Discussions & Rambles // How many main characters is too many?

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. Is there a limit to how many main characters should be in a book or series? Is it three? Six? Fifteen?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently writing a Fantasy novel and it’s a huge mess. One of the main reasons why it’s going so messily is because I recently went from writing one character’s 1st person POV in present tense to 3 characters’ 1st person POV in past tense, and I do not recommend torturing yourself like this. 

However… I’m beginning to wonder if three main characters (and three main character POVs) is too much for this WIP, or for any book. And that’s what brings us to today’s discussion!

I would also like to apologize in advance if this post is too long and confusing! 😅 I just have so many thoughts!


I’m the kind of reader who loves books written in 1st person POV. I believe this is a great way to get to know the main character, and because I love characters more than plot, I’m totally okay with reading lots of books in this format. 

However, while most books told in 1st person include only one Point of View, some books include two POVs, or even three. 

Just for reference, POV = Point of View and MC = Main Character.

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Books can have many characters, but only one main perspective.
Or POV, if you will. 

Sometimes I’ll look at the reviews for a book, and one person will say, “I love all of the characters so much! they are my children”, while someone else will say, “There were just too many characters”. But why is this? 

I think it depends on the story itself, and the way the book is set up. For example, it’s no secret that there are many characters in the Harry Potter series. Of course, they’re not all main characters, but they’re still supposed to be characters which the readers remember. 

one example

The main character of the HP series is, quite obviously, Harry Potter. Almost every chapter in the series is told from his perspective, just not in first person. Throughout the series, readers can see the characters’ backgrounds developing in a satisfying way. But if you were to read the first book on its own, and judge the characters by their introductions alone… would you still love them and consider well-developed good characters? 

Oftentimes, we tend to say the first installment of a book or movie series is simply okay because it’s the introduction of everything to come. To me, this is just another way of saying, “I know this book wasn’t very good, but don’t worry, it’ll get better!”

But what if there isn’t another installment? What if Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was the only book in the HP universe? Would it still work for us, character-wise? 

another example

However, there are some standalone novels which develop characters nicely, just in the time-frame of one book. This is great and all, and I applaud the authors who are able to do so, but unfortunately for me… I often feel like this is rare, and the characters in YA standalones are usually underdeveloped. One of the reasons why I loves book series so much is because I get to see the characters go through so many events, and see the characters grow through their decisions and obstacles. While this is something that can happen in standalones, it happens more in series. 

If we’re meant to care for more than one character, in a series or a standalone, it really depends on how the author portrays these characters.
(So it’s up to the auhtor to not disappoint me! *slams fist on table*)

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Some books have only one Point of View. 

I’m sure we can all agree that this is a fact. 

There are a lot of YA (and non-YA) novels out there with only one POV, and it’s almost always from the main character. I like this method because it’s easier to connect with the MC, since their thoughts are all right there in the narration. You can see what they’re thinking and wanting, and if they’re a properly fleshed out character, the POV will allow for you to get a great sense of who they are and their purpose in the story. 

Are you the kind of person who prefers only one POV? Why, or why not? 

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Can a book have too many character POVs? 

The answer? Yes, I personally think some books can have too many POVs. 

“But what’s the limit, Xandra?” you ask me, crossing your arms. “This is why I came to this post.” 

“I don’t know, friend. I think it depends on preference!” 

I don’t think there can ever truly be a hard-and-cold limit to how many main characters is too many, but perhaps the number should be somewhere between 3 and 6. Again, I think this all depends on preference. While the author of a book may enjoy novels with five POVs, I, as the reader, may not. 

let’s have an example

Now that I think about it, I haven’t actually read many books with more than two POVs, although I think this is because I just don’t want to! But one of the books I kind of had to read with multiple POVs was The Lost Hero, and all of the other books in the Heroes of Olympus series. 

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The Lost Hero was particularly hard for me because, while it was a book taking place in the beloved Riordan universe of Greek/Roman gods, it was the first Riordan book I had ever read without Percy Jackson as a character. Already going into it, I didn’t like the characters very much. Jason, Piper, and Leo were hard to get used to, but I did end up liking the story eventually. I never really enjoyed reading Piper’s POV chapters, so I was only having fun for about one third of the time. (Or one fourth, if we have to talk about the confusing first few chapters.)

Over the course of the series, each book had alternating POV chapters. In the last book, The Blood of Olympus, there were five different POVs! Five of them! If I hadn’t already been introduced to those five characters, I probably would have gotten a migraine and quit the series right there. 

