The title of this post is really Multiple POVs. Just wanted to get your attention. ;)
I know there aren't any ironclad rules, but generally speaking, how many point of view characters are enough for one multiple POV thriller? How many are too many? What's the most you've ever seen?
And, when you are working on a book with multiple POVs, do you stick to one POV per scene? Is head hopping ever a good idea?
I just don't understand all the stuff I see on this.
You read books and you see all kinds of POV set-ups and it doesn't seem to make any difference. In fact, the only reason I notice it is because some writers get all worked up over it.
The best I advice I've gotten on it is basically, don't think about it, don't worry about it, just keep everything clear and understandable and don't let abstract labels clutter up your head.
Just finished a Harlan Coben thriller. He used six POVs that I can remember, probably a couple more. He always stuck to one POV per scene -- thank God. I find that mandatory as a reader, and that's the way it's taught at writer's workshops, etc.
I don't mind an omniscient prologue, at least in small doses. To me, it's boring because it SOUNDS LIKE writing.
I also want to pass on something I've learned this year: My WIP got a whole lot better when I changed the villain from first person to third person like the other two POVs in the story. I thought it was fun to have this guy talk right at you in the first person, tell you his tale. But he became a lot more fun to read (Thank you, Ms. P!) when I made him like everyone else. I still don't understand why, but suddenly I have much improved story. (Keep your fingers crossed for me. Being shopped this week.)
Oh, very good luck!!!! :)
Readers hate head-hopping. I've seen it done well and done badly. When it's done badly, it's truly horrible. I never head-hop. I keep my characters separate and rarely have more than 2 or 3 people taking over. Mainly, there needs to be a reason for pov changes and how many there are.
Coincidentally, I'm reading a great book by Hakan Nesser, called HOUR OF THE WOLF. It's a beautifully handled police procedural that uses multiple povs as it follows an investigation by a number of detectives and also dissects the murderer's rapid disintegration from a normal person into a driven killer. (One silly review on the back tells fans of Nesbo that this is for them. Alas, Nesbo is a mere hack thriller writer.) I cannot recommend Nesser enough. His books are intelligent, funny, beautifully paced and structured, and make an old and somewhat formulaic subgenre seem new.
Let me ask you. Where do you get the information that "readers don't like head-hopping"? If there even is such a thing. I keep seeing people say "readers like/hate such and such", but were are the polls? Do readers attack your signings complaining? Where does this information about reader tastes always come from?
I'd say one reliable indicator of what readers like is books that sell or don't sell or get returned. And if I'm reading books with multiple POV's, many with great sales and reviews, then it looks like readers can stand it.
I'm guessing they don't care about it or know what it is. I have yet to see any sort of working definition of it.
I'm new at all this and might not be aware of reader polls somewhere, but the impression I get is that a lot of stuff about reader like/hate (usually something I never heard of that makes it sound like readers are too stupid to understand anything not dummed down for them) gets cooked up by writing teachers and "gurus" to make writers insecure and pay them for help.
But maybe I just don't know.
Well the most POVs I've seen, which was in Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, the first English language detective novel, was 11 first person narrators. (I've read his The Woman in White too and can't recall how many first person narrators that used.) I think that approach would work today, in fact, for a mystery novel. I'm not sure about a thriller. It might depend on the story itself.
As for head hopping, I once read a short excerpt from Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead, in which every paragraph hopped into another head during a Poker game. (The approach worked for me at the time.) But I can't recall ever reading another (published) head-hopper.
Three to five POVs is the standard range in multiple POV suspense fiction, I'd say.
Also interesting are books like Silence of the Lambs, where the chapters are written from a single character's POV, as you would expect, but then occasionally the narrative slips from close third into omniscient. That is, we're suddenly given a sentence or a short paragraph that the POV character couldn't have known. As an author, it's a little jarring to me, but I bet most readers don't even notice it.
I think you're right about people not noticing (or caring if they do). I think even Crais and Coben did it once or twice in the last few I read -- not as bad as, but in the same vein as "Little did Elvis know what was in store for him...."
I don't remember slips in POV in Silence, but the editor should have caught them. That is what we pay them for.
POV is is a rule, the kind of thing a writer ignores at his or her own peril until or unless it is well enough understood to know what one can get away with. Clear writing where the readers understands the context is all that really matters; even Strunk and White's little book notes somewhere its purpose is to give the reader a fighting chance.
Larry McMurtry heads hops in LONESOME DOVE. I didn't notice until a writing book pointed it out to me as something not to do. If a writer can handle POV well enough not to confuse or confound the reader, it's one more tool in the box of an effective story.
Almost everything I write now is done in scenes, close third. If I have to change POV, I add a line break. Of all the things that can muddle up writing, POV may be the easiest to deal with. (Once you decide which to use.) Why complicate things?
Excuse me, but POF is not a "rule". It means "point of view". You can't call that a "rule". It's an element or term or something.
If there is a rule about it, I wish somebody would share it instead of just telling us to watch out for it without saying what it is.
By the way. If you DIDN"T NOTICE IT, is it "head hopping", or just changing POV?