1. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    Limited POV

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Vladcasm, Jan 26, 2013.

    Hi,

    So I'm new to this forum, and I'm pretty sure that someone already made a post like this, but I need some clarification.

    I'm writing a story from a third-person limited point of view (multiple characters, but that's not important), and I'm having some trouble with it. Basically from what I understand a limited POV means that I can only perceive what my character perceives, so anything the character doesn't see, hear, feel, whatever... shouldn't be written.

    However, occasionally I would write something like this:

    His heart hammered in his chest and his face turned red. "Enough!" (Poor example, sorry...)

    But the character shouldn't be able to tell if his face turned red since, he, himself can't see his own face.

    So my question is, am I limited to writing only what my character is experiencing, or I can act as a sort of a camera/reporter that watches over him, so writing that his face turned red is acceptable?

    Thank you for your help! :)


    P.S. Also if I'm writing something like this:

    He pressed his face against the window. Seeing her inside, _______'s mouth twisted into a goofy smile. (again, horrible example.)

    Again, if it's his point of view then it wouldn't make sense for the character to describe his smile as 'goofy', wouldn't it?

    Sorry if I'm not clear enough...
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One of the advantages of third limited is that you can "slip the leash" somewhat without disrupting the flow iof the story. So although you are correct that it breaks the mold of true third limited, it's probably okay. I wouldn't recommend fracturing the guidelines all the time, because you will lose the advantage of the similar feel to first person, but this will only tweak the strictest editors/readers.

    You can feel the heat of a blush, even if you cannot see the ruddy glow, so that may be a better way to approach it.
     
  3. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    The "goofy" part sticks out because if you're aiming for true-limited-third then it could definitely break immersion, especially if it conflicts with that character's perceptions and behaviours.

    Take a character like Ned Stark or Sherlock Holmes: They may very well have a goofy smile, but you'd never have a piece written from their perspective come within spitting distance of the word. The closest thing would be "Smiled in the way that X always hated."

    Don't be too rigid, just keep reader engagement in mind.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    One of the advantages of third-person limited is that it is, in fact, third person, not first person. It's okay to do this kind of thing - the narrator is permitted to "see" the viewpoint character. One advantage of this POV is that it enables the writer to describe the character without having him look in a mirror. Another is that it permits the writer to use his own language level and style rather than that of the character.

    What a third-person limited POV does NOT permit is describing the thoughts of characters other than the POV character. Also, the writer is not permitted to discuss what is happening in other places (no "Meanwhile, back at the ranch ..." kind of writing).

    Third person POV offers a certain amount of flexibility in that the rules for its use are not absolute. (What rules of writing are?) However, you should be careful to be consistent in your own use of it - the "rules" you set up in your own story - otherwise you risk confusing the reader. So if you refrain from describing your character's smile throughout most of your book, only to do so in the last chapter, you'll probably pull the reader out of the story, as Cogito suggests. But if your rules are made clear early on, and are strictly adhered to throughout the story, your reader will likely follow you quite happily.
     
  5. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    This thread is interesting to me. I'm an inexperienced writer but now I'm realizing that I've been using third-person limited POV fairly consistently in my WIP. In each scene I tell the story as if I'm "sitting on the shoulder" of a particular character. I stick with the same character throughout the scene but when I shift scenes I will "follow" a different character. I definitely break the rules a lot, though... probably too much. Now I'm feeling the need to review my material to make sure I'm being at least somewhat consistent. That said, it doesn't seem like a big deal to me to describe the primary character from the outside when appropriate. However, hearing the thoughts of one of the other characters would definitely be off limits.
     
  6. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    Thanks guys! :)

    My current story (my first actually... it's a fanfic--don't laugh! :D) started off in omni-POV and gradually zoomed in on the central character/s. Now I'm having trouble deciding how deep I want to delve into my characters' heads.

    When I try writing in a very deep POV it ends up being very awkward, and I end up wishing that I wrote in first-person instead. I prefer keeping some distance between the narrator and the characters, without becoming too detached (like in omniscient.)

    I think that, occasionally, "reporting" on the character from the outside wouldn't hurt too much (it's not the character's voice anyway), but I do agree that showing what the character himself is experiencing is probably more immersing.

    Now the goofy smile thing... I probably should keep those kind of things to a minimum, since the character himself wouldn't perceive himself that way, and I don't want the narrator to have his own opinions on the characters (again, back to omni...)
     
  7. Sir Mac Jefferson
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    Sir Mac Jefferson New Member

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    But George R. R. Martin (writer of "A Song of Ice and Fire", aka Game of Thrones) does that all of the time, and his stories are written in third-person, right? They only give you thoughts from the character with the POV, but he changes who has the POV every chapter, and (he says) some of the events are happening at the same time as each other.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Third limited is a subset of third person. You can have third person with multiple viewpoints, or you can have third omniscient. Each variation has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, the very thing that is a strength for one story is a weakness for another.

    Third person is the most flexible of the simple POVs (third, first, or second), and because of that, some of that flexibility is differentiated into different narrative patterns.
     
  9. hnamartin
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    hnamartin Member

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    I absolutely agree. If the story was written exactly as it would have been if it were written in first person, than you might as well just exchange an "I" for a "he/she."

    The way I usually think about third person limited is not that the narrator is inside the character's head but rather that the narrator is floating around the protagonist like some specter. It can see what the character is doing, and it knows what the character is thinking, but it makes decisions about what specific details it would like to give to the reader.
     

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