Writing Basics

Dual POVs: The Pros and Cons of Having More than One Point-of-View

At the time of writing this, I have read a total of 18 books in 2024 (excluding a couple of nonfiction titles). Of the 18, 11 of them had more than one point-of-view (POV). Though there were a small handful that had three, most were dual POVs, something I have been noticing more and more in fiction. This isn’t to say that dual POVs are becoming more common (this might be true, but I haven’t compared the number of dual POVs in books of the last decade to older texts to know for certain), only that I’ve been realizing how many novels I have read lately that have alternating point-of-views. There are times when I love the extra character chapters the story has, but more often than not, the extra POVs are dull, repetitive, not as interesting, or just meaningless. I am not recommending that writers cease using dual POVs entirely, because they have their place and some of my favorite novels have extra perspectives in there. Adding a POV can have its benefits and its losses. Maybe you’re considering another POV in your novel or maybe you have one but are unsure to keep it or not. You have to consider if what you’re gaining from another POV is worth what you will lose and know the common problems with dual POVs to look out for. This article isn’t written to tell you whether you should have a dual POV or not, as this will vary from story to story. It also will not be an article with tips for writing it well (though I hope to follow up this article with that one day). Instead, I’m writing this to highlight the pros and the cons of having more than one point-of-view to help you decide whether to keep it or cut it from your WIP.

Sounds great? Let’s go!

Pros of Dual POVs

Can help with a plot’s pacing*

When writing from two characters’ points of view, this will often mean having two storylines to follow rather than one (unless the characters’ storylines merge for the last part of the book). If you’re worried about the pacing of your book, having the extra storyline can help. Rather than coming up with, say, 80,000 words of a plot, you only have to do 40,000 per character. This can be a great choice if plotting is a weak area for you or if the story’s plot is one that would be hard to stretch into a full-length novel. An example of this done well is Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill. This YA historical novel is set during World War 2 and is about the Japanese internment camps in America that Japanese American families were forced to live in. Because this event personally affects Taichi as he and his family are one of the people forced to give up their home and live in an internment camp, it makes sense that he is our protagonist. However, I think Morrill made an excellent choice by adding in Evalina’s point of view as well, not only because the book was about their love surviving the war. Though Taichi’s chapters were always my favorite and my heart broke watching his life and struggles in the Manzanar Relocation Center, because there is only so much that can happen while maintaining true with history, adding Evalina’s POV gave an additional plot to follow that still tied in perfectly with the main point.

*I mean, you can also just add in an additional subplot, but shhh 🤫

Can give you an extra chance of writing a character readers will root for

Okay, let’s be honest. Writers may not pick favorite characters, but readers definitely do! To put this pro shortly, rather than throwing one character out there and hoping a reader will love him, you get to throw two out and have an extra chance that surely the reader will love at least one of them. But this tip works really well when you have a character with an unlikable personality and are worried readers won’t stick through the story for him, when your character has a negative arc, or when he is just not a “good guy.” (Though my first advice is to have some beta readers look over the book because you’d be surprised at the type of characters that readers love or are at least willing to stick through the story for to see them change. For example, in my upcoming debut historical thriller Don’t Let Me Go, I was shocked to see how much my beta readers loved my main character, Maksim, because he doesn’t have the most likeable personality but it worked for the story and the early readers responded well to him.) An example of this pro is The Traitor’s Game series by Jennifer A. Nielsen. This book takes on a more darker approach than Nielsen’s other works, and this is seen clearly with our heroine, Kestra. Due to her backstory and certain events that occur later in the series I won’t say because of spoilers, she is a hard protagonist to like, much less root for. She doesn’t fit perfectly as the good character or the bad guy either. On the other hand, Simon is our hero with his own POV in the series. He is the perfect example of a loyal, selfless hero we love so he contrasts to Kestra’s darker side well. Having him here balanced the story and gave readers someone to root for, especially if they didn’t like Kestra since Nielsen was taking a risk with her. I have to admit that even I don’t think I would have read the whole series if Simon wasn’t there. 

