Monday, August 2, 2010

Debate on POV


My wife and I went to the Giants game last evening (where they swept the Dodgers by the way!) and while there I got to thinking, like I do, about books and the POV (point of view) of characters in them. Hold on, let me explain. Fans follow a myriad of ballplayers, teams, and even umpires along with statistics, etc. Now in books we have multiple characters, both minor and major, that we as readers follow throughout the rising tension and climax of a story. One of the debates amongst authors, agents, and publishers revolves around how many perspectives should exist within a book. Some writers like just one perspective (i.e. their protagonist) and other authors prefer multiple points of view in their books.

Last Friday I got some great feedback on this blog, on facebook, and in emails from a bunch of you regarding your thoughts on writer’s conferences, which it turned out a lot of you seemed to like the West Coast ones you’ve been to in the past. Today I’d like to venture a little deeper into the actual art of crafting a story and ask your thoughts on POV. I have my own opinion on the topic, but I’ll hold off on giving it just yet as I’m curious and open to other ideas. How many POVs do you like in both the books you read and the ones you write?

I’ve heard different reasons for going one way or the other, as I’m sure you have. One publisher told me once that she thought Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain had too many perspectives although the majority of the novel revolves around primarily three characters. Others I know love some sci-fi books, such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy where each novel has an incredibly diverse set of POV characters to the point that singling out one character as the hero is a matter of debate. Then again Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandrian Quartet usually only has one primary POV throughout the novel, although there are creative ways of getting other perspectives even in a primarily single-person POV story. So what do you think? How many is too many or too few? When you pickup a book from the shelf or grab a classic/favorite novel, how many character POVs do you like to experience?