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How Many POVs Are Too Many In Your Novel?  

Is it possible to tell your story from too many angles?

By Barbara KingPublished about a year ago 4 min read
How Many POVs Are Too Many In Your Novel?  
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Sometimes one of the hardest questions to answer when starting your novel is just how many points of view it should be told from. 

You don't want your reader to miss a single thing so telling the story from as many points of view as possible might seem like the ideal choice, but there is such as thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to writing too many points of views and there are a few important rules that you must be following if you're going to write more than one viewpoint character in your novel.

When deciding how many points of view are in your novel start by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Who is my protagonist and do they need a point of view to understand and progress the plot.
  • Who is my antagonist and would their point of view enhance the plot for the reader?
  • What other supporting characters influence the plot in a significant way?
  • Are you using multiple viewpoint characters as a way to avoid showing events through the eyes of the protagonist?

This last one is answered yes more often than you might think. If your protagonist is the main character in the scene it should be told from their point of view instead of some other viewpoint character. If the scene is difficult to write try changing it up or taking some things out that aren't important to the scene but will help you tell it without the aid of the additional viewpoint. 

Each point of view should be from a character who has something at stake within your novel whether they are on the side of your protagonist or not. 

Too many viewpoints are sure to throw off your reader so try to keep the amount to a manageable minimum, possibly between 2–4 so as to not cause too much chaos for your reader. 

Rules to follow in books with multiple viewpoint characters.

  • Each character must have a distinct voice 
  • Limit in-chapter viewpoint changes to a bare minimum or better yet none at all. Head-hopping is certain to confuse or irritate your reader if they have to become a detective to figure out whose viewpoint they are now following all in one scene. 
  • Avoid repetition, If you've already written an event through the viewpoint of another character then writing it again without many changes can bore or even annoy your reader. 
  • Don't forget to make it clear which viewpoint is which through a chapter heading or through dialogue tags. 
  • Make sure the characters whose viewpoint you are writing is the one who has something at stake within the scene

Some readers hate stories that contain multiple viewpoints because it disrupts the reading process and gives them more work to do to read and understand your story since now they have to remember who did what or who said what or what happened where.

If your novel needs multiple points of view in order to tell your story effectively try to make their transitions as easy to follow as possible and only done when necessary.

If a scene of a new character has a viewpoint that adds no necessary information or doesn't advance the plot, try to ask yourself if it's really necessary to include it or if it can be merged into the protagonist's viewpoint or erased altogether.

If you need to write it all out from the viewpoints of different characters you can always go back and makes changes during editing. 

Best of luck and keep writing.

With love, 

B.K. xo


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About the Creator

Barbara King

Barbara King is a full-time writing coach and novelist. King is a recent college graduate from Southern New Hampshire University where she earned her BA in Creative Writing.

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  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago


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