and people I am presenting most of the story from.

Also, one of the knights may work as a POV character. He will probably be a POV character in one of my later books as he plays an important role in future events. It all boils down to what I need the reader to experience directly and whether or not my current POV characters will be in the right places at the right times to accomplish all of this.

One question I ask myself is: If my POV characters aren't covering enough scope of the critical story, do I add a POV character to cover this or am I not telling the story properly? Have I gotten away from these 3 characters too much?

I don't have an answer for that yet, nor do I feel I need one at this time.

To any writers of multiple 3rd person POV stories:

How do you know when you have enough POV characters to tell your story? How do you know when you have the right POV characters to tell your story?



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 25th, 2008 12:28 am (UTC)
I can only speak from my vast experience of one just-completed first draft, so hopefully someone who actually knows what they're doing will comment too! But for what it's worth:

I faced this situation a little while ago too. My book started out with only one POV, the heroine's, but by the time I'd written about a quarter of it I started to feel constrained by that. There were other things I wanted to show that I couldn't without other POVs. Sure, you can have characters tell each other things or otherwise find out about things they can't be present for, but that wasn't what I wanted. I ended up with four POVs -- heroine, hero, villain and heroine's best friend.

Now that the first draft is finished, one of my major tasks with the revision is to go back and add scenes with those other POVs right from the start, and develop their stories more. So you can always do that. Just keep writing, see what develops, and retrofit later if necessary.

Knowing if you've got the right POV characters? I read somewhere that the person with the most at stake in a scene should be the POV character, which I found helpful. How many is enough? How long is a piece of string? More than one and less than George RR Martin, maybe! (Not that I don't love GRRM -- I do, I do! -- it's just that by about book 3 I was wishing he'd stop introducing new POV characters and get back to the stories of the ones I really loved from the beginning. And suddenly having Jaime Lannister as a POV character after hating him all that time nearly did my head in, though I got used to it eventually.)
Jul. 25th, 2008 02:23 am (UTC)
I try to apply at least one of two rules to deciding the POV character of a scene when more than one POV character is present:

1. Who has the most at stake. (as you mentioned in your post)
2. Who knows the least about what is happening?

Usually one or the other will work out who to choose. My bigger dilemma is whether or not to make a character a POV character. I feel obligated that, once I make someone a POV character, they must have some significant resolution to their own storyline.

As for George R. R. Martin, I think he may be the best I've read recently at just enveloping a scene in a POV character's perspective. One thing he does exceptionally well is refer to characters as the POV refers to them. Especially in Jamie's case. In one of his earliest chapters as a POV character he refers to Brienne, not by name, but by rather insulting words.

Martin's been an eye opener for me in immersing the narrative of each POV in their personality and language and thought process.

As for my WIP, I'd like to keep it to the three POV characters. I just don't know though, hence the posting.

I appreciate your comments.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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