Points of View

A writing friend and I went to hear an agent talk about elements of a manuscript that will cause an agent to turn down a novel for representation. These days so many people are submitting queries and manuscripts to agents that it’s a good idea to know what elements are cause for disqualification at the get-go.

One item on the list was having too many points of view in the story. The agent advised restricting the story to one or at most two, and spoke strongly against trying to present five or six POVs in a story. Now, we can all name successful books that break this rule. Perhaps the rules have changed in today’s publishing climate and those authors were already established with a reader base before agents and editors (and readers) became sensitive to this issue, or maybe those stories are so scintillating that the authors could afford to break accepted rules with abandon. Whatever the case, novelists today who want their manuscripts accepted will find an easier road by playing by this POV rule.

My tendency – a characteristic of my everyday spirituality – is to look for the blessing in what might otherwise seem a difficulty. The blessing I see with restricting my novels to one or two POV characters is that it gives me license to go deeper into the character, to mine their perspectives and personalities for the richness that would otherwise be glossed over if I were trying to tell the story from several different points of view.

Thus today I get to commence the adventure of reducing my 100,000-word novel, told in five points of view, to a richer, shorter one focused on just two people, the two who I already know bring the most to the story. This is a good thing!


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