Do You Like Stories With Changing Viewpoint Characters?

Yes or no?

Me: I actually kind of hate it.

And unlike stories told in present tense, which I also don’t like but am willing to tolerate, I’ve definitely been known to pass over books written from multiple points of view, particularly those with the proverbial “cast of thousands” in which every character has their say

Case in point: everything after A Game of Thrones in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.

(Changing viewpoint characters isn’t the only reason I bailed on the series: Martin also has the unfortunate habit of killing off main characters with homicidal regularity.  Which, it could be argued, is a further manifestation of the books’ revolving door of POVs.)

It may well be that the reason I’m not reading so many books with multiple viewpoint characters anymore is because I’ve largely given up on the genre where it’s a near-ubiquitous storytelling element: epic fantasy.

Multiple viewpoints are found in other genres as well: pretty much every genre I’ve ever read in my life (which is to say, every genre) has its contenders.  Indeed, multiple POVs is probably the more common way the tell a story as compared to a single viewpoint character.

But that single, narrating character is my preference both in reading and in writing, for two main reasons:

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Do You Like Stories Told in Present Tense?

Yes or no?

Personally: no.

Not even a little, really.

This isn’t to say I won’t read a book if it’s narrated in present tense.  Indeed, I’ve never purposely avoided reading one for that reason, and two of my favourite YA series – Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy and Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy – are written in present tense.

But it’s definitely not my favourite style or writing.  I definitely need to brace myself before diving into a story told in this way.  I certainly have no plans to write my own present tense story anytime soon.

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Do You Like First-Person Narration?

Yes or no?

Personally: yes.

And no.

Well, which is it?

This isn’t an attempt to be non-committal in my answer.  Rather, I find there are certain circumstances where I love it and all the intimacy and insight it offers into the narrator’s character, and other times where it leaves me cold.

It goes without saying that stories in first-person are told by I – from the point of view of the narrator (who is typically also the protagonist), and likewise told in the narrator’s voice.  As a style of telling a story, it can be found in any genre, but is particularly common in YA, chick lit, memoir, and occasionally historical and romance.

It’s popularity among those who like it seems to be due to the extreme closeness it allows to develop between narrator and reader.

Such ready access to the narrator’s thoughts and observations can be incredibly instructive to the reader in understanding what this person is all about.  So instructive, in fact, that the reader may come to feel like s/he is the narrator, vicariously living every joy and pain that befalls the narrator as his/her their own.  The constant appearance of the word “I” – of the reader hearing it echo over and over within his/her thoughts – can further contribute to this.

What I described above is not the case for me, though.

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