1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Limited vs. Close Third?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Catrin Lewis, Mar 14, 2015.

    So I'm going a little crazy. Tell me: What’s the difference between Third Person Limited and Close Third Person?

    There must be a difference, because I’ve been reading limited third for years and close third is something new (to me, at least) that’s become the big thing more recently. Has anyone seen clear definitions of the two, especially comparing one to the other? Where do you draw the line between them? Is it possible to write a non-stream-of-consciousness novel entirely in close third, without pulling the viewpoint back now and again?

    I’m having a hard time getting my WIP (half finished) to behave. I’m not sure I can push it into Close Third, but I need to establish the position of my narrative camera, so to speak, and I’m not sure where.

    Could be I’m too paranoid about Da Roolz. But can anyone point/link me to some good writing advice authors who can get me straight on this? Thanks.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you're too paranoid about Da Roolz. I think of close third and third person limited as the same thing, and they're also practically the same thing as free indirect style. Who really cares what it's called?

    It's like a diver diving off the ten meter platform and the commentator says, "He's planning a double-twist reverse Heimlich jackknife with a Spassky gambit somersault declined and a spritz of lime juice. Let's see if he manages to include the Picard maneuver with the Bach snowblower variation." What the hell does any of that mean? What matters is, does the dive look cool? If yes, and he hits the water without too much splash, you give him 10/10 and you don't care what you call it. ;)
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Nomenclature changes over time....? Authorial intrusion and narrative intrusion are the same thing in my book, though there are those who will argue that though there is a great deal of overlap, each term includes some dynamics excluded from the other. *shrug* Attribution or dialogue tags and beats? *shrug*

    I have a pet theory that - 'specially on the web - a lot of these terms get bandied about in a way to exclude and create avenues for elitist registers of discourse, so, when a term becomes commonly known over time, it has to be replaced by some new esoteric term that means the same thing, but offers enough obfuscation so as to restructure the ever eroding walls of elitism.
     
  4. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, here's what I found at this location:

    I presume No. 1 is Omniscient and No. 5 is Close Third. (And that by "your" the POV character is referring to himself.) Maybe if I had a copy of The Art of Fiction I'd know what the rest are.

    Maybe what I'm getting frustrated about is determining how much narrative summary is allowed in Close Third without it's being narrative intrusion. Because there's essential background material on my characters that would be excruciating if it were all depicted in scenes (not to mention making the book a thousand or so pages long) and would be totally inappropriate and out-of-character for my MC to bring up in conversation. Yeah, "show, don't tell"-- but some things, while needing to be known, don't bear showing.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it unrealistic for your MC to think about it? That seems perfectly legal in close third person. Do you have any examples?
     
  6. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always wondered what close second is?
     
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  7. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The way I understood it, is that close third is a variety of third person limited that tries to get that bit deeper into a POV.
    I think it includes a higher density of thoughts and reactions of your POV character. There isn't a dividing line where your third person limited story is considered close, just like there isn't a dividing line where New York City is close.
    There's an entire spectrum of closeness.

    One technical difference that I can discern is that filtering becomes that bit much more taboo if you're trying to achieve close third.

    In third person limited you could write
    'Too late, John realised he'd left his laptop on the train.'
    It's clearly in John's POV, but 'realised' is a filter.

    For close third you might write something like,
    'Now where was his laptop? Oh damn he'd left it on the train.'

    I'm not as anti-filtering as some people, but it does make a difference to the closeness of your POV.
     
  8. Carlos Danger
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    Carlos Danger Member

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    I really don't know for sure, but having Googled it, I'm going to go out on a limb and say of the five sentences examples you posted earlier, the fourth one is the "Close Third" one.

    First three examples don't enter anyone's consciousness but are all third-person. Fourth one is also third-person, but enters the character's consciousness. Fifth one's second person.
     
