Holly posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
In today’s market, how many viewpoint characters are allowed/considered acceptable? In my current WIP, I have 10. The story has an epic sweep: wars, genocide, heaven’s doors closing forever. It’s definitely not a quaint little romance story, but is the quantity of POV characters going to distance the reader too much, even if I employ a lot of deep POV in the respective scenes?
Randy sez: Ten POV characters are a lot, but in an epic kind of a story, it’s entirely appropriate. Think how many focal characters you see in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I never counted how many POV characters were in THE GODFATHER, but it felt like about fifty. Romance novels tend to have only a few POV characters, and rightly so. Big-canvas novels with many characters on many stages have more, and rightly so.
In my own fiction, I usually have somewhere between 3 and 5 POV characters. I’ve done a novel once with 2, both of whom were told in first-person. (This novel is yet unpublished.) I’ve also done one with about 9 POV characters. (This one also needs a home.)
It’s important, when you have a lot of POV characters, to remember that one of them needs to be the most important one. In THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the main character is Frodo. Of course, there was a long stretch in THE TWO TOWERS where we didn’t see Frodo. However, we had a stand-in there for him — his two young hobbit friends, Merrie and Pippin. Frodo was never far from their thoughts, and therefore never far from ours.
What do my loyal blog readers think? What’s your favorite novel? How many POV characters does it have? And in your current work-in-progress, how many POV characters do you have?
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.