1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you ever consciously break the POV-rules?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Apr 21, 2012.

    Like every rule in writing there are occasions when it can be broken, if you do it consciously to achieve a certain effect. I write in third person limited but sometimes in the beginning of a chapter/scene I can use an omniscient pov to describe the setting of that scene. Like seeing it from above, from a little distance and with a greater perspective, and not like the character would do. Often it is a short description of the surroundings, before I zoom in and see what the character is doing. Sometimes I can also let a omniscient POV comment on something the character does or a choice she makes, because that is something I like in novels I read.
    When do you break the POV rules? Or do you strictly follow the same POV through the entire story?
     
  2. W. E. Burrough
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    W. E. Burrough Member

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    In one story, I have another narrator along with myself. When I utilize him, it's in second-person. The overall story is third-person limited.
     
  3. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    This is all fully covered by 3rd-person limited. The only rule with this perspective is that you can only read the thoughts of one character at a time.

    I don't think many people like 2nd person, that's why it's been all but extinct for nearly a century now.

    Personally I do mix perspectives if I have a need to in order to tell the story I want to tell. The book I'm writing at the moment has a mixture of 1st-person and 3rd-person cinematic perspective. I wouldn't mix omniscient with anything else though, and it's wise only to change at chapter breaks or you risk alienating a reader.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you're saying that this is still considered third person limited? That's interesting. I thought it was to be considered omniscient since... well, For some reason I thought it was. :)
     
  5. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    No, with omniscient it would go something like this:

    The dance continued, sashaying in waltz-time. They were all completely unaware of the carnage which was taking place just outside their walls. Hazel was pacing slowly around the periphery of the hall wondering why none of the suitors were interested in her, she had, after all, just become single after Derek decided to leave the country. Some thought that he felt too stifled by life in the countryside, they would have been surprised to learn of the secret family he'd begun off the coast of Spain. Hazel continued her somewhat predatory search, coming across Jackson en route.

    "Would you care to dance, sir?" Perhaps it was too forward, she thought, but she'd got that tattoo of 'carpe diem' for a reason.

    Jackson, a somewhat reserved man in his early 30s flushed at the invitation, he wasn't used to such approaches from ladies, especially ones as attractive as Hazel Reynolds.

    "Yes, of course. It would be my honour," he said.

    Just as the two of them began their serenade, it seemed as if fate had other plans. The music ground to a halt as the garden doors to the ballroom smashed into pieces. The crowd recoiled in horror as a horde of the undead laid claim to their flesh. A panic set in and the guest turned to run up the stairs, the cadence of the night replaced by the tortured screams of the victims.

    -----------------------

    With 3rd person limited, you can see anything which is going on in the vicinity of the character, but you're allowed only to visit his or her thoughts.
     
  6. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Nope.

    It has been highly used in certain contexts. The Choose Your Own Adventure series, Goosebumps Choose Your Own Scare books, and other stories copying this format were very popular for certain generations. I know plenty of friends that feel nostalgia for the childhood experience of being able to actually be a character in a book. Also, If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino made brilliant use of second person. There are dozens of notable books that make use of second person in the last decade alone. My point is, even though it is much more rare than third-person-limited, it is not "all but extinct."

    To your comment that you don't think many people like the 2nd person, I think that's irrelevant. I write Sci-fi, and there are plenty of people that hate sci-fi. So, why do I still write it? 1) I enjoy it 2) there are still readers that enjoy it. When you are writing a book, you should never try to write it so everybody will enjoy it, or you will have to compensate a lot of your creativity, and in the end, no one will fully enjoy it. Instead, you want to cater to the people who will pick up your book, read the first page, and keep reading. Write your story in a way that they will enjoy it.

    If there are people who hate second person so much that they refuse to read your book, ignore them. Write for your readers.
     
  7. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    True funkybass, but the CYOA books have a good reason for it, they are a literature-based game. I know there are a handful of novels which have managed to pull off 2nd-person, but I'm sure the stats would come in at the 0.001% of books written. I personally don't see the draw of it, it offers few advantages except novelty.

    I don't quite get your point here, you should write for your readers, but ignore them?
     
  8. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    i tell my story in an kind of omniscient point of view, you can see and hear everything but you only get to know what the MC thinks, you never get to be in the other characters head even if sometime a whole chapter is from their point of view.
     
  9. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    That's 3rd-subjective/limited
     
  10. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    The people that will refuse to read your book are not your readers. I refuse to read Twilight because I know I won't like it, but Stephanie Meyer didn't write it for me; she wrote it for people who like vampire romances. Because it was catered specificially to readers that like vampire romances, it was a wildly successful book. Similarly, J.K. Rowling didn't write her book for the Evangelical Christians that think fictitious magic is satanic worship.

    ^These are your readers.
     
  11. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    Yes, but my point is that 2nd-person is such an obscure narrative perspective with so few advantages that the only reason to write using it (barring an interactive game scenario) is as a means to challenge the author or to use it for novelty value. None of those reasons are 'for the readers.' You could write a book in someone's favourite genre, the content could be exactly to their liking and yet they won't read it because they hate the narrative perspective you've chosen. It seems pointless to me to p*** off prospective readers just for the sake of an authorial challenge.

