1. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    Narrator Point Of View

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CosmicHallux, Jul 10, 2011.

    I feel comfortable writing in 3rd person (I think that is called omniscient narrator POV?).

    I am struggling to learn more about POV, and trying to make my 3rd person perspective create intimacy between the reader and the characters.

    I've been reading Dean Koontz's Frankenstein and he has omniscient narrator (if I am using this term wrong, please correct me).

    He cuts the book into short chapters that each focus on a different character's POV. The chapters feature one dominant character's POV that the omniscient narrator merges with. He seems to put only very loud thoughts in italics. He doesn't do the whole, "Darren thought, I guess I will be alone tonight" The thoughts are sprinkled throughout the narration as if they are fact.

    Do you think that this is an effective way of drawing the reader into the character's perspective? It seems to work for me, as a reader.

    What are your thoughts on POV?

    Do you have any book suggestions so that I could learn more about how to use omniscient narrator?

    Do you put thoughts in italics? I put some of mine in italics, but I'm having trouble maintaining consistency in this.
     
  2. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    Character and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Do not put thoughts in italics. See my blog links in my signature.
     
  4. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    I'm going to have to disagree with Cogito, because there is no right or wrong way to handle thoughts, except for quotation marks, which shouldn't be used probably. Some authors use italics for thoughts, such as outlined in The Marshal Plan, but a better alternative, and the general consenus, seems to be in writing the thought without a special format and just adding the appropriate tag.

    It's a stylistic choice, and one way may be frowned upon by some readers, but you won't be crucified for using italics.
     
  5. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    Thanks both of you,
    After reading the blog about POV, I am totally confused. This is obviously the point where I need to focus my research.

    I had a lot of trouble trying to make italics work for thoughts, so I'm glad it's not standard practice.

    One of my characters is alone in nature a lot so I get tired of saying, "she thought...,she saw...,she felt..." etc. But I don't feel comfortable doing 1st person.

    I'm going to check out that book you suggested, Degenerate. Thanks. The library is closed today so now I have an excuse to go to the bookstore!

    Cogito, your blog was very comprehensive but I know some of it went over my head. Now I realize that I really need to get my POV straight, and the first step will be to study what POV is and how it can be used, in depth.

    I'll also work on trying to identify the POV that other authors use, and how that seems to effect my experience as a reader.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I must agree with the above, there seem to be no right or wrong here, just personal choices and preferences. I have read more than one book with thoughts in italics. As for myself I don't use it though.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Degenerate:

    This has been discussed over and over on the site. Frankly, I'm a bit tired of it, but there is indeed a right way to handle unspoken dialogue, and there are defined uses for italics. The two do NOT intersect. Refer to the Chicago Manual of Style. It's more comprehensive than most other writing style manuals, so you'll find the most complete answers available.

    I have researched this manner very diligently. But of course no one is obligated to listen.
     
  8. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    See, I have a problem with people who espouse fiction advice as if it were doctrine. Perhaps The Chicago Manual of Style would be a useful guide for this writer if he were writing an academic paper that required attention to pre-determined format. What would be more useful for this writer would be such a guide that outlined the industry standard of stylistic choices a writer must adhere to. But, he won't find that anywhere, because it doesn't exist.

    I'm curious, in your extensive research, if you included fiction. Also, I would be even more curious if you happened upon a book on the craft that boldly stated, in laudable superiority, that any writer who enacts such a sinful writing slight as using italics, must cease putting pen to paper at once, for they are finished in this industry.

    I appreciate that you want to get more traffic to your blog here, but I think you gave him the most invaluable writing advice already: "No one is obligated to listen."

    Regardless, I prefer thoughts without italics, as do a lot of writers. Yet, I'm hesitant to agree with anyone who calls it a rule. Which is the only reason I posted. Hate to see new writers being told that they are doing something wrong when they are doing everything right. Not going to debate the issue; it's in the OP's hands now.
     
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  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Then you don't understand me at all. My purpose is to try to help people avoid getting their manuscript rejected by an editor who expects writers to know the rules of the trade.

    You want to be a rebel, poke holes in your body and fill them with bits of metal or indelible ink. Being a rebel in your manuscript can label you as either ignorant or uncooperative, and will turn off more submissions editors than it will impress.
     