  9. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with @Wreybies on this one, people are getting too caught up on arbitrary terms.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it matters if you switch around a bit, as long as your POV character is the one who filters the scene for you. It's when stuff gets included in a scene that the POV character can't know that the waters get muddied. I don't see a problem with 'he realised he'd left his briefcase on the train,' included in the same POV scene as 'damn, why am I always forgetting stuff?' As long as these are attributed properly, there isn't any real problem.
     
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  11. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely agree. You can mix it up depending on what you're trying to achieve at the time. I believe the Art of Fiction says the same.

    I deliberately tried to write a more acceptable sort of filter for my example, so as not to preach 'filtering always equals bad'.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2015
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. There is a sudden obsession with removing filters from writing. Okay, I think writers need to be aware of filters, but there are many occasions when using them is the best choice. It's a great device for creating distance, which is sometimes what you want. When you want a reader to observe a POV character with a critical or understanding eye, filtering is often a good way to go.
     
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  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    She could think about the sort of things I have in, but as it is, it would be a thought or impression that would flash through her mind in the middle of a conversation-- no time to puzzle it out rationally.

    I could give an example, but doubt it's kosher here, and I don't want to put any up on the Workshop, since most people wouldn't understand what I was asking about.

    If if is ok, I will, just to get an answer to the question, "Is this the sort of descriptive background summary that's allowed in Close Third?"

    Otherwise, I might say to H with it, I won't do Close Third in this novel anyway!
     
  14. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know, it's funny, but often I find that a statement without a so-called "filter word" creates more distance.

    Let's say you write, "A man was walking down the sidewalk." I think, "That's nice, so what? A lot of men walk down sidewalks. Big deal."

    But if you say, "She [the MC] noticed the man walking down the sidewalk," I'm inside her head (or she's inside mine), I feel the wider opening of her eyes and her increased alertness, I experience her act of seeing and I know the sight makes a difference to her.

    Yes, the idea is that the reader will always know whose head they're in. It doesn't work that way for me; I have to be reminded. Maybe it's my age.
     
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  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Those two examples have different focuses. The first focuses on the man, the second on her reaction to him. There are times when one would be appropriate, times when the other would be better. It's like passive voice - a totally useful, appropriate tool to use at certain times, but a problem when used at other times. It's just important to recognize what you're doing and chose the tool that's best for the job at hand.
     
  16. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I think. But it seems to be the sort of example that's put forward whenever someone is advising striking out "filter words."
     
  17. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    People get caught up in trying to make absolute rules for writing. It would be a lot simpler if there were black and white rules, but really it's all about judgement. Frustrating, but I'm pretty sure it's true.
     
  18. Carlos Danger
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    Carlos Danger Member

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    You definitely don't need to follow the rules. I'm thinking of Cormac McCarthy, who usually doesn't put any apostrophes in his writing.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see a problem with the story drifting away to a background thought or memory that takes longer than the moment that triggered it. To me, close third person doesn't also mean that you have to follow a strict timeline.

    I don't know if a long sample is OK here, but I don't see any problem with putting a long sample in the Review Room, with an explanation.

    I see "noticed" as fundamentally different from "saw". Now, "saw" isn't necessarily bad either, but "noticed" is more of an action than a filter.
     
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  20. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll consider putting up an example in the Workshop, and if I do, I'll link from this thread. In the meantime, I think I'll proceed with my edit/rewrite as follows:

    Singing Lake Farm:
    1) Try to maintain fairly close third, and
    2) Retain the narrative summaries, but
    • Think hard as to whether a given idea/fact/memory could be incorporated into a scene after all. If so, do it.
    • If not, make sure they summarize only ideas/facts/memories that Mary Ellen, the viewpoint character, would think of or know– no godlike external revelations, please.
    • Make sure the figures of speech, etc., are ones she would use
    • Restrict the summaries to places where she might be reminded of the given idea/fact/memory and think the thoughts or recall the event summarized if she had time
    I'm reminding myself that I'm not writing to an external deadline so I can always go back and redo it if I get it "wrong" this time around. Though I'd really like to have a completed first draft tucked away by my birthday in mid-June . . .
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015

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