    I just read the initial quote, and it doesn't sound as if that's actually 2nd-person perspective anyway. It sounds like a device called 'The Ishmael,' itself a subsidiary of 3rd-person.

    2nd-person perspective would read like this, in it the reader is a character in the book:

    ---------
    As you walk up the hill, you realize that the atmosphere's just too quiet. There's no sound from the cardinal you know is almost always singing from the top of the maple tree. You think you see a shadow move high up on the slope, but when you look again it's gone. You shudder as you feel a silent threat pass over you. You feel cold, like a cloud just passed over the sun.

    [source: http://home.mchsi.com/~webclass/POV%20samples.htm]
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why did this turn into a discussion of the right to existence of 2nd person POV?
     
  13. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    Round about the second post :)
     
  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, what you described is all third person limited. As long as the pov character is present in the scene, and you are not getting in the head of anyone else, you can get away with an occasional author commentary.

    I use second person pov in non-fiction essays all the time, to pose philosophical questions, hypothetical scenarios, it's a good persuasion tool because it helps reader imagine themselves in a certain situation. Doesn't work in fiction, though. I hate it when I'm reading fiction and all of a sudden the author is telling me what I am thinking and feeling. Dialogue doesn't apply, obviously. In dialogue you can mix the pov's tenses etc, as required for representing real speech.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good to know. I thought both these cases were to consider omniscient. I guess I was wrong, but the topic questions remains, as a general question now. :)
     
  16. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I remain consistent in my POV (one would say following the 'rule') in my novels and short stories.

    There is a line that can be crossed where it becomes more of a gimmick than a necessary break. Sometimes it's due to laziness in the writer because it'll just be easier to tell the story this way--despite the effect on the reader. Sometimes the writer thinks it's necessary to tell the story, when really they're including what really isn't necessary for the story--sometimes just thinking it'd be neat or interesting to include it.

    Then, there are legitimate reasons to break the rule. Each writer has to decide the reason/motivation and the payoff for sticking with or breaking such 'POV rules.'
     
  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    You mean generally would we break pov rules to suit the story? It's a tough question. I think I break some pov rules from time to time, or actually, it isn't "breaking" it's just choices I make. I try to allow pov rules to guide me and often it is only a matter of re-phrasing the sentence in order to stay within the boundaries of the pov and then it usually sounds better anyway. But I sometimes include inner thoughts which I treat as inner dialogue (single quotations, doubles are for dialogue) and those are more or less obviously in first person. I don't use them often but if the shoe fits...
    But within any one chapter I will stick to one general pov. As a reader I became rather fond of a few chapters being written from the villain or the victim pov (first person), all else in 3rd limited, but I haven't tried that out as a writer yet.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    POV "rules" are there because you need to walk before you can dance on a wire. Each POV approach has its own strengths and shortcomings. Also, transitions between them are jarring to the reader, in varying degrees.

    Generally, you want to avoid jarring the reader out of his or her immersion in the story.

    But it need not always be the case. Sometimes you do want to disturb the reader. Rarely do you want the reader to emerge from the story, but you may have cause to make the reader off ease.

    In such a case, violations of the POV guidelines can be used subliminally to good effect.

    The "rules" are not as important as the rationale behind them. Beginning writers should stick to the smooth path, until they understand the reasons behind a particular guideline, and therefore understand what the effects of straying from that path are.

    Humans learn incrementally. You have to simplify things when a writer is learning the ropes. Too much freedom is another word for lost.
     
  19. Jenny Masters
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    Jenny Masters Member

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    Rules or not, I let the outline tell me what to do or needs to be done. The outline is my mentor.
     
  20. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    The reason you should choose any POV is because it fits your story. I think you would agree with this.

    Believe it or not, there is a time and place to use 2nd person. I've already agreed with you on that it is rare, but it happens. If On A Winter's Night, as previously stated, makes brilliant use of second person. It fits the story. Thus, your argument that the only reason is it ever used is as game, as a challenge, or as a novelty is invalid.

    Similarly, to get to Tesoro's question, the only reason you ever break the rules of a POV is if it fits your story. Sometimes a story needs the rules to be broken, or bent, in order for your story to be most effective. That said, if you can't write a story that follows all the rules (POV, structure, etc), then you are not ready to break them. If one is unpublished and this is your first book, maybe bend your story to fit the rules for now.

    I think switching from third to first is pretty natural. Sometimes a third person story has its previously unnoticed, omniscient narrator pop into the story in 1st person for various reasons. If it's 3rd limited, it could give information that none of the characters know. Also, in The Scarlet Letter, I remember a 1st person narrator pop in once or twice to give a quick opinion on what was happening. It worked very well for the story, and was a pleasant surprise. Once, for class, I wrote a story about this crazy character who gets home from work, undresses, and then clumsily dances around her apartment. Then I switched to first person, revealing that there was a creepy man watching from her window. Dun dun dun.

    I also wrote a story about a guy who kept having really vivid dreams, and I switched from third to first person for the dreams. I thought it worked pretty well, especially since I switched to present tense. It gave the dreams a surreal feel.
     

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