By the end of the series, there were nine main characters total. Nine characters who were important enough to have gotten a POV during one or more of the books. While I generally liked these characters, I felt like some of them were being left out at times. Sometimes I would scream, “But what about Frank?? What happened to Hazel??” whenever Frank or Hazel were neglected for the entirety of a book or two. 

The problem with too many main characters is that the author cannot possibly give each of them the attention they deserve, but as a series, this problem was occasionally avoided by giving 3-5 characters a POV role. 

okay, two more examples

Disproportioned POV Chapters

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio was interesting because the main character, Auggie Pullman, has more chapter POVs than anyone else, but there are six main character POVs in total. The POV switches worked well enough, in my opinion, because some of these characters had something very important to say, even if they only had one or two chapters to themselves. 

This book included many characters, but they were not equally spread out, and none of them got as many chapters as the main characters. So my question to you is this: How do you feel about disproportioned POV chapters in a book? Is it okay when one character gets more “face time” than the others?

Equally-distributed POV Chapters

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I couldn’t find a book with more than three POVs (I mean I know they’re out there, I just haven’t personally read them), but the Legend series has two. 

This book was mainly about the character of Day, but June, the other MC, also told the told in about the same amount of chapters as Day. This worked nicely for me, because I could depend on the length of the chapters. My question: Do you prefer equally-distributed POV chapters? Why, or why not?

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Why multiple POVs might not work. 

I personally prefer books with two POVs, because we can read into the minds of the two main characters. Sometimes two main characters are better than one, and they’re both great characters. The only downside to this is if one of the characters is great, and the other is just okay. 

And that’s why I don’t like risking myself to read books with more than three POVs. I know that I will fall in love with at least one of the characters, but what about the other ones? What if they’re just mediocre? 

Of course, sometimes the multiple POVs can be a blessing, and you’ll fall in love with all of the six main characters. That sounds perfect to me, but only if the author is smart enough to make this happen! 

Overall, some stories are meant to have multiple POVs, and some just aren’t. It depends on what happens in the story, and once you read it, you can usually tell if the multiple POVs were necessary or not. 

Are there any specific reasons why you wouldn’t want for a story to have multiple POVs? 

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What about main characters, without personal POVs? 

Wow, what a great question! *sarcasm* This is actually what I’ve been trying to get to all along, but I got distracted and forgot.

My opinion still stands: regardless of whether or not they have POVs, the limit of main characters should be between 3 and 6. I think this amount is very common, and most books seem to have about 3 or 4 main characters anyway.

But still, it depends on the story itself and if it needs that many characters. The characters all have to mean something, in the end – they can’t just sit around and expect to be loved!

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Hey, are my… are my discussions too long? Don’t be afraid to tell me if they are. I’m just wondering. Please have a nice day. 💫

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What do you think? Have you ever read a book with too many main characters? Have you ever disliked one of the MCs, but loved another?Can you answer any of my questions? Because I sure can’t.

Chat with me about it!

P.S.: My school year has just started, and I’m already stressed! From now until December, I might only be posting 4 times a month! We’ll see how it goes.


You can also be my friend on Goodreads! 📚

Happy reading, everyone! 🙂

Starry Sky Books-13

59 thoughts on “Discussions & Rambles // How many main characters is too many?

  1. I think it depends on the series or book. I agree with the Lost Hero because I was just waiting for Percy and I didn’t care about Jason, Piper or Leo. Eventually I got used to them. In the series An Ember In the Ashes I think it is very necessary to have more than one POV especially because the main characters are in different locations and I loved it. I read a lot of contemporary so I prefer one POV but The Sun is Also a Star was really good at more than one POV.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, it often depends on the book/series for me. Some books can have multiple POVs and be brilliant that way, and others don’t work as well. In Lost Hero, I was just about to close the book before I saw them mention Percy! Even throughout the series, I didn’t care about them as much as the original characters, but I disliked Piper the most. (She was okay.) I haven’t read An Ember In the Ashes but I’m curious to see how multiple POVs play out in the story!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Multiple POVs and still the desirability of well developed characters.
    One simple thing is details and the writer knowing her own characters on all levels. When you describe a well known person you’d unconsciously give so much more details in the same amount of words.
    Lastly it’s your novel, make it yours! Ask yourself what you’d like and that’s all! Best wishes for your book. Also, I recommend reading Six of Crows. Six POVs and better than usual developed characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It really depends on the book, and the author as you said.
    I find I prefer third person view, but focused on a sole character. Then I can get the characters mind frame while still getting a larger picture.