  10. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    That's interesting, because Dan Brown and Joseph Conrad and Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum and Orson Scott Card and James Joyce didn't seem to have any problems getting their manuscripts rejected because of use of italics for thought. In fact, I've never heard about any writer being rejected for their use of italics. I'm sure there are some slush readers out there who are cranky and overworked and need some insignificant excuses to weed out their pile, but as for it being an "industry rule," that's the sort of thinking from somebody who hasn't made a nickel from their writing.

    Anyway, I refuse to get into with you any further. You seem like an edgy mod who would ban anyone with a contrary opinion. So let's just leave it for the OP to decide here. You have offered your opinion, I have offered mine. It's up to him to make up his own mind.

    Thank you for getting my internal clockwork going though, and I respect that you want to help writers like I do, but be careful about these so-called industry rules of the trade you speak of.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You don't know WHAT was in their manuscript. Don't judge by what you see typeset in a published edition. Besides, an established author can get away with many things a new writer breaking into the business cannot.

    Half of the writers you mentioned are not even contemporary. What matters is what is correct or incorrect by TODAY'S standards.

    I have seen this argument repeatedly. If you are going to research, depend on authoritative sources for your best answer rather than what you see in publication. You can find plenty of bad examples in published books, especially if you are only paying attention to the examples that show you what you want to see.
     
  12. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    I'm sure that if I was hell-bent on using italics for thoughts, that no amount of persuasion could keep me from them. I appreciate Dan Brown's work, but I find italics uncomfortable to work with, and I only tried to use them because I am just learning and haven't developed a plethora of tools yet. I've only learned how to use italics for writing the names of larger works of literature and foreign words. I am trying to ramble on here about italics because I am brand new here and am not taking a stance on italics on my first post after introduction. By the way, I am a "she."

    I read the chapters on 3rd person POV in Characters and Viewpoint and I realized that what I was describing in Koontz's Frankenstein is actually third person limited POV.

    A clear example of this is when, in Ch. 18, Koontz writes, "Janet bounded after the dog, chanting 'Dog knows, knows, knows..." Here the POV loosly belongs to her murder partner. But in Ch. 22, when the POV is shifted to the police, Koontz writes, "The woman--okay, Janet--chanted urgently, 'Dog nose, dog nose...'"

    I am still a little foggy on the difference between omniscient and limited POV in application. It seems like limited is similar to omniscient in that the narrator can slip in and out of people's minds, but with third person limited the slips happen within a defined structure--like in different chapters.

    Is it true that in third person omniscient a landscape or a tree can be described independently of how any of the characters (besides the narrator) see it, but in a third person limited POV the tree and landscape must be described in a way that adheres to the POV of the POV character?

    Even though that sounds limiting, I imagine that you could consider the POV character's subconscious awareness, or their hypothetical response to something they aren't consciously aware of when describing the situation surrounding them.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, this is essentially correct.

    Do keep in mind that you can utilize different points of view in the same story. It's a good idea to stick to a single point of view per scene or per chapter, so the reader can follow the transitions. When a POV transitions from one character to another without warning, it is often referred to as "head hopping", and the reader is left unanchored, lacking a clear vantage point for the scene.

    The omniscient POV is unlimited, but it als suffers the absence of a clear vantage point.
     
  14. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    As much as I appreciate the thought and effort put into such research, I have to say I disagree completely. What is written and how it is done so is completely up to the writer, as it is their creative freedom. One way may be frowned upon by most people, but that's not to say that it doesn't work. For example: A man can take two routes to his workplace. His first option is to drive on a central highway, giving him the most time to get there. His second option is to bike on a scenic route which will still get him there on time. Obviously, people will prefer the safer highway route, but the choice is completely up to the man getting from point A to B. Otherwise, the man loses his freedom of choice and is forced to... *shudder*... conform to the rules.

    Time is never still. One day a century ago an African American president would have seemed like a dream, and look where we are today. Every day advancements are made, standards are altered, and old views are replaced by old views. While someone without credibility will not be successful with such thoughts, that's not to say they're completely wrong. Otherwise, the idea of the Earth being the center of the universe would still be enforced.

    And what matters is the flow of the text, and how it functions between the reader and the writer. If I had to read all of the Inheritance series (Eragon, Eldest, etc.) without any italics to emphasize Eragon's and Saphira's thoughts and his/her actual dialogue, then there would be no flow whatsoever.

    So I disagree in the matter of following the rules, because sometimes the rules don't provide you with the proper boundaries and guidelines.

    Sorry to drive this forum off-track, but this has to be said. As for POV: I prefer 3rd Person Limited, with multiple POV to create a more dynamic story.
     
