I hardly ever read a whole book anymore. Too many authors use too many point-of-view characters, which to me is sort of a cheat. I know it’s supposed to ramp up the suspense when the reader knows that the antagonist is doing but protagonist doesn’t. Knowing that doesn’t help since it works the opposite for me. It takes me out of the story and makes me forget why I am supposed to care about the hero. So what do I do? Follow along with the protagonist and skip the villain’s story. That way I don’t have to get in the mind of reprehensible characters, and I get to read a one-person story. In all the hundreds of books I’ve read this way, I think there might have been a single book where I had to go back and look for a point that I missed; in all other cases, I understood the entire story. Which means that most authors write a huge amount of redundancy.
I think the book I just finished was the worst — there were a couple of villains each with their own point of view, a couple of heroes each with their own point of view, and a couple undetermined characters. (One started out a villain and turned out to be a hero; the other started out a hero and turned out to be a villain.) After I got tired of the whiplash from changing points of view every couple of pages (short chapters!), I finally gave up and only read the series character’s point of view. (After all, that’s why I picked up the book — I wanted the series character’s story.) That made it a very short book, but way more interesting than all the flopping around. (The only good thing was that he flipped back to the past just a couple of times. Even more annoying that authors who switch frenetically between multiple POV are authors who keep taking the reader to earlier happenings when a sentence or two of flash back would have been sufficient. I don’t read those previous-time parts of books, either.)
As a novelist, if I can still call myself that after my long hiatus of not writing, I prefer writing from a single straightforward timeline and a single point of view, though I have written a couple of books from multiple points of views. In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, for example, I thought the story of the epidemic (which was the true antagonist of the book) needed to be seen through more than one pair of eyes. After having lived through The Bob, I’m sure you can understand that — everyone has had a different experience with the disease, from getting no vaccines and not getting ill to getting jabbed multiple times and getting sick multiple times despite the vaccine; from no problems to the worst problem of all — death; from “sheltering in place” with a house full of people to having to spend months at home alone with no one to talk to. If I told the story of The Bob from my point of view, nothing would ever happen. If I told the story from the point of view of people who are still fighting problems years after getting sick, that would be a completely different story. As would the tale told from the point of view of a doctor, nurse, hospital official, or politician.
As in the case of A Spark of Heavenly Fire, sometimes a story has so many sides it needs to be told by many characters, but there are very few such stories. Most of the horde of multiple point-of-view characters is simply author style and adds very little to the story.
Unfortunately, my reducing the length of any book I read to a single point-of-view character means that I go through more than one book a day. Which means more trips to the library. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that’s so unfortunate. It gives me a chance to sample the weather in all its variety, and gives me a chance to wander around the library and even speak a few words to a real person.
I suppose I should feel bad for reducing the author’s efforts to something akin to a novella or a pamphlet, but then, they should feel bad for subjecting me to their verbosity.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.