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

This was a really interesting post to revisit for me, because I have since temporarily abandoned this manuscript. Yes, that it is a HUGE amount of work to set aside, but I realized that I was just not talented enough a writer to take on such a complicated story.  Will I go back to it?  Yes, totally. But only when I’m ready. And only after I can come up with a stand-alone to take the place of the first half of book one. Like I said… this story is wicked complicated, and until I can “un-complicate it” I’m afraid I wouldn’t be doing my idea justice.

Give me a few years and I will get back to it.  For now, Enjoy me pulling my hair out over one of the complications…

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

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

  1. What a sensible idea. Listing it all out does let you see exactly what you’ve got – and then you can decide what to do. Good practical plan

  2. Wow, Jennifer, that is some cutting to do. Good on you for taking that leap.

  3. I admire people who can write so many POV characters – if they can make each voice distinct. I have decided I’m not a fan of epic tales because, as I reader, I only want to be involved with a few close friends (and one ugly enemy). Is this wrong? I have three POVs in one of my current Novels and it’s a struggle to write all of them with strong independent voices. I ended up going through the story three times in the first rewrite – following only the POV character’s scenes.
    So – I’m in awe that you are tackling six POVs.

  4. Holy-moly. Deep breath. ❤