How To: Multiple POVs

Points of View, or POVs, can be a powerful tool when writing fantasy or science fiction stories. Not only is it common across both genres, it allows you to explore aspects of a story that would otherwise be lost if you were to use one point of view.

However, POVs also introduce an exponential level of complexity to your story. Each POV is in itself it’s own story, that has it’s own cast of heroes and supporting characters. As such, introducing too many POVs can mean your story becomes too complex to handle, or loses its pacing.

This “How To” article looks at some top tips for writing multiple POVs – let’s dive in!

What’s the purpose of the POV

Each POV should have a wider purpose in the story, driving one plot thread or aspect along the book’s arc. If it doesn’t, the wealth of information you’re including in that POV risks slowing down the pace of your novel.

So, before you start tackling the details of each POV, have a think about:

  • What is this POV adding to the story?
  • What is the wider plot line that this POV can carry? Why?
  • Does this character need a POV in this story? Could their POV wait until a future instalment in the series?

When you’ve got an idea of what each POV you want to include, then you can decide who gets a POV.

Who gets a POV

POVs are normally reserved for the “main” characters of a story (both heroes and antagonists), the direct voice of the story to the reader. Therefore, you’d expect to have the main character to have at least one of the POV slots in your story.

However, you can also use POVs to add some intrigue. Brandon Sanderson does this in the Stormlight Archive by having interludes from different POVs, using those snippets to build context in the wider world that the main POV character simply would not see/be aware of. Likewise, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Series takes you inside the mind of the Forsaken a number of times, showing how fractured the relationships are between the “Bad Guys” of the story.

POVs are a personal decision, depending on the voice of the character and the purpose they serve your story. But do remember, not to include too many!

More POVs = More Plot Holes

Each POV you add to a story adds approximately 1×10^7 the amount of complexity to your story.

(A very scientific calculation, I know).

So why do I say that?

Each POV you add is a new character you need to flesh out to a lot greater depth than your “normal” side-kick characters. You’ve got to really understand their drivers and emotions, and give them a new “voice” to the other characters you’re writing. Yes, that’s right, sometimes your writing style can change with your POVs!

The other thing you have to be aware of is how adding more POVs impacts your overall book – the plot, the pacing and the complexity of the story. If you’ve not established clear plot anchors throughout your story, you risk your reader becoming lost as they try to keep track of all of the POVs. Think about a time that you’ve played a computer game and can’t remember half of the quests, what they do, or what you’re supposed to do about them – that’ll be the same for the reader if you have too many character’s POVs to follow.

Likewise, trying to keep up the continuity in one novel is hard enough, but when you throw in multiple POVs it makes this exercise harder. Not only do you have to remember where characters were standing or saying, but you’ve got to ensure their voice and cues stay consistent throughout the novel.

POV away, but with care!

I love using POVs in my writing, especially to try and hoodwink the reader into believing something that turns out to be false, or to increase the tension between chapters (nothing like a good cliffhanger & a split to another POV!). It’s also great fun to play around with the character’s voices and tones as I write, beyond just physical or verbal cues. The way they describe things, the way they think when they meet other characters, all of it adds a richness to the story.

Do you like using POVs in your writing? What’s the maximum number you’ll put into one story?

Featured Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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