  15. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    Thanks,
    I plan on using 3rd person limited POV with multiple POV. This should help with the problems I was having before. Sooo glad to have figured that out. I already re-wrote what I have done from 1st person to 3rd, but now I have to figure out how to be consistent with 3rd limited POV--probably changing between chapters.

    I agree with your analogy JPGriffin. Literature has been full of rule breakers throughout its history. That is how it evolves, and why all books aren't still written in Latin by misogynistic clerks.

    However, I am not here to pioneer new styles. I just don't want to scrub people's floors.

    Maybe one day I will want to challenge certain accepted writing practices, but right now I just want to write something someone would want to read (especially me). But there is a big place in writing for those who experiment or challenge accepted rules.

    Hooray! I am sooo glad to have found my POV! Thanks to everyone for contributing.
     
  16. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    I have read a lot of stories where Italics were used either to designate thoughts or to put stress on a point I have always found it much more effective than the "Old school" way.

    English is a living language, as such so are the rules. Decide if what you are penning is new school or old school or a hybrid of the two.

    Don't expect your grandmother to understand new school type set ups and Cherry from the block is more than likely not going to bother reading the old school set ups.

    I offer JKR as an example...
    Read the Harry Potter books, the word usage is so far from the norm that the publishing house had to hire a women to police the work to make sure that she did not accidently "Fix" the wording from book to book.

    12 houses said it will never work, but it’s a 6.4 billion $ franchise now...

    Rules, in some cases, were made to be broken. Write it the way you feel is best for you, then let the beta readers tell you what they think. :)

    Best advice I had ever been given, and I hope it helps you a bit.

    ~BL~
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need to go to first person to avoid attributing events to your character's senses. You can declare what they see, feel, think, hear, blah, without actually _saying_ that they see, feel, etc.

    For example:

    She walked through the forest, feeling the rough stones through the soles of her shoes. She heard a rumbling overhead, and looked up to see a jet flying by.

    Here, the feeling and sound and sight are specifically tied to the character. You can untie them:

    She walked through the forest, picking her way carefully along the stony path. A jet flew by overhead, its lights barely visible, the rumbling of its enging ominous in the twilight.

    Here, you untie the touch and sound and sight, and trust your reader to be smart enough to realize that if it's a sound, she heard it, and if it's a sight, she saw it, and so on.

    Now, if you are tying your viewpoint tightly to your character, (called, among other things, Third Person Limited point of view) you do have to avoid telling us things that your character _can't_ perceive. For example, you wouldn't change this to:

    She walked through the forest, picking her way carefully along the stony path. A jet flew by overhead, its lights barely visible, the rumbling of its enging ominous in the twilight. In the plane, the stewardess stared out the window, unaware of the lonely traveller in the forest below...

    The above, since it's not tied to any character's senses, would be Third Person Omniscient point of view. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, but I think that it's somewhat unpopular, perhaps in danger of being perceived as old-fashioned, at the moment.

    ChickenFreak
     
  18. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    That problem plagues me to no end... I try and literally place myself in the character's position. If a second character is sneaking up on him, the first one hears a twig snap and is able to catch a glimpse of the person before he's knocked out. When the same character is doing the same to the other one, he's staying low to the ground, senses alert, looking for signs on the target if he's noticed. He hears the twig snap himself, and while swearing to himself, he charges in quickly or else his mark will either counterattack or worse, escape.
     
  19. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    ChickenFreak: So the first two examples are consistent with 3rd person limited, right?

    The last example shows the benefits of omniscient narration, because I really like that little detail about the stewardess.

    For now, I think I'll try to stretch the 3rd person limited to fit the story, and see if I think like I'm God or the character. As I look back over a short story I wrote, I see that I unconsciously wrote in 3rd person limited--probably because I've read more of it in contemporary books (since it's more popular, like you said).

    I thought a little more about italics. They are relatively new...typewriters didn't have italics. No wonder there are conflicting views about their usage.

    Another big problem about putting thoughts in italics is that thoughts aren't always like dialect. In situations of telepathy--maybe, but normally our thoughts are a combination of impulses, memories, accepted beliefs of reality, and sensory information. For example, when I pick up a glass of water to drink I am thinking, but I don't think, I will drink this water now. I am thirsty. I know water is good to drink.



    So it would take extra work to define what thoughts go into italics and which ones don't, because most of them wouldn't. And while I can easily imagine action oriented characters, like a hardened detective or police officer, thinking in small blurbs, there are some characters who might rarely think in sentences.

