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How Many POV Characters

So, I'm writing my novel in third person limited point of view and I would like to limit it to three POV characters. Surely this doesn't seem to be too many? Any rule of thumb I should go by? And does a POV character always have to be a major character of the novel.

Thanks for the input in advance.

Legendary Sidekick

The HAM'ster
It's not too many.

I'm basing "not too many" on the fact that there are several good books with three or more POV characters. Dragon Tears (Koontz) and Jurassic Park are the first two non-G.R.R.M. books that come to mind.

I guess the rule of thumb is use just enough POV characters to tell your story.

How about a "rule of fingers?" If you have more POV characters than fingers, that might be too many. (EDIT - Guilty!)

REAL REASON FOR EDIT - I would think that the reader has to care about the POV character. He doesn't necessarily have to be a protagonist or antagonist... maybe just some guy who witnesses all the action without really participating. Like The Stranger (Sam Elliot) in the Big Lebowski. I know that's not a book, but my point that is he narrates parts of the movie but has absolutely nothing to do with the story.

I guess, since that works in a movie, the answer to your last question is that you could have a POV character who's not a major character. My two cents is that his POV would have to be interesting enough that the reader isn't asking, "Who is this guy and why do I care what he thinks?"
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The Din

I have two myself, though use an extra one for both prologue and epilogue. Three should be fine (Martin manages at least a dosen), just make sure that you make them all relevant. Nothing worse than a POV that you can't stand reading, or one that you love that only pops up three times in the whole novel.

I'd be careful having a POV as a minor character unless he/she spent a lot of time with one of the MCs and was simply there to offer a different view on MC's actions.


Article Team
I don't think there's a rule, but I found the more POV characters there are, the more complicated things can get and the book can get pretty long depending on how much story each character has in them. POV characters can be anyone you want major, minor, even a character who just drops in for one scene. Although that last one should be thought out and only used IMHO when the first two options aren't available.


Myth Weaver
There's not a lot for me to say that others haven't said already. :) I've used as many as four different viewpoints in a single story, so you should be fine with three.


Check out novels you've read that are similar to what you're trying to accomplish in your work. How many POVs did they use? Were they all major characters?

Three is simple enough, but I would say, in the end, use as few POV characters as possible.


Does each PoV bring a meaningful contribution to your story? Can you develop them equally, without favoring one over the other?

The reason I am asking these questions should be obvious. Many writers-especially new ones--consider the characters to be the ultimate tool in describing the fascinating world/plot of their novels. That's fine; after all, such is a character's purpose. However, it's quite easy to tell the difference between a 'tool character' and an organic one. The first falls flat, as it has no inner conflict and struggles that you can relate to. They're basically witnesses, nothing more. The latter, on the other hand, has the power to shape the story. These are the characters that readers enjoy, as their erratic behavior can lead to exasperation(but in the good sense :) )