Discussion

One or Multiple POVs?

Today I would like to talk about different types of narrators in books, specifically about the one vs. multiple narrators debate. This is something I hadn’t really payed all that much attention to until recently because I naively thought surely everyone liked multiple POVs better. In my brain there was no question that following more than one character was more interesting to everyone. But, quite obviously, I was wrong.

Whether we enjoy books with one character POV or multiple POVs is up to personal taste. As I have said, I myself really prefer following multiple people and reading from their unique perspectives, but I also now realise lots of people don’t particularly enjoy this. I know the criticism of multiple POVs is mainly that readers might not like characters the same and as such might not enjoy all their chapters or perhaps that some people think we never learn as much about characters in books that focus on the perspectives of a big cast of them. And while that criticism is completely reasonable and fair, I don’t necessarily feel this way.

Firstly, it is quite natural that we won’t like all the characters in the book the same, and sure, sometimes I might find some chapters from a certain character’s perspective not as engaging. However, I’d much rather have this than leave certain characters unexplored. Usually—more like always—, one character POV books leave me wanting to learn more about the secondary characters. This might have something to do with the fact that I’ve been way more interested in secondary characters in stories all my life, so having a book where I can only explore one person’s inner thoughts is never enough. Take a book like Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, where we have many different POVs, as an example. Now, I know this book wouldn’t be the same without its POVs, but I’m just using it as an example hopefully lots of people will understand because of how widely popular it is, so take all this with a pinch of salt. You could argue that Kaz—and perhaps even Inej—is the main character and, although I love him as a character, he was never my favourite, Jesper was. If the book had been written solely from Kaz’s POV, I would have enjoyed it but I wouldn’t love it just as much. Getting Jesper’s POV, who is definitely not someone we even focus on that much in the book, was my favourite part of the journey, and I would’ve hated missing it.

I also disagree with the belief that these books might not go as in depth with their characters. Although the author might not dedicate the same amount of time to a character, if they’re good writers, the result will be just as good. I would argue that having multiple POVs helps us understand a character more, because we do not only get their perception of themselves but also how they come across to other people. Following with the Six of Crows example, a character like Matthias if we only read from his POV would change a lot. We need to see how others see him vs how he seems himself and his belief system, as well as seeing the internal and external evolution of his character.

All of this is not to say I don’t like single POV books. Many of my favourites only have one narrator, but when choosing what to read I often gravitate toward books that feature multiple points of view. Getting to learn about characters is my favourite part of a book, so having many of them to choose from is fantastic.

Do you prefer one or multiple POVs in a book? Why? What’s your favourite book where that shines through?

See you next time, Maria

16 thoughts on “One or Multiple POVs?

  1. I’m one of those weirdos who disagrees with you 😁 Single POV stories are so much better! Nine times out of ten, I will grow very irritated with having to read the POVs of characters I don’t like as much until I’m back with my favorites, and I also hate that, often, multi-POV stories will end on cliffhanger chapter endings, then jump to a completely different setting, and, by the time we return to that first storyline, I’ll often already have lost a ton of interest. I just feel like those multiple POVs make things way more disjointed, and even if you don’t agree, I do always feel like I get more depth if I’m allowed to spend the entire story in one character’s head 🥰

    That being said, though – there are still multi-POV stories out there that I love. Like Shadowhunters. Or the Liveship Traders. Or, like you mentioned, Six of Crows. (Although, actually, I think I might’ve liked the latter more if it had been just Kaz as a focalizer 😅)

    What I can’t deal with at all, though, are first person multi-POV narratives with more than two narrators 🙈 Maybe I’ve just been reading the wrong books, but I’ve never seen it done in a way where the characters voices sounded different enough to make me easily able to distinguish them…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, the thought of potentially having liked Six of Crows more if it was only Kaz’s point of view is something we totally disagree on 😂 I understand your frustration with cliff-hanger chapter endings though, because they annoy me occasionally.

      I don’t know if I can think of a first-person multi-POV book right now though, I’ll have to think longer about it. But first vs third person is not something I usually feel too strongly about!

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  2. I don’t think I have a huge opinion either way; I think for the most part it depends on the book whether one or multiple povs is best. I will say that I tend to gravitate toward single person povs, and when there are multiple povs I tend to prefer it when it’s more of a third person narration than a first.

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  3. I really love multiple POVs, mostly for series (like six of crows) because it means we get to know all the characters like you said. I agree that it’s so great being able to see different perspectives/thoughts on other characters, it provides a lot of depth and nuance. And I love duo POVs for romances because then we get to see the mutual pining! 💛

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  4. I really love multiple POVs but I would say my preference for one or multiple tends to depend on what genre it is. For example, Fantasy does so well with multiple POVs as the plot normally has so many moving parts so gaining insight into each one can improve my experience. Plus, I love getting to see a variety of characters and understanding their motives in a big plot. Like you say it provides more depth.
    Yet if it was lit-fic, I enjoy getting lost in one person’s POV. To see and understand the world so clearly from their eyes. But in romance, I may go for dual POV to experience the mutual pining.
    This was a really interesting post and I loved reading it! 🥰

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  5. It was funny reading your introduction because it has also never occurred to me that people might prefer multiple POVs because single POV is my own favorite 😅 But that made this a really interesting post to read!

    For me, it’s very much about not liking the characters equally and not finding them equally interesting. It’s not even that I hate everyone besides my favorite but when I don’t find them as interesting as the one I really love, I’m always going to be itching to get back to that one character and that takes something away from my reading experience. There are exceptions, of course, like Six of Crows because I think it makes sense for that type of story to be told through multiple POVs, and also because the POV characters aren’t isolated from each other. I mean, Jesper (also my favorite) appears in chapters from Kaz, Inej and so on, so I didn’t miss him as much if that makes sense. It’s not uncommon for POV characters in fantasy books to be hundreds of kilometers apart so we literally only see them in their own chapters.
    And I’d argue that the entire book COULD have been told from Jesper’s point of view. It would just have been a very different book that I might have loved even more 🤷‍♀️ But the entire thing from Kaz’s perspective? Yeah, I would have hated that too.

    I’ve never heard the argument that the multiple POV stories don’t go as in-depth with their characters and I also don’t think that’s my experience. I might sometimes have thought an author spent TOO MUCH time on a character because I didn’t find them interesting 😅 But it’s an interesting point you have about needing to see a character from another character’s perspective to understand them fully. I’ve never thought of it like that, but I think I need the author to really lean into that and focus on it before I’ll accept the multiple POV part 😄 I’m actually reading a book right now that’s doing exactly that (A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland), and I’m just eating it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post since it was directly inspired from a conversation we had some time ago 😂

      Someone commented on how it depends on the genre and that’s true. You talk about high fantasy novels having people scattered everywhere, and that might indeed get annoying if you don’t love all the characters equally. To be honest, I didn’t think of that since I rarely read this type of books!

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  6. I love this post! I agree 100% with you, and the examples you’ve provided are spot on–Six of Crows is about the best possible champion I can think of for multiple POV books. I’ve also been reading a lot of romance lately, and now I find it strange to *not* get both POVs–I feel like I only get half the story with a single POV! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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