Discussion: Single POV or Multiple POV? What do you dig and why?

Hi dear friends,

This Thursday’s topic was inspired by a conversation I recently had with my daughter.

We discussed the pros and cons of single or multiple POV in books!

Let’s state upfront that I think multiple POV are way more difficult to do right for the author! Especially if we have male and female POV. How do you find the right tone for a male if you are a female writer? Or write from a female perspective if you are a man?

But even if you have the same gender characters, giving each one his or her unique voice and distinctive traits is way more daunting if you see the story through the character’s eyes!

 

That being established, what could be the pros and cons of single or multiple POV?

 

You only have to write the story once!

If you write the book from a dual POV (the two main characters and usually the two lovers if you read romance like me) you don’t need to write a “companion” story written from the other’s perspective to have his say.

I honestly hate these companion novels written from the other main character’s POV because they nearly all the time tell the same story but with another voice. If some can find it interesting to understand the motives of that character (maybe reading Harry Potter through Voldemort’s eyes could be interesting) I just don’t want to read about something that I already know!

So if you insist on giving us the other’s voice then better make it a dual POV than a companion novella.

 

You sometimes frustrate your readers!

If you write from multiple POV, the chances are real that some or all readers will root for one character in particular. If your book is quite long and you always alternate the POV between chapters you take the risk that your reader might lose interest and just get bored with one or more of your characters!

I recall Furyborn and I just cared about Rielle (how that changed later by the way) and was only interested in reading her chapters.

When this happens it can become really frustrating for the reader.

 

You allow your readers to breathe and not drown in emotions

If you write a particularly heartbreaking story with one character having a dramatic life changing POV can be a good idea to lessen the drama and the tension. Some stories can become so overwhelming that the reader needs to pause, to breathe just because they are so immersed in the hero’s suffering that they can’t stand it anymore!

Introducing some chapters from another character’s perspective might be a good idea to make it “bearable” for your reader.

 

You keep the mystery and the interest whole

When you write a mystery or suspense introducing a second or more POV can send the reader on a goose chase! He is diverted from the main plot and you can introduce doubts in the reader’s mind thanks to the other person’s intake. Sometimes you can even use an “off voice”  to add a dramatic element.

Alternating POV can also keep you reader focused on the story as when one chapter ends they want to know more and just have to go on reading to get back to that particular’s hero’s part of the story and know more. When it’s smartly written these are books you can’t put down even to do chores or sleep!

 

You create potential for side stories or main stories about the other characters.

I don’t speak here of the same story from another angle (see above) but rather of new series featuring one of the characters whose voice we heard in the book! Think of Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series where many characters had their chapters and will now give birth to a whole new series, continuation of the old one but focused around other main characters.

 

Pfew these are some reflections about single or multiple POV but please, do add your two cents!

Do you like of hate multiple POV stories? Why?

Thanks for reading!

Sophie

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28 Replies to “Discussion: Single POV or Multiple POV? What do you dig and why?”

  1. Mary @StackingMyBookShelves! says: Reply

    I like both and actually if it is done well and not confusing PREFER multiple POV over single POV every time. I think it brings something to the reading like I can get into more than one character and immerse myself in what they are thinking or feeling. I like it better.

    Mary

  2. I like both. Multiple POV does need to be handled with care though, or it can get boring/ annoying.

  3. In general I like multiple POV but it has to be done right (and I agree it is much harder for the author to write) GOT got super frustrating for me because there were waaaaay too many POVs and I really only cared about one of them and she barely showed up at all in the last book published! I also don’t like it when the chapters aren’t clearly marked with who the POV is througth. Sometimes I can get a couple pages into a chapter and realize I had the POV wrong and it throws off the story and is very disconcerting. Have you read The Kiss of Deception? I really really liked how the POV were written and how you didn’t know which character was which. (the rest of the series sucked but I loved the first book!)

  4. I like multiple pov, because I’m always a big fan of detail and like to be totally emerged in a story. However, I agree it can sometimes overwhelm!

