How Many POVs Are Too Many?

Photo credit: Ram Balmur on Flickr
Judging by the various critiques I've done over the years, point of view, it seems, trips a lot of writers up. It's easy enough to understand why—when you come up with a great cast of characters, it can be tempting to think the more perspectives in the story, the more readers will connect with characters—and therefore, the story. Furthermore, exploring different character perspectives can be a great way to get to know the characters, which then makes it much easier to write them as fully realized people in your novel.

Only problem is too many POVs in a novel can make a story confusing, unfocused, and leave writers connecting with no one at all. But how many perspectives are too many?

The truth is, there isn't a magic number, because it's going to vary novel-to-novel. But the key to figuring it out is answering this question:

Whose story is this novel?

This requires paring down to the core of your story. It means thinking about what the story is really about and who the story is really about. Usually the answer will be one, maybe two characters, but sometimes the answer will be a little bigger than that. That's fine, the key is to just be honest with yourself when you answer the question.

Remember, when it comes to novel-writing, readers rarely need the perspectives of various periphery characters in order to understand the story. Sometimes—I'd wager many times—a minimal approach really works best.

How do you determine who your novel is really about?

Twitter-sized bite:
How many POVs are too many? And how can you tell? @Ava_Jae breaks down this common WIP problem. (Click to tweet)

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