vicarious love multiple povs

Vicarious Love: The Greatest Advantage of Multiple POVs

Multiple points of view—should you use them or should you not? More genre books than not use multiple POVs to present multiple protagonists–or sometimes just to give readers a glimpse at what’s happening behind the main character’s back. Usually, I’m more inclined to discuss their drawbacks, because, sadly, they’re more likely to be abused than not.

But today, I’m actually going to talk about something I love (gasp!) about multiple POVs, and that’s what I call the vicarious love factor. Sounds complicated (and maybe a little shifty), doesn’t it? But it’s not.

When we write from multiple POVs, we’re able to show our primary characters from an outside perspective. In a single POV story, we’re stuck in that one character’s head. We have a hard time even showing readers what he looks like, much less what other characters think of him. The protagonist might think he’s a bum and keep telling readers he’s a bum. But from the view of another character, the protagonist might be Mother Teresa, John Wayne, and Dr. Who all rolled into one.

Huh. Who knew, right? Thanks to a glimpse through the objective eyes of another character, readers are able to better understand the protagonist. But it gets better!

The vicarious love factor (which could also be vicarious hate, come to that) plays out when the objective POV character appreciates things about the protagonist. When a protagonist is loved by another character, whether he deserves that love or not, readers will be given a major subconscious incentive to love him as well.

This effect can, of course, be achieved without multiple POVs, and sometimes the pitfalls of multiple POVs won’t balance out their advantages. But when you do choose to include multiple POVs, keep in mind that each character’s perspective of other characters will influence your readers’ feelings about all of them.

Tell me your opinion: How would readers’ opinion of your protagonist change if they could see him through multiple POVs?

vicarious love multiple povs

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Kay Anderson says

    Nice post! I’ve always liked writing in third-person point of view better than first person. I feel limited writing in first-person and often struggle with it, or I just get bored. Third-person can be a lot more fun, interesting, and easier to describe surroundings, not to mention you’re able to get into various characters’ heads instead of just one.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It is, of course, possible to switch between different first-person narrators. I’ve seen this technique used to good effect (notably in The Time Traveler’s Wife), but third is definitely the most flexible approach.

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