Thursday, April 24, 2014

Heidi Glick - Six is a Crowd: Limiting the Number of POV Characters

Heidi Glick

Although a fictional story may contain multiple characters, generally, when writing using third person limited POV, you should limit the number of POV characters to a total of five. The reasons for the limitation are because of genre norms and publishing standards, and to allow readers to connect better with characters.

How is a POV character different from a regular character? Using third-person limited POV, authors focus on one POV character per scene, through whose consciousness, events are relayed. A scene includes whatever the POV character hears, smells, sees, etc. A scene may contain any number of regular characters but should only contain one POV character.

So what should you do if your current work in progress contains more than five POV characters?

·              Check out the norms for your genre. If you are unsure, read several books in your genre and see how many POV characters are used in those stories. For example, romance novels typically contain two POV characters: the hero and the heroine. Suspense novels or thrillers might contain three or more POV characters (the villain, the hero, and the heroine). Also, if you have a publisher in mind, check the publisher’s guidelines to see what they prefer or read several books released by the publisher to see how many POV characters are used.
·              Decide on the most important characters in the story (but no more than five). Tell the story through their eyes. When choosing POV characters, keep in mind that not all characters will be present in every scene. So if your hero and heroine are not in a scene, but your villain is, then you will need to include a scene with the villain or find another way to relay the information from that scene later in the story.
·              Make sure that the POV characters are connected. If you introduce a different character per chapter, readers will want to know how the characters are related. Failure to connect the dots might cause a reader to stop reading. Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins is a good example of how different POV characters can be introduced properly.

So are you still not convinced that you should use less than five POV characters?

·              Read a book with two POV characters and then a book with five or more POV characters to see what works best for your story and your writing style. I’ve found that if I read a book with more than five POV characters, I tend to lose interest. Even with five POV characters, you run the risk of readers becoming disinterested, which is why I lean toward using the fewest number of POV characters possible.

POV revisions can take time. I’ve done them myself. However, the end result is worth it.

Heidi Glick has a B.A. in biology, a minor in Bible from Cedarville University, and a passion for writing Christian fiction. Additionally, she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has written two articles for Intercom. Heidi’s debut suspense novel, Dog Tags, was released in June 2013. Readers can learn more about Heidi by visiting her Website and can connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.

Dog Tags Blurb
When disabled ex-Marine Mark Graham reconnects with his best friend’s sister, he finds himself falling in love. But Beth Martindale’s presence is a constant reminder of events he’d rather forget. Mark wants to move forward, but the secrets surrounding her brother’s death as well as his own confinement to a wheelchair threaten to tear them apart. 

When a psychopath who calls himself The Knight fixates on Beth, Mark is determined to give her the protection he failed to give her brother on the battlefield, yet he discovers that a wheelchair isn’t the only impediment he has to keeping Beth safe. Will terror win or can Mark find the strength of mind and body to rescue Beth and find his own redemption?


  1. Delia, thanks for having me as a guest on your blog.

    1. My pleasure, Heidi! I enjoyed your post.

  2. Replies
    1. I think so too, Tanya. I love seeing your face around here! :)

  3. Well said, Heidi. I only like five or six ingredients in a recipe too LOL. I have read a few suspense novels that have an entire list of characters at the beginning, there's so many. Whew. I just wanna read, not refer back to names and relationships. Oh well. Howdy, Delia. Finally found my way here. Love....

    1. I'm with you, Tanya. The fewer ingredients - whether cooking or writing - the better I like it! :)

  4. Good article, Heidi. I must confess I've written two contemporary romances with three POVs, so I must be a bit of a rebel. I will admit it's difficult to write that third POV and make it doesn't detract from the central romance.

    1. It is a challenge to keep that extra POV from intruding on the primary ones, Maria...but it definitely can be done. Thank you so much for stopping by!