In real life, people only know what they see or experience or what someone tells them. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about 1st POV or 3rd POV since 1st can have multiple POVs with chapters for different characters. And I’ll rant on that another time. So let’s not get confused.
Here, I’m going to be ranting about the pros and cons of having only a single POV throughout the entire book compared to multiple POVs.
My current WIP is a single POV but has a one-off prologue in another character’s POV. But my other novels have between two and five.
So why do some writers choose single POV or multiple POVS in a book?
We have only one perspective in real life, our own. But reading isn’t real life. In fact, its very purpose is to take us into someone else’s life. Whether one or ten, we’re in someone else’s mind, maybe even another world, past, foreign, or fantasy, and we want to experience the full richness of that world.
I decided to go with single POV for Out of Ashes because it felt natural for me as a writer since the story has some personal parallels. My other WIPs do too, but they developed that way during the writing process rather than being planned.
Also, I felt like there were things that needed to be kept secret, so to give certain characters POVs would spoil those secrets. I know there are ways of sparing the reader until they need to know, and I’ve read stories where POV characters have hidden things, but it feels like cheating the reader. So this time, I went with single POV for personal and secret-keeping reasons.
My friend’s chapter in Out of Ashes is for another character. As a prologue, it sets up the magic for that character and also what my MC is capable of but it isn’t a secret. This character also sets up some of the world how she experiences it. Again, not secrets from the MC or reader. So to have this one-off POV worked in that sense.
However, it was meant to be chapter three, and has a third main character that hasn’t been properly introduced by the MC yet. This causes a problem in that there is something about the interaction that the MC doesn’t know, and that the reader won’t fully understand yet. While it works perfectly as chapter three, it’s questionable as a prologue
That one interaction between these two non-protag characters won’t mean the same before we’ve seen protag’s take on one of the characters. So… I have to make it work, and after some pondering, I know how. So this avoids spoiling anything.
Now, why do multiple POVs work in my other WIPs?
I planned it that way so the characters have secrets from each other, but not the reader. I wanted the reader to have the full picture and get tense over the pending revelations they expect to happen. Some of my critters and betas found it quite fun waiting for the characters to spill their secrets to one another.
So the main reason, in my experience, for having a single or multiple POV is will some spoil the surprise or build more tension leading up to the reveal?
Only you and your critters can answer that. Maybe let one or two critters know the outline so they can help you prepare for the reveals better. But let others be surprised and see how they react. Or let the characters spill the beans themselves so readers are on the edge of their seats every time the character thinks about telling someone.
Whose secrets do you want your readers to know?