How Many POV Characters Should a Story Have?

Writers may ask themselves, “How many point-of-view characters should I use in my story?” And while the correct answer is three (as anyone who’s anyone could tell you), some may want a more thorough answer than that. Marcy Kennedy says, “One technique we can use for figuring out what’s best for our individual story is to write down all the potential point-of-view characters we might want to use, and then ask ourselves the following questions.”

3 thoughts on “How Many POV Characters Should a Story Have?”

  1. This isn’t directly relevant, but it comes to mind. A writer in Writer’s Digest, years ago, recalled a conversation with a knowledgeable reader. “I knew your main character was going to die in your last book,” she told him.

    “How did you guess that?”

    “You told the story in the third person. I couldn’t think of any reason for that story to be third person, except for the main character being gone before the end.”

  2. I suppose in that case having multiple POV characters as first-person narrators would have hidden that point more. Do you think it’s impossible to acceptably kill off a first-person narrator and change POV for the rest of the book? There may be three or four better ways to do it, but is this one way unacceptable?

    1. It can be done, but it feels like a betrayal to the readers if they’ve invested a lot of empathy in that character. Probably suitable to a more brutal kind of story. Everything has an effect; different effects are useful in different situations.

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