Can explain more parts of the story

Do you find in your WIP that there are paragraphs, pages, maybe even chapters dedicated to side characters explaining something that is important to the plot? Sometimes these moments are unavoidable, but there are times when it is overdone and drags the story down. If there are moments in one character’s life that are important for the reader to know and if that character plays a crucial impact on the story, then perhaps your WIP can benefit from an additional point of view. An example of this is Crossed by Ally Condie. When I first noticed the sequel to Matched added a POV, I was skeptical, but I think this was a good choice on Condie’s part. Ky’s backstory and what was going on in his life while being apart from our main character, Cassia, were important to the plot and to understand certain things going on. Especially because Ky had a personal connection and understanding of the Rising, a movement that was given prominent attention in Crossed. We would have had extra questions that couldn’t always be explained to Cassia had we not been able to see Ky’s thoughts and learn his past with the Rising.

Cons of Dual POVs

Removes tension

I remember one time sitting on a webinar Kaise West was teaching about writing romance and one of her tips that she was first told was not to write romance with a dual POV. Shocker, right? I mean you can scroll through the list of several well-loved romance books and one thing many share in common is having two points-of-view. Besides, the whole point of the story is watching two characters fall in love so why not give the reader a chance to get into both of their perspectives?  

Romance writers can benefit from considering not to include a second POV because when writing romance you already are running on the fact that most readers can guess how it’s going to end. Girl A falls in love with Guy B and they live happily ever after and so forth and so forth. Including the second POV can hurt the story because it will also remove the tension. For example, let’s say our protagonist is a girl who just met this cute guy at a bakery and is now thinking about him nonstop. She might start returning to the bakery often to see him and get a couple of moments of small talk. We are watching her crushing on the guy, but we’re clueless as to how the guy feels since we don’t have his POV. Does he like her, too? Is he just going to break her heart? Is he The One or not? In addition, even though we know in a romance novel that the girl will find her “The One” and they’ll fall in love, because we don’t have the second POV, we don’t know who the guy is. Maybe Bakery Boy isn’t the man of her dreams because this guy will appear a little later. This is especially true if writing a love triangle. If two people in the love triangle have a POV, it won’t be any surprise which guy the girl ends up with. 

Think of if The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins included Peeta’s POV. We wouldn’t have been as worried if Peeta was really on Katniss’ side or if he was just using her to save himself and we wouldn’t feel and understand Katniss’ initial hesitance with him if we had Peeta’s POV. We’d just see him as this super cute and sweet guy and wouldn’t understand why Katniss responded so harshly to him at first.

However, I have read romance novels where I loved having multiple points of view such as in the Daughters of the Seven Sea series by Grace A. Johnson because these novels had more than just romance in their plots. There is action, intrigue, suspense, etc., so Johnson is not solely relying on the romance. It’s less about will Rina and Xavier fall in love and more about how are they (and their love) going to survive and beat every odd that comes. Dual POVs in romance can work, just as long as there’s a secondary plot or it’s more about staying together despite challenges rather than “does he like me or does he not.”

Breaks up story flow

Remember earlier when I said that sometimes the two characters’ plots are not interconnected but follow distinct paths? One problem with dual POVs is that rather than the plot flowing in one path, we have to follow two journeys that may sometimes merge and sometimes go apart. This is why it’s important to try to keep the pacing the same because if one gets ahead or the other lags behind, readers can get frustrated when they are just dying to know what happened to Suszie when the chapter left her dangling off a cliff rather than John who is just spending his time driving around doing who knows what. Dual POVs run the risk of losing your reader’s interest if readers prefer one plot over the other.

Struggles with character voice

One thing to look out for when writing in Dual POVs is character voice. Now, you already have to perfect the voice of any character regardless of if there’s two POVs or just one. However, this is going to be even more necessary the moment you bring in a second perspective. Readers will notice if the two POVs sound similar and can get lost on who’s head we’re in at any moment, especially if both plots are running alongside each other. This can be more noticeable in first person, but even if you’re writing in third, it is still crucial to spend time getting to know what each character sounds like. You can practice with journal entries or writing chapters of important moments of their backstory in their POV to try and hone in on the distinct way each character sounds on paper. This is one reason why it’s not always recommended for debut authors to start with a dual POV because it’s hard enough trying to master one voice, much less two! For me, I’ve only written one novel that had a secondary perspective (and we don’t speak of that one 😉 ), but one of my upcoming WIPs will actually be a dual POV in first person so I’ve been spending more time learning my characters than I have in the past.

