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?