Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A question about multiple points of view

A question for my writer friends out there.

Points of view (POV) - is it better to stick with one or introduce a few more characters to see/experience the action? With Borrowed Time, most of the chapters were from two characters' POV, in one strand. Occasionally, I had to give a chapter over to the teenage character, because she was there alone.  

Meanwhile, I have just read several books. One, an unpublished novel, is so solidly in the lead's POV it's an intense rollercoaster. Lisa Gardner's Love You More has two main POVs, the two lead investigators in a crime novel and the implied victim.Kelley Armstrong's Haunted is solidly in first person and Eve's POV. What are the benefits/disadvantages of using multiple POV? The novel I wrote in 2009 suffered from too many, I know. I tend (like all of the above authors) to write very close to the POV, going through the story as the character does. When I wrote the historical strand, I wrote the whole thing from Kelley's viewpoint, and it was a relief, just a first person (sometimes puzzled, sometimes biased) account. The novel I wrote in 2010 did have a strong central character, but was housebound, so a lot of the action happened away from home with another of the characters. I'm confused. How distracting is it for a reader to have to let go of one strand and take up another?

Nancy Kress in Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint offers this: "...have as few points of view as you can get away with and still tell the story."



  1. I never had a problem with the POV in Borrowed Time - in fact I was rather envious of the way you managed to slip from one to another without me realising!

  2. As a creative writer is 'Dinosaur' among the more sophisticated readers who can handle reading multiple POVs...

  3. The funny thing is, Tony, lots of very badly written books jump from POV and so I'm a bit careful. A lot of literary books stay solidly in one head - others go all over the show. I'm trying to walk a fine line here!

    As for Borrowed Time - I think swapping heads has led to many, many small errors. Back to the drawing board.

  4. My favourite comment from a respected magazine editor - when sending me articles to sub. 'Who he?' he'd scrawl in the margin of a manuscript or proof when a writer suddenly introduced someone halfway through the piece.

  5. One of my most embarressing moments was getting a letter back from an editor, who had noticed that two distinct characters had the same name - first name, surname, the works. In the same chapter. Oh, shame.

  6. I was not disappointed with On Borrowed Time. Grabs you in the first pages and keeps you hooked throughout the book. Great read. I would highly recommend. And if you have not read Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter series, you should certainly check them out! Great stuff!