I believe that readers want to suffer with the characters, but from the comfort of their armchairs. So I use the multiple shifting viewpoint, sometimes with just two characters, often gathering information from many characters to build the story. It is my natural style, and means I can write from inside the characters’ heads.
No disrespect intended to other writers who do use the authorial narrator, but for me, that is an unnecessary method. I like to let the characters tell the story, rather than boss them around using a kind of imaginary friend. For me, whoever the story is happening to at any point in it should be the story-teller at that point – producing maximum suffering with the characters for the reader! It also means I can tailor my vocabulary to something appropriate for the character, for example where I used “moments” to show the passage of time for my Naxadan tribespeople characters in Floodtide, but “minutes” for the humans.
What this means, of course, is that the stage is clean and uncluttered, but of course there are trade-offs and compromises, and sometimes a work-around is also required. Trade-offs include the fact that I have to be strict with myself about staying in one viewpoint throughout a scene. However, this isn’t a big deal, really – unless you’re used to using an authorial narrator and dipping into first one and then another character, and then making comments on the side.
Compromises include noticing, after using this style for a while, that sometimes it meant that the audience knew more than the characters. At first I worried about this, but then I discovered that it’s a well-known technique and even has a name: dramatic irony. After I found this out I stopped worrying.
The work-around I have in mind is for when I have more than one thing happening at the same time. I’d seen lots of published examples whereby two characters were followed in consecutive chapters. It’s a classic technique for creating cliff-hangers. I just felt it was intrinsically wrong to follow one story stream for one chapter, then go back in time to find out what had happened to the other character. It niggled and niggled at me until I finally realised what I had to do about it. So for me, it’s better to keep the time-stream moving forward smoothly and jump between characters, using very short scenes if necessary. Inch by inch. Second by second. And you can still create good cliff-hangers.