Everyone has an opinion on what kind of voice works best in a romance novel — some are virulently against a first-person POV, some only want to hear a female voice in first person, some prefer third person for everything. And God help you if you head-hop into multiple characters’ heads - for some readers, this is an absolute dealbreaker worthy of a DNF.
Because romance writers have to be so focused on character, how you make your characterizations ring true in narration is important, and you have to decide whose head the reader will have access to. So how many points of view (POVs) in a romance is too many?
Most often, you’ll see the love interests’ perspectives alternating throughout the text, though sometimes you’ll get just one side of the relationship only. If you’re only doing one, which one should you do? Here are some things to consider.
Some sub-genres of romance come with certain expectations of the viewpoint character – for example, it’s relatively rare to find historicals that don’t alternate perspectives between the love interests, while New Adult tends to have only one main narrator and usually in first person. This is not at all to say that you can’t subvert the expectation, but you have weigh it out against what might potentially turn readers of the sub-genre off.
Whose thoughts do you absolutely need?
Is it important that the reader gets all sides of the story, or that they’re able to get into the main characters’ heads to see how the MCs are reacting internally to the same moment? Or should the reader only get one side of the story and be left guessing as what the other characters are thinking along with the lone viewpoint character? And what kind of voice do you want to use for them? First person so that the reader can really connect with that character? Third person so the reader can get a wider view of the scene? (There are very few people who can pull off second person and very few readers who like it – unless you think it’s absolutely crucial to narrate in second person, I’d avoid it.)
Most of the time, you want to restrict perspectives to as few as possible. Do we need to hear the thoughts of the MC’s best friend/mom/brother/auntie/dog? Maybe, depending on what you want to convey (I’ll go out on a limb here and say that you’ll almost NEVER need the dog’s POV. Trust me) – but it’s usually easier for you as the writer and less confusing for the reader if you stay focused on the main characters only. How they think and react to the major events of the book are the most important perspectives to have.
If you’re going to switch perspective, how will you indicate who’s who? Do you need to? (Probably yes if you’re switching between first-person perspectives. For third person, you most likely simply need a section break – but see what works for you.)
If you’re limiting POV to only one or two characters, how will you communicate what others are thinking so the reader—and the viewpoint character(s)—can read their emotions properly? Tone, actions, and mirroring emotions in the viewpoint character (i.e. how does someone else’s words or actions make them feel?) can all help with this.