    Amazing post and i hope school goes well for you!
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh this is such an interesting discussion, and you laid it all out so clearly! I definitely agree that having lots of POVs gets VERY confusing, but at the same time it totally depends on the book. The first ones that come to mind are Six of Crows (which has five POVs in the first book and six in the second) and The Raven Cycle (which has four or more in all of the books) – in those instances, the many POVs work really well, but there are other times that I get confused with three POVs! And I’m not entirely sure why that is. I do like when there is a series and you get to know lots of characters whose POVs you can switch between, though you’re so right that it does sometimes mean that characters that you love don’t get as much attention since the story is spread out over so many others.

    In my WIP, I have five main characters but only one POV, which is definitely tricky since everyone has to be characterized through her perspective. I think it just depends on what kind of story you want to tell and whose voices you want in it, you know?

    At any rate, good luck with all the changes to your WIP and also with starting school!! 😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, thank you! Multiple POVs can often get confusing, especially when you’re the writer 😅 And now that you mention it, I recently finished The Dream Thieves, and it encouraged me to write in third person! If The Raven Cycle can do it, then there’s hope for me, haha! I’m a little worried about writing in my new main characters before they’re fully developed, but I’m getting more confidant now. 🙂

      And thanks for sharing about your WIP! I always love to hear how everyone else is doing it! It definitely does depend on the story and what I think it best, and right now I think I’m finding my way again. Thank you so much! 💕

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  5. I actually really like books with multiple POVs and consist of a great range of characters. Heroes of Olympus, Game of Thrones, Liveship Traders, all are some of my fav books ever. And one main problem for some people is how they’d be more interested in some characters than the others and skip the POV chapters of characters they dislike. But I never do that becase usually I enjoy all of their POVs 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, I love this! For me, it’s a very genre-specific thing. I like only one or two POVs in contemporary, but with fantasy, I’m usually expecting multiple ones. There’s just so much ground to cover in a fantasy world, and I like being able to see it from so many different perspectives.

    Sometimes, I almost feel left out when one of the main cast in a fantasy doesn’t get a POV because it feels like they’re almost not as important? In Six of Crows, I was so happy when Wylan also got POV chapters and not just the true main characters. He was in the gang, but a little off to the side, and I would have been so sad not to see inside his head. (I’m also a little biased because he’s my fave, haha.)

    But I think you’re right–it definitely comes down to personal preference, and sometimes even just specific to each book. In the Game of Thrones series, there’s the two books in the middle that are split in half–one in the south, one in the north. I was so aggravated for the entirety of the south book because my favorite characters were in the north, and I had to spend 1000 pages without them! But then again, GRRM has an insane amount of characters, and even in the books where everyone had a POV, I would literally go hunting for when I’d next be with a character that I liked.

    This has certainly got me thinking, haha, so thank you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a good point – it also depends on the genre, and the expectations in it! It’s interesting that you usually expect multiple POVs in fantasy, and I feel the same! It’s a lot easier to understand the fantasy world that way.

      I also think that sometimes side characters are interesting and deserve their own POV, too! And in a series, like Heroes of Olympus, sometimes certain characters will get a POV in one book and then not be included in the next one, which I don’t usually like 😦

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked the post! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This was such an interesting discussion. Having just finished Crazy Rich Asians this felt super relevant – I don’t know if you’ve read it but wow. Definitely a LOT of characters. It’s told in third person so not strictly POVs but it definitely did get confusing at times and there were storylines I preferred to others. At times I felt myself rushing through one chapter to get to the next characters storyline because I preferred that one! I guess it was a good plot device though as it kept me reading!
    For me though, with POVs, I think 2 or 3 is the maximum I could deal with – otherwise I’d just get confused! A lot of characters can get confusing- especially if they have similar character traits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Emme! I haven’t read Crazy Rich Asians, but I have heard about the many characters! I understand that there might be too many to keept track of. I personally think that 3 POVs is the maximum for me, but some books like Six of Crows might be the exception!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Awesome discussion, Xandra!! I’m honestly prefer books with only one point of view. I am SOMETIMES okay with 2-3, but it has to be executed well. When there is a huge cast of characters, each with their own POV, I feel as though a few characters are always neglected, and don’t have significant time for development. I’ve actually been experiencing this issue in my current read, Aurora Rising – which is a shame, because I love Illuminae so much. Thanks again for a lovely post! Happy reading! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve read a books with 6/7 character POV (can’t remember the exact number) and I liked all the characters to varying degrees I think the main problem with multi POVs is that sometimes they just don’t flow very well. Like I’ll forget which character’s chapter it is & then I have to flick back to check & that’s just annoying.
    Loved the rambling 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree with so much that you said. I have issues with certain POV changes when there are more than three or so narrators nowadays. This never used to happen and I can deal with it, mostly, but it gets a bit frustrating and I have focus issues with it. Before it was like, okay, fine, sure, I get it. Now I’m like double taking to make sure I’m reading the POV I think I’m reading lol Also, ooh, I didn’t know that The Lost Hero had so many POVs. I am just diving into Riordan’s works (I started back in December of last year I think) and I’m not quite to that series yet, but it makes me kind of nervous! I’m going to like it, I know it, but phew, my brain is going to be spacing out on me I can feel it.

