For those fans of romance, we know that most romance novels jump between the hero and the heroine’s point of view (POV) throughout each story. There are many very popular series, including Harry Potter, the Twilight novels and The Hunger Games, which give us the limited first-person POV, and yet still manages to successfully tell the story. But are more character POVs better or worse for good storytelling?
In the crime drama The Perfect Death by James Andrus, we follow the police investigation of a missing teenager which crosses with the investigation of a woman found murdered. The course of the investigation is shown not only through the thoughts of the lead missing person’s Det. John Stallings and his partner, Patty Levine, but also the lead homicide Det. Tony Mazzettia; the squad Sergeant; the killer; and even occasionally the soon-to-be victims. Although the storyline itself was interesting, the constantly changing POV was dizzying, with many scenes only lasting a page and half. At times, it added to the drama, building small cliffhangers, but for the majority of the book, these mini acts worked more like speed bumps on a highway.
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, is a zombie story which occurs in the future where society has reinvented itself followed the fashions of the old Victorian society after devastating global changes and the introduction to the Lazarus virus caused the dead to rise. This is also a love story which follows the life of Nora Dearly and her zombie-soldier love interest, Bram Griswold. Although the premise of the zombie love interest and the new old Victoria Society is very clever twist to an old story line, Author Habel also adds the additional POVs from Nora’s friend Pamela, an army officer, and Nora’s father. These additional POVs come just in time to slow down the action, and the information presented to the audience through these additional characters, especially from Wolf and Victor, were not essential to moving the story along and drew us away from the building storyline.
Can multiple POV’s work? I am going drag one of my favorite books off the shelf to give you an example. Stephen King’s The Stand is a prime example of where multiple POVs not only work, but actually make the story as wonderful as it is. The Stand follows seven major characters of the story, on the side of both good and evil, and there are any number of other minor characters that also get a chapter or two. Here, each POV takes up the entire chapter which keeps the action flowing and building for that character. Not only is each POV important to their respective story, but every POV is important to the overall building of the entire story, and the bringing of all the characters together for the final showdown between good and evil.
A presentation of a wonderful story can undermined by the simple fact of who the author chooses to tell that story to the audience. Would Harry Potter be the same if you knew what Lord Voldermort was planning, or whether you knew if Snape was good or bad the entire series? Would Twilight be improved if we also saw world through the eyes of Edward, Jacob, Chief Swan, the wolf pack, and the Cullens? Too many POVs can detract from the telling of the overall story if stopping to change characters ruins the momentum of the plot. Unless a character’s particular POV is pivotal to the presentation of the overall story, it is better to have them step back and let the main characters present the whole story to keep the action flowing.
What do you think? What books with multiple POVs do you think work—or don’t?
Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog http://ebookobsessed.com. Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.