    I'm sure all that can be done, but it sounds too complicated, especially because there aren't clear guidelines for how to use italics for thoughts (from what I've gathered on this thread.)
     
  20. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Tried to read your blog links, and got a funny message about it being "deprecated," whatever that means. Just FYI.
     
  21. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    Perhaps not thoughts in such a manner, because if there was a thought to be put down in writing for every action, then there would be no storyline. As I would use them, they're mostly for when a character is thinking complete sentences to himself, more than "This water is delicious." Mostly this applies to characters that are secluded but not yet insane enough to speak aloud to themselves, but certain things we put into sentences in our head, a good one being how others would read this very post.
     
  22. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    Yeah, I suppose no one would want to read a novel about my picking up a glass of water and drinking it, either.

    One of my characters seems to be alone a lot. She is a wannabe research biologist and so she is out in nature alone at times. She is also a wer-animal, so she will spend considerable time in animal form.

    I still haven't figured out what to do with this. One of my favorite novels features a research biologist who is alone most of the time--I have to look at it again and see how the author deals with this. Last time I read it was a couple of years ago.

    I don't want her talking to herself all the time, but the reader might get kind of tired of a lack of dialogue. I'm sure it will come together as I comprehend how to use the chosen POV.

    I think italics do work for some writers, but I don't think they are working for me--I don't even think in sentences unless I am monologue-ing, and it would just be immoral to expose the readers to anything like my mental monologues!
     
  23. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    OK I too have a Bio researcher in my book how cool!

    Any how to spice her up more and make her more dimensional I set her up as an OCD type personality.
    She makes lists mentaly leaves herself sticky notes all over the place and has a very firm grasp on what is real and a total disregard for anything she finds fault with.

    That might be one way to bring your researcher to life a bit. Find a trait and really sell it :)
     
  24. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    see if this helps you

    Tired from the hard swim she exited the warm water and toweled off.
    It was late and she had to get up early they were bringing in a pigmy whale that had washed ashore, she was lucky enough to be asked to do the necropsy. She felt sorry for the animal but it was a huge honor to be asked to take the led. Dr. Jacobs was finally starting to trust her skills.

    She rinsed off in the shower adjacent to her room, dried and put on a clean nightgown. Slipping in the sheets, she was asleep nearly the moment her head touched the pillows.

    The buzzing of the alarm clock drew her to consciousness slapping the offending object which was forcing her out of her dreams she snuggled back down under the covers with a groan. Too early she thought daring a peek at the time. 5:15 am she then noticed the note taped to the clock. “Pigmy necropsy 8AM Sharp.” it read. Her eyes flew open
    “Oh great!” she thought having nearly forgot.

    Racing to the bathroom she brushed her teeth, jumped in the shower washed up and got out. Blow drying her hair she tossed it into a high bun and returned to her room.

    “Make the bed, get dressed, grab badge, oh I’m going to need the text books and the tape recorder as well. What else … I know I’m forgetting something.” she thought out loud, frustrated with her self for not making a detailed list last night.

    See here this is all mental thought/description sorry for the punctuation fail this is part of the RD...
     
  25. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    I like how you spiced her up. She sounds like a good researcher.

    I need to focus more on my characters--I've been focusing on plot lately and I know that isn't going to work without the character depth--especially this character. Because I feel so close to her, she is a little too homogenized.

    She is really similar to the other characters who have popped up in a short story I wrote and also the beginning of another novel idea. In the short story, she was a torture survivor and a political activist who ended up killing herself.

    I need to focus more on how her character is distinct. She can't simply be defined by her role as heroine. She seems to be associated with the struggle of vulnerable classes of Mexicans because vulnerable Mexicans showed up in both the finished short story and the novel I am working on.

    She comes from a middle class, Hispanic family. Her parents were born in the US and worked for sensible jobs (like nursing, and landscaping), and she is very interested in less sensible things, like biology, paleontology, and archeology. She took a break after college to volunteer for some non-profit...

    Maybe she is trying to find out who she is in the world...but there is definitely a problem if I don't even know who she is!

    I'm going to re-read Prodigal Summer by Kingsolver, to see how she makes all those nature scenes interesting. Barbara Kingsolver has a degree in biology, ecology and a Masters of Science degree--so I bet she can shed some inspiration for my biologist wer-animal woman scenes.

    And I will have to focus on building her character! And find a trait to sell, so she isn't so homogenized---thanks!
     

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