I’ve been reading a lot of genres besides Romance lately and I’ve happened upon a conundrum. Stick with me for a moment. Imagine you’re reading the latest thriller which bounces from character to character in points of view. As much as I enjoy ‘getting to know’ all these characters deeply, I find myself without someone to root for.
I recently read Preston & Child’s “The Ice Limit” which is a modern retelling of the Moby Dick story. I mean it. It didn’t even take one of the characters saying “call me Ishmael” for me to see the parallels. They used Melville’s storyline and gave it a modern twist to make it interesting. But I can’t tell you who the hero was. And I was paying attention.
In that book, we were in the POV of an old man meteor hunter who died, then a young meteor hunter who I thought would be the hero. Then we were in the POV of an engineer, a millionaire and a Chilean destroyer captain. We bounced back and forth between all these characters and got to know them quite eloquently. Each one was archetypical and gave the story a lot of depth of character. But I really don’t know who the hero was. The guy I thought was the hero ended up not being terribly heroic. The guy who started out heroic kind of had a meltdown.
There were plenty of people who could have been heroes or protagonists, but I truly cannot say who was the main one.
In one sense, Romances make that easy. You may be introduced to any number of secondary characters, but the relationship makes it pretty easy to identify the hero and heroine. In a thriller, it’s not that cut and dried.
I once heard that the reason first person POV books aren’t popular in Romance is because the reader can’t empathize or imagine themselves as the hero or heroine if they are in a single person’s POV. With that ‘locked in’ viewpoint, the reader is stuck in the mind of the narrating character and can’t get to know anyone else deeply. As long as the viewpoint character is quirky or interesting, I prefer to be in single POV for mysteries, thrillers, etc.
With a single viewpoint, there is no doubt who the hero is. In some of these books, there is no lack of viewpoint characters who may (or may not) actually be a hero–whether or not they act heroically. My head hurts.