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One Single Story. Multiple Points of View.

Here’s a really important question that every writer should consider: How many points of view should your story hold?

In asking this question, we’re switching from our previous focus of strictly literary points of view to an overarching one. The kind we project when we’re debating ideas with our friends or analyzing political candidates – or delving into a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Point of view. As in perspective. As in yours. Mine. His. Hers. Adam’s. Baya’s. Celeste’s. Damon’s. Etc.

In case I’m still not being clear here, let me rephrase the original question. Asking, “How many points of view should your story hold?” might not be the right way of phrasing it anyway. How about, “How many main character-perspectives should your story feature?” instead

Should you have one character who narrates the whole story? (Or, along the same lines, have the whole story narrated from that single point of view?)

Or should you head-hop between multiple personalities, showing how a main protagonist sees the world in one chapter, how a main-ish secondary character sees the world in another chapter, and how the villain sees the world every once in a while as well?

Because, as we first alluded to on Tuesday, your story’s point of view can change.

Here’s what Innovative Editing has to say about that…

Ultimately, it’s up to you, fair writer. You’re an individual with individual abilities, inclinations and free will.

So consider your options. Scrutinize your story idea. Make a choice. And stick with it unless exceptionally compelling counterarguments come your way.

If you hate that inconclusive answer, here’s some further insight to consider.

It’s difficult to successfully narrate a story from more than three points of view.

Notice a key word in the sentence above: “Difficult.” Not impossible. Just difficult. So if you really want to tell a story from four or more POVs, then more power to you. Show everyone how it can, in fact, be done well.

It’s only a matter of there being more work (or raw talent) involved in keeping your readers engaged and in-the-know, your story professionally presented, and your details properly laid out without oversharing.

For anyone who thinks themselves up to the task, off you go!

More often than not, I’m pretty hesitant about making definitive statements on what to do and how to do it in storytelling. Definitive statements can far too easily take the creative out of the writing. And that’s the last thing I want to encourage.

You may have noticed how I’ll add clarifications or concessions to so many of the Writing Rules I list. That’s because, while there are at least 5 billion rules to write by, there are also at least 10 billion exceptions to that pool of generalizations.

The rules are there for good reason, mind you. But they should never trump your God-given, God-inspired creative free will. So if your story truly seems to call for five points-of-view, then get them down on paper and see if you can make them work.

To be clear, I truly have come across story after story after story where those attempts come across as one or more of the following negative descriptors:

  • Overly detailed

  • Unrealistic

  • Unengaging

  • Confusing

  • Convoluted

  • Unnecessary

  • Uninspiring

  • Aggravating…

However, I’ve also seen a story or two that did it tremendously. Those ones hop heads like they were created to do nothing less.

Which, I suppose, they were.

So how many points of view should your story hold? I don’t know. Let’s list them off and see.

That’s really the best way how to tell one way or the other. That and asking around. At least that's true in my point of view.

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