  5. The only companion novel I’ve never felt short changed by was Breakable by Tammara Webber because at last 50% of the book was completely new material and alternate pov part wasn’t a cut and paste job.

    I like both single and multiple povs… It depends on the story really. Although if it’s multiple povs keep them to a couple not half a dozen! That drives me nuts.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Oh I haven’t read Breakable Nicci (but well the other books) as I feared I would just read the same story with another angle!

  6. I do enjoy either but I think I like multiple or dual POV the best because I like getting into the other character’s mind, understanding where each of the main characters are coming from. AND I totally agree with you on the companion novel thing…for instance, I could not for the life of me get into reading Christian Grey’s POV after reading Fifty Shades multiple times!! (Maybe that’s just me??) Anyway, great discussion!

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      I did not read FSOG companion novel either!!!!!

  7. I read commentary on POVs all the time, and it’s not something that really impacts my reading too often, though sometimes I wish I had been able to get into another character’s head in a single POV book. I do tend to enjoy multiple POVs, because getting that different perspective can affect how I perceive the event in question. It can shed light on the what motivated a certain decision or how something affected a particular character. That single POV can sometimes rob you of knowing everything you want to know, though, I have seen it done well, where we find out important feelings, etc via dialog.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      So basically it all comes to the author’s talent Sam!

      1. Pretty much

  8. I enjoy both POVs. Multiple ones work well with several main characters. I like getting thoughts from all of them. I think it depends on the plot as to what works best. The only niggle I have is if I get pulled out of the story by being confused about who is speaking. If done well, they are very fun.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      yes the voices have to be very distinctive!

  9. I love multi POV stories! But as an epic fantasy reader, it does somewhat come with the territory. That said, it has to be written well, or it will lose me just the same 🙂

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      That’s true that multiple POV are more common in epic fantasy Mogsy!

  10. Thoses are all good points, neat posts!

    Personally, I like one person (talking in first singular person – I don’t quite like a outside narrator talking about the character..), or Two person POV. Two is however my limit .. once you get up to that I can guarantee i’m gonna be completely lost in the story and will not follow whatever is going on anymore xD there’s just.. too many people at that point ahah

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Too many and I am lost too Kristina! Plus I lose the main thread …

      1. Yep, same !

  11. I used to read mostly single POV, I think, but as I’ve been blogging and reading a lot more different kinds of books, I seem to encounter a lot more multiple POV reads. And to be honest I kinda like it! Your pros and cons are spot on, and I think one of the things I do like about multiple POV’s is the chance to see another angle- hopefully they’re not just telling the same story with a different voice, but giving us a perspective on things, or just information, that we otherwise wouldn’t get.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Exactly! It has to add new elements and not rehash old ones 🙂

  12. Great post, Sophie! I used to dig single pov but now I mostly prefer either dual or multiple pov’s.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Thank you Raven! Our tastes change as reader 😉

  13. Great points! I love multiple POVs, but they absolutely have to be done well. They only work if the author has a very strong grasp of voice. Sometimes, especially in YA, I read books with two or three POVs that really should have had only one. If all the characters are working with basically the same information, there’s not much reason to do it.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Exactly Katie! It’s only important if we have another intake on the story.

  14. Yep, all very valid points and then some. And now, you have me thinking about writing another article covering the pros and cons of multiple and single POV, as well. 😀 Personally, I like both, as in the hands of a good author, depending on the story being old, one or other an be used to good effect.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      I like both too Alexandra! And see? I am inspiring you, feeding your muse 😉

  15. I LOVE multiple POV stories- reading and writing them! lol
    Multiple POV give me as a writer, the wings to portray a story through different sets of eyes. This allows for a more immersive experience, in my opinion.
    As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed the male perspective, so multiple POVs works well for this. It also lets me have empathy for characters I might not have fully engaged with otherwise.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      You have a very valid point about empathy with the characters Jacquie! Seeing the story through their eyes makes us understand them better as we walk in their shoes.

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