Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is Multiple Point of View Bad?

Most fiction novels are single POV. Mine is multiple. Is multi-POV bad?

Why is this such an important question, Ellen? Maybe because I like to procrastinate when I ought to be writing. However, hopefully someone out there is pondering this as well.

I love Jennifer Roberson's books. She wrote the Cheysuli Chronicles, a lovely Highland romance, and a fabulous two-book set on Robin Hood (among others). I started reading her in high school and I admired her books so much, I felt a need--a palpable need--to touch readers as she touched me. So I emulated JR by writing a multi-POV fantasy story. Having several characters speak to me was an element of her writing that really made the stories come alive.

Ever since then, I've struggled to write single POV. I love the flexibility of digging into the observations of more than one character. I think it helps to develop the extra characters, the cast, the chorus and make them more than moveable cut-out figures.

However, I rarely find that to be an issue when I read. Unless the writing is bad, I'm not prone to count  how many characters are telling me their personal opinion or wish I could know what a minor character is thinking. When Single POV is good, I admire the author for being able to provide so much information without preaching or reading a laundry list. It seems much more difficult to plant the seeds of discovery with just a single point of view.

Lately though, as I read, I'll think how I would have handled the moment, the dialogue, the revealing of important information differently than the writer. But isn't that the essence of reading novels? Fiction isn't just about the stories because the archetypes are limited and we have a basic pool of generic characters from which we select our cast. Obviously a plot must be strong but what keeps readers repeatedly reading the same story? It's the nuance of the individual writer. Think about the authors you enjoy. Do they have a consistent technique that you associate just with them? Do they surprise you?

When reading romance, one already knows the lover is unbelievably handsome but what makes him special to that book is how he's developed--the little idiosyncrasies that the author applied. Especially in romance novels, we know the plot before we start. It's the external forces and the way the author combines the basic pool of generic characters that makes readers read.

So it just comes down to preference, I suppose. Some people will never really like multi-POV. Some of us will marvel at single. But as writers we have to trust our instincts and listen to the story. If we write a good one, people will read it.