I’m a shameless fan of writing in multiple POVs. My series has a large, diverse cast of characters and I’m all about giving each of them a voice, where possible. I also believe that telling the story through the eyes of varied characters gives a well-rounded perspective on the tale that you would not get otherwise.
Of course, this is not always a popular narrative choice. Some readers are very vocal about their dislike of this style. Does that deter me? Not even a little. But it does evoke a stubborn desire to want to do it right.
Many people will tell you that you should nix a POV if it isn’t absolutely necessary. They’re only half right. If reading through your story you discover that a certain character’s POV is adding little value or point, then it’s your job to either give that character’s perspective value or eliminate it. And if you are married to the idea of a character having a voice, then you can and should find a way.
So how do you give a character value? How do you ensure that multiple POVs adds to a story rather than detracts?
Here are five rules I always try to live by in my own writing:
Their perspective must add something that no other character’s perspective can offer. A good example of this can be seen in stories where the author wants the readers to know something that they don’t want other characters to know. Maybe you want the readers to know the villain’s true intentions, but you want your protagonist left in the dark. Or you want everyone except the star-crossed lovers to know how each other feel.
The character’s perspective must advance the story, not stall it. Flashbacks may be an exception (if used as a method of giving a crucial perspective), but there is nothing more frustrating for a reader than an unnecessary side plot. All plots and perspectives should serve to advance the central plot.
Alternating character chapters should not be used to recap the same scene from a different perspective. The only exception to this is to give an opinion/reaction/perspective on a major event, however even in this case the chapter should advance the story.
The character’s voice and viewpoints must be wholly unique so that the characters do not run together. Voice becomes even more important when you’re taking a character from a secondary to a primary, but it also becomes more challenging.
The character’s perspective must serve some purpose other than exposition. If you can’t find any value in a character’s POV other than just explaining something that could be just as easily explained by someone else…then either rework that character’s role or remove the POV.
Any other writer tips on effectively using multiple POVs?