    This whole post was so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I also often lose my focus when there are too many POV characters, especially if they all sound very similar. The Lost Hero only has 3 POVs, but some of the other books in the series have 5, and throughout the series it’s a total of 9 POVs across all of the books! I hope you enjoy the series if you continue with it 🙂

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  11. i think i might be one of the few people that actually really enjoys reading from as many POVs as i can! i think one of my favorite things about six of crows, for example, was the fact we had POVs for every single one of the characters. even if there are a lot of them, i still enjoy it a lot and i surprisingly don’t get confused.
    i feel like it’s a challenge, though, to create balanced POVs. i feel like there will always be one that is boring compared to the others, or one character’s voice that just doesn’t sound as good as the other ones. for me, in the heroes of olympus, that was piper. and in six of crows, wylan.
    as you said, some stories are just meant to have multiple POVs and some just aren’t.
    i haven’t read a book where i felt like there were way too many main characters and i felt disconnected, but recently i watched the show “the society” on netflix and there are around 10 main characters in that show! it’s crazy! however, i still felt like they needed a lot of main characters to the story they were trying to tell, so i wasn’t that mad once i actually understood the reason behind it, but it still felt really overwhelming at the beginning and it took me forever to learn everyone’s names, hahah.
    great discussion, xandra!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lais! (I’m sorry I took so long to respond! 🙈 I need to visit your blog again soon!) That makes sense, because I love reading POVs if they all are unique! But I think any more than 6 is too many for me! When I read a book, I have to love the characters in order to continue, and I also really like getting to know them all.

      Authors probably have a hard time making so many balanced POVs, I agree! It takes a lot of effort to make so many well-written characters, and give them all unique voices. I also didn’t enjoy Piper as much as the other characters!

      Wow, the 10 main characters in The Society sounds like too many for me, haha! I can see how it would be hard to introduce so many characters at once, especially when you first start watching the series. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Okay, this post is amazing, and I’m here on your blog for the first time, but I love it. Anyhow, I definitely agree about loving first person – it’s a lot easier for me to relate to/get close to a character who’s telling their story from 1st person POV. It does get complicated when there are too many POVs – something I’ve seen is that with first person it’s easier to make the mistake of giving the characters too similar voices. I’ve read quite a few books where the main characters sounded very similar, which is rarely the case with third person. For example, Six of Crows has many-many main characters with 3rd person POV, and they all have such distinct voices and are easy to like/are strong characters.

    Disproportioned POV chapters can be so great, I think, and Wonder is a fantastic example of them. I think it works even for the characters who only get a few chapters because we already know them from Auggie’s point of view. Also, Wonder is very much Auggie’s story, so him having the most chapters makes a lot of sense, in my opinion.

    I honestly love this post so much, and all the work you put into it really shows. 💜 Good luck on figuring out the POVs of your WIP. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Veronika! 😊 (I just visited your blog right now, and I love your blog header and plant theme!) 1st person POV always helps me to understand how the main character(s) are feeling, and most of the books are actually in 1st person! I really like your point about 3rd person, and I agree, it seems easier to differentiate between the characters when the story is told in 3rd person.

      I’m glad you agree about the chapters in Wonder! I personally loved the way that the chapter POVs worked in that book, because like you said, it was Auggie’s story but it was also necessary to know what the other characters were doing at the time. 💕 Thank you again!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t usually mind multiple POVs, the only problem I find is that there’s usually a character whose POV I prefer, so when I’m reading the other one, I mostly just want to get back to the other. And the worst is when one POV ends on a cliff hanger, and then it switches to the other, and you just want to know what happened to that other character!
    I’ve definitely seen books with lots of POVs that have worked well though, Six of Crows being a great example. And the A Song of Ice and Fire series. It definitely depends on the book.
    Great post, and good luck with your WIP 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you! Sometimes I like certain characters more than the others, but I suppose it also helps me to get through the book faster in order to read my favorite characters’ POVs instead! I really should try the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and Six of Crows as well! Thank you, Laura! 🙂

      Like

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