Readers showing favorites

As I mentioned, readers pick favorite characters all the time. It’s something that can’t be helped. However, when having dual POVs this does become a problem when readers adore one POV and absolutely hate the other. They will be enjoying the story one moment and then when the perspective switches, the excitement is gone as they trudge through the next chapter. Anything that pulls the reader out of the book is something to note. This has happened several times to me, especially if one of the POV’s plot is boring or the character is dry. I remember when reading Iron by Madisyn Carlin how much I adored every time Carter’s chapter came up but then lost interest whenever the princess had her POV or as discussed in a previous post about main characters how in Dreams of Savannah by Roseanna M. White some of the characters like Salina had more at stake in the story, making their chapters more interesting to me as the reader because I was more desperate to see them succeed. Sometimes you can’t help when your readers will lose interest and be pulled out of the story but it is a risk in dual POVs.

In conclusion…

We did it! We made it through the pros and cons of dual POVs!!!

In conclusion, dual POVs can be a lot of fun to experience and there are many examples of books that are amazing with them. But for every success, there are plenty of poor attempts. Having dual POVs can’t work for every story so it’s important to understand the pros and cons ahead of time and make the best judgement for your WIP accordingly.

But let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below! What’s your favorite dual POV novel you’ve read lately? Do you like romance novels with more than one point of view? Who still wishes Peeta had at least a chapter or something written in his perspective????

Issabelle Perry is a proud Jesus follower, an extroverted writer, and a homeschool graduate. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, jamming to Skillet, studying history, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast can be found hanging out at Teen Writers’ Nook, a community of teen authors Issabelle co-founded in 2020. She is the author of Don't Let Me Go (Sky's the Limit Press 2024), May We Make Them Proud (2023), and a co-editor for two anthologies. What she’s probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people or scanning the pantries for chocolate.

10 Comments

  • Hannah Ruth

    Those are really great points! I hadn’t really thought about the tension point, but that’s so true. I tend to read a lot of romance that has dual POVs, like Melanie Dickerson’s books, but I also ADORE Hannah Currie’s Daughters of Peverell series, and I realize… so much of the tension in those books (ESPECIALLY book 1) wouldn’t have existed had we had the guys’ POVs. I love them so and I would love to read a chapter in Ben’s perspective… but it would mess with the plot SO much. Definitely good points to consider!

    • Issabelle Perry

      Aw, thank you, Hannah!!! Yesss, SO true!!! Heart of a Royal would’ve been a VERY different story had Thoraben’s POV been included, all the plot twists wouldn’t have worked and Mackenna spending time wondering why Thoraben made the choices he did would’ve fallen flat. We wouldn’t have been desperate for answers if we got them all from Ben’s chapters, even though I adore Ben and totally wouldn’t have complained if we got at least a tiny chapter from him.;) So glad to hear that! Thank you so much!!!

  • Saraina

    This is a question that has plagued me many a time. To add another POV or not? 😭 Some stories are less clear, but other times, I know right off the bat that the story has to include another POV. But yes, these are all such great points! Especially about the whole tension thing…it can either increase the tension, especially when secrets come into play, or completely erase the tension because you already know all the answers. Hard decisions indeed. 🤣

    • Issabelle Perry

      I know right! It’s definitely one of the hardest choices in writing, especially when you want to get into so many different people’s heads!!! Aw thank you so much! Glad to hear that! Yes, the tension aspect is usually the make it or break it deal for me when it comes to dual POVs. I love writing books with a lot of tension, and if adding a POV will ruin it, then I usually opt not to. Thank you for reading!!!

  • Rose Q. Addams

    Now, see… I was just debating the other day whether or not to include a certain gruff betrothed’s POV in my current project. Guess I have my answer. XD

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