Pat raised this topic in her first post, and since she’s heard from several others on the mysteries of point of view, I’ve decided to offer my own experiences. I suspect every one of us Wenches could contribute a different perspective, and with different conclusions, too.
When I wrote my first book, I didn’t know the term “point of view”, nor would I have recognized it if it tripped over my keyboard. I let every character have his or her say –– not just the hero and heroine, but all their family members, friends, rivals, and just about anyone else who wandered along. Even the keeper of the tavern where the hero and heroine paused for refreshment (and probably for a break from all that talking around them) had a short speech, reflecting on the weather, the beauty of the heroine, the quality of the horses in the yard. . . well, you get the idea.
But imagine my shock –– my horror! –– when my masterpiece finally caught the eye of an editor whose first suggestion to me was to cut out the extraneous pov’s. Hauling out the word-machete, I went to work, cutting and slashing out all those extra voices. Not surprisingly (well, ok, back then I was surprised), the story tightened up and became much more focused in the process. It’s not easy for writers to admit, but there are times when editors are RIGHT.
So I learned my lesson. My historical romances are now limited to the heroine’s point of view, and her hero’s with it. To keep things interesting, I usually add a lesser pov for the villain/antagonist as well. I try to limit myself to one head per scene so readers don’t have to keep jumping, too.
Recently I’ve ventured into writing fictionalized historical biography, where first person is the current “voice of choice”. What a challenge, as both Pat and Susannac noted! My heroine, Sarah Churchill, the first Duchess of Marlborough, had to be in every scene, either as a witness or a participant. All action and description had to be colored through her sensibility and opinions, and other characters could exist only in relation to her. Even harder was conveying a sense of passing time through that single voice; my story covered forty-five years, and through Sarah’s words alone, I had to express the changes in her as she aged from a young teenager to a grandmother, from a favorite at court to a bitter outcast in exile. Yet it was an enjoyable challenge, too, one I’d recommend as a “break” from more traditional narrative.
So what’s left, you ask? Only second person, the final frontier. You never know. Before you know it, you may end up as a character in your own book.