Lesson Sixteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Cutting down your Point of View Characters

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 look at “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Lesson Fifteen discussed the necessity of cutting POV switching to a bare minimum… but how do you do this?

My suggestion?  Make a list of all your POV characters.  I’ve been doing this as I’ve been editing.  Once you have the list, decide which are really major characters, and which are just there for information.  Here’s my list, and my judgement calls on each character.

1.       Magellan – Main Character – No brainer.  He needs to stay.

2.       The High King  Hmmm.  I think I need him.  Without his POV too much of the explanation of the world is gone.  Only delete if absolutely necessary

3.       Stephen – The villain– Not budging.  I need to get into his twisted homicidal brain.

4.       Castillia – The Goddess – I’ll have to chop some stuff I love, but I think she can go. Magellan is in most scenes, so I can use his POV.

5.       Instructor Candor – The only one who really knows what’s going on in the story– Cut only as a last resort

6.       Prince Harris – Main Plot line character – He has to stay.  No budging

7.       Tome – Minor character – Delete most of his POV.  See if I can get away with the one small section that contrasts with Prince Harris at the end of the book.  I can delete that if I must, but I like the contrast of rich and famous compared to poor pauper.

8.       Jerric – Delete POV.  Easy to use other characters.

9.       Minthius – Minor character – Delete and rewrite in the King’s POV since they are in the same scenes.

10.    Dacailin’s Son – Ha!  I can’t even remember his name!  He only had a small POV for information only. Delete.

11.    Matt – Could probably remove his POV, but at the end, it has to be there.  Fight for this one.  If I lose his revelation at the end, I think it confuses the novel.

12.    Harris’s Mother  – Informational only – Giving a sentimentally weepy okay to delete.  I can explain the horrors of the Stanton Castle through Steven’s POV (Although with less emotion.  Ugh)

13.    Red – Transition character for Harris – Delete (**sob**) No need to get into her head since we will never see her again in this novel.  Delete the scenes in her POV entirety.  Erghhh!!!!!! (Her first two scenes with Harris will stay-they’re in his POV)

14.    Matt’s parents – Only one scene – Delete and let Matt overhear it

15.    Meagan – Girl Power – She only has a small POV section at the end of the novel as everything gets sewn up.  She’s the girl, though.  I know I might be asked to get into her head more.  Right now I am avoiding it by using Magellan, Stephen and the King in most of the novel.  Might be able to get away with leaving it like it is.  (I can be hopeful, can’t I?)

Wow—That’s 15 points of view!  I didn’t even realize it.  I never even considered that this may be a problem.

So, here are the stats after I broke them down:

Necessary POV:

1.       Magellan (MC)

2.       Stephen (Villain)

3.       Prince Harris (Main Plot Line Catalyst)

4.       Meagan (Girl Power)

POV that I’d like to keep

1.       Instructor Candor

2.       King

3.       Matt

POV that I can remove

1.       Castillia

2.       Tome

3.       Jerric

4.       Minthius

5.       Dacailin’s Son

6.       Harris’s Mother **weep**

7.       Red **painful**

8.       Matt’s parents **possible loss of sentimentality try to keep sentiment in the re-write**

So, I have four POVs that need to be there.

Eight POV’s can easily be eliminated. (Not that it won’t be work) The characters will still be there, but the scenes will be told from someone else’s perspective.

I’m left with three more POV’s that I really want.

The King is intrinsic to the beginning of the story, and the end.  No other POV characters appear in his scenes.

Matt is intrinsic to the end of the novel.  He is “alone” in the Pre-climax scene where a revelation happens for the reader.

Candor moves the story forward in the middle.  He is the only character that does not lose his memory for most of the novel.  I might be able to remove him.  I’d just rather not.

POV characters that will remain:

1.       Magellan (MC/Protag)

2.       Stephen (Villain)

3.       Prince Harris (Main Plot Line Catalyst)

4.       King (Overall Story Driver)

5.       Meagan (Girl Power) **One POV scene at the end only if I can
get away with it**

6.      Matt (The “best friend” – Only in the third act)

So, this is what I’m going to cut it down to.  I am hoping that this will fly, and they do not ask for more cuts once this gets into the hands of a publisher.  Each of these characters have a big enough role that I think a reader can identify with them in their POV.  The main POVs will be Magellan, Stephen, Harris, and the King.  Matt and Meagan’s POV will be near the end.  (Which I know is a “no no”, but I am going to try to bend the rules a bit)

For all intents and purposes there will only be 4 POV’s in the first 350 pages.  Matt pops up around Page 350, and we pop into Meagan’s head in the tie up chapters at the end.

Hopefully, by removing the ones that were obviously there just as info-dumps, I will be able to slip in a few extra without it being noticeable.  (Yeah, I know.  Wishful thinking, but I can try.)

Good Luck!

Jennifer Eaton

12 responses to “Lesson Sixteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Cutting down your Point of View Characters

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

  2. Sorry for chiming in late, but I actually tend to have the opposite problem,. I like my protagonists so much that I seem to end up riding around in their head All… The… Time.

    • One POV works well, too. What you have to watch, is being in one POV for 100 pages, and then switching POV suddenly for one chapter, and then sliding back to the original. I am reading a self-published novel right now that did that, and it totally ruined my mojo.

  3. Whoop! Today is also “link equals like” day. Just so you know…

    It was SO not a typo.

  4. Had to do the same thing, Jennifer. Makes you feel a bit link the hangman, right? (Today is sentence frag day, btw.)

    LOVE your thinking. I combined the “role” of characters. I was able to keep to two POVs , but have other characters play strong roles (and convey their personalities) by using dialog with the POV character. That means they get to stay and I still have to get into their heads.

    I have trouble keeping up with myself. Can’t imagine tackling fifteen POVs.

    KUDOS to you! Write on.

  5. Great post. I went through this same process. I’ve done it for three novels. On top of listing who has a POV, I list how many scenes each POV characters are in and are not the POV. This helps med decide who I can eliminate without much pain. As usual, my handy-dandy spreadsheet works its magic. As I write, I list who is the POV and who is in each scene. Then when the first draft is ready, all I do is sort on the relevant column. Makes this task faster. Good luck with your rewrite.

  6. Wow, 15 POVs! And I thought mine was chaotic with 9! LOL!!! I have cut my POVs down to 2 with one chapter in a 3rd POV, but I think it will work. We see so much of the 3 person’s personality shine through throughout the book that I think it will be okay to have one chapter in her POV. I hope. *crosses fingers*. Try to keep in mind what the publishers and agents are saying: 3 – 4 POVs is about it for a novel before readers begin to lose affection for any of them.

  7. Cutting POVs isn’t easy! I did the same with one of my WIPs, cutting it from probably just as many POVs as you have listed here to just three. THREE. And the rewrite is going much better. Then again, I’ve also cut out an entire character and severely diminished the parts of others, but that just gives me more material for later books.

    I tried to keep the POVs down for another WIP, but I found myself being cornered a lot and not knowing where to go. So I’ve decided to open it up, let in all the POVs that come, and then, when the time comes, I’ll just have to pick the ones that get to stay and the ones that don’t.

    I guess the best way to make sure your story is told as best as it could is to give everyone a chance, and then work from there. : ) Best of luck! You seem to have a good solid plan in mind for who’s going to get to say what .

    • Yeah, I’ve had to cut scenes I really like. There are hints that something happened, and it hurts that no one will ever read the great scenes as they were written, but the novel is better without them. It flows much faster. I struggled against it for a long time, but I’m glad I am here.