Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Argument Against Multiple Points of View

I can't afford to buy many new books, so I'm picky.

I'll flip through a book to see how it is written. If I find more than 2, that's right 2 Point of View characters, I won't buy the book. I don't care who wrote it.

Just as too many cooks spoil a broth, too many characters spoil the story.

This goes for novels of the 'suspense' variety that show the villain's (always uber-twisted) point of view as well. I don't want to hear or see the sick, twisted things this creep does for kicks. The story isn't about him/her anyway. So many authors give away their plot, instead of building the suspense, with a poorly timed - often poorly executed - PoV switch.

Blame my revulsion on over-populated works of fantasy & sci-fi. I read the first three of the "Wheel of Time" -er - mega epic. The flat one-dimensional characters blurred together from the beginning. I never finished the "Left Behind" series for the same reason. I gave up hope the writers would either develop or drop some characters, but no. Each book had a couple new, poorly developed, characters to track. I needed a database to keep track of them, and frankly it wasn't worth the effort.

(Yes, "Left Behind" is classified as Sci-fi. The series is shelved with the Fantasy novels in the local library. You cannot fool a librarian. But I digress.)

One of the joys of reading is finding a character with whom one can relate. That's how I got hooked on Nora Roberts romances, I feel like I know the characters. I want to know what happens next. I can forgive some serious head hopping, as long as there are only two heads to hop. (G)

It is more difficult to tell the story from a single PoV than it is to hop gleefully from head to head. It is as if the writer was a child on a trampoline, using PoV to advance the story. As a result, these books are choppy, even disjointed.

"Wee! There is my villain. Watch him eat babies for breakfast! Is he not the most villainous villain ever ?"

"Wee! Here's my hero. Is he not heroic?"

"Wee! She's the Designated Love Interest. Isn't she smitten? Doesn't she just hate the Hero?"

"Lookie, they all hate each other! We have conflict!"

That is hardly the way to write a good story. The purpose of the novel is character development. There are accepted schools of writing that talk about the 'hero's journey' of self discovery. Take note: Hero is singular. It is followed by: Self-discovery.

Not planet-wide discovery. Self!

I'll quote the back of "45 Master Characters" to illustrate the point. "The mythic journeys of heroes and heroines - the progression of events upon which each character arc develops - are also examined. Building such a 'journey' into your character's story will enable you to stop worrying about what comes next and get on with telling your tale."

Whenever I write a review,
I always check the Point of View.
If it sucks, the story does too.


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