Lesson Fifteen from a Manuscript Red Line: How Many POV’s Can You Have?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

At one point in the red-lining of the manuscript, the publisher stopped, and wrote a full page explaining the importance of careful Point of View switching.   I’m glad you’re on a computer… It means you’re probably already sitting down.  A lot of you might not like this much.  I know I didn’t.

The publisher counted nine different POVs in the Gold Mine Manuscript.  They said the problem with this is the reader can’t get deep into one character.  They realized the author was going to different POVs to give background, but they said that they could not relate to these new characters, because they hadn’t learned enough about them to understand their motives.  It makes it very difficult to feel anything for any specific character.

They cautioned against switching to POVs that are not intrinsic to the story just to give background, conflict, or added tension.

The publisher recommended **Gack** editing it to three points of view, one of them being the female character, who had not been a strong POV character in the original.


Now, I must say that I’ve read a partial revise of the gold mine manuscript.  Do not be daunted.  I’ve seen that this can be done.  If a scene in an “unnecessary  POV” has important information in it, you just need to get creative and find a  way for the POV characters to be there, or overhear what happened.  It’s possible.  You just need to broaden the scope of your thinking.

In my next post, I will show you the tool I used to break down my POV characters… and yes, I needed a tool.  I was surprised with how many POV’s I had!

Jennifer Eaton


19 responses to “Lesson Fifteen from a Manuscript Red Line: How Many POV’s Can You Have?

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. Thanks Jennifer, these are fantastic articles.

  3. Jennifer, you have made some truly educational posts! I just came across your blog and am glad I found it. I’m looking forward to learning a lot here.

  4. Pingback: Great bloggers are writing FAB stuff – check it out! – Natalie Hartford

  5. Fantastic post – I’ve ALWAYS wondered the answer to this question.

    • Remember, this is not so much an answer as it is a guide. I think they were just saying that the POV characters need to be VESTED characters. One or two more, if they are main characters, would probably fly if there are TRUELY characters that are major enough that the readers can relate to them.

      Any character that is only there for a few chapters though, should NOT be given the coveted POV position. After reading their comments, I understand that more, now. It makes sense.

  6. Lovely post. I can see what you mean about using multiple POV and needing to get creative. I ended up keeping it down to just a few and if another person needs to make a statement then the PV will observe the person in question and try to guess what the issue is. I also fell victim to diologue dumps. Good luck!

    • Oh! The dreaded dialog info-dumps! I had a few of those.

      What’s worse, though, is the straight-out stream of consciousness write-on-forever about “how much I hate my boyfriend”-type info dumps. Errggg! Those drive me crazy.

  7. Erg…just finished rewriting 3 chapters where this is an issue. My MC is unconcious and we’ve switched into secondary POV’s to paint the scenes from different perspectives as we go along. Upon the advice of my betas, I did remove a couple small scenes with, while providing color (and revealing my tendency to revel in backstory for every minor character that makes an appearance), don’t reveal neccessary information. But for the sake of my story, I CAN’T give up some of the rest of the secondary scenes. I’m not trying to reveal the depths of their soul after all, just showing the happenings from different camera angles. If I tried to shoehorn all this information secondhand into later conversation or the like, then it loses all impact and flow. I’m not sure if I agree with the publisher at all. I’ve read many well known, well written, well SOLD novels by respected and even venerated authors that disprove this rule. I think it’s like many other rules…meant to be broken if you can do it well. Heck, Robert Jordan did it poorly in his later books, but we had already come to know the characters inside and out through the earlier dozen plus tomes and we still bought his books like hotcakes. Creating any rule like “though shalt only have 1-3 POV,” might make some writing better, but others worse. I think a lot depends on what you’re trying to show.
    And yeah yeah, I know the publisher comments aren’t meant to be obeyed slavishly, but sometimes you gotta bite back. 😛

    • Hello, Jeremy! Your book is really hard because for all intents and purposes there is only one solid point of view. You can add more, but they need to be vested characters.

      When I was reading your “passed out” scene, I was trying to figure out how to do it. It would be very easy to make Dawn a POV character, and then that scene would work.

      What you said is right, though, and I’ve mentioned this before… This is ONE PUBLISHER who is extremely particular about what they want. I’ve seen some of this stuff in published works as well.

      These are just suggestions from what one publisher red-lined. Breaking rules is commonplace. It just needs to be done REALLY REALLY well in order to be looked over.

  8. Enjoying this series! Can’t wait to read about the tool, Robin

  9. Love this post. It is quite timely, too, as I’m in a disagreement with another writer in my writer’s group who insists he can have as many POV switches as he wants. Instead of repeating my own viewpoint (which sounds much like yours), I will refer him to this blog.

    • Honestly, I thought like he did. It’s my novel and I’ll do whatever I want SO THERE!

      Honestly, when I mapped it all out (Like I’ll show everyone in a few days) I was stunned with what I’d done. I would have laughed if I didn’t want to cry. For the most part, the changes were easy, but some scenes needed to be cut entirely, which was painful.

  10. LOVING this series, Jennifer! I usually go for two (tops three) POV’s. Why? Because I can’t keep track of myself and more than two or three other occupants in my mind, Got some GREAT advice from somewhere (sorry..,can’t remember the craft book) about back story. Write it out so you have the details. I do that bit during character charting. Pretend it’s a piece of glass, smash it, and slip slivers into your story through POV character internalization of self-talk. I have back story slivers as early as page two in my current WIP.

    As for action happening away from the MC’s, I use the approach Jen suggested. Find a way for them to overhear, or be TOLD by someone that overheard. Me? Sometimes, I just let the reader witness a suspicious/intriguing encounter that takes place within the MCs sight, but out of hearing range. And, I let them participate in the MCs confusion and misinterpretations. GREAT POST again!

    • It sound like you are right on, Gloria. In retrospect, I wish I’d though about POV before I started. I just willy-nilly picked a character whose head to be in. It just made extra work for me. Moving forward, I will make sure to have more of a game-plan.

      As for the scenes I had to cut… I am thinking of them as back story. Yes, they happened, they still happened, but the reader didn’t get to see them. They may be mentioned later. (Or some I may just post on my WEB Site so SOMEONE gets to read them. 🙂

      Glad you are enjoying!

  11. It’s amazing how strong a novel can become when you take POVs down a notch. It takes some creative thinking to take very important scenes away from unnecessary POVs and transpose them onto the MCs in a new way. It also means deleting a lot of extraneous writing (in my case overdone scenery) and replacing it with stronger character development of my main MCs. It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but my novel is so much stronger for it.

    Great post, Jen.

    • Thanks, Jenny!

      I think it takes quite a few drafts for many to accept the POV thing. I know I fought against it. I think I was on my 12th solid draft before I started cutting, and now in the last round to my final draft (hopefully final) I am cutting it down to where I think it needs to be.