1. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Style Objective POV

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NiallRoach, Apr 8, 2015.

    I know that this is a much maligned POV, but damnit, I love writing it.
    For the uninitiated, objective POV is where the 'narrator' stays firmly out of the heads of the characters, only relaying information which would be obvious to a present audience (like in a play or movie, hence its other names of dramatic and cinematic).

    Basically everything I write falls into the POV, and while I'm not too worried about the fact that it seems to be so wildly unpopular, I am a little confused by it. There's so much potential for subtlety, and I've never been too convinced by the notion that readers need to be inside the head of characters to care about them.
    The other pitfall I've heard of is that the reader simply won't understand the characters' emotions, something which was dispelled for me when my girlfriend (not the most unbiased source, I know, but she's honest) commented that she understood a particular character's actions and feelings perfectly, when the scene in question was little more than her standing on a riverbank, trying to get a hold of another character via phone. The overall context of the previous few scenes helped with that, of course, but they were all presented the same way.

    Do people hate reading this? Writing it? Has anyone else given it a go?
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some of my favourite books are either in objective POV, or very distant third person limited. I don't think we need to be told character's thoughts all the time, there is a place for subtlety and an author should credit their audience with the intelligence to interpret situations, reactions and so on without constantly telling via a convenient slice of internal monologue.
     
  3. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    One of the problems with the objective POV is that you're moving closer to being in competition with films and TV and they have the advantage that they can describe everything really vividly and succinctly by using those darn pictures.
    One of the advantages that prose has over most storytelling forms is the ability to see peoples thoughts and feelings and objective POV is choosing not to use that advantage.
    The other key advantages of prose seem to require a really strong narrative voice. If you can develop one of those voices then you can write things in objective that people want to read, but it seems to me you'll need to get a fair few more levels of 'good writer' to pull it off. - plus there seems to be less advice about for how to write in objective POV.
    So it isn't a POV that appeals to me to write in, but I'm not opposed to reading in that POV.
     
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  4. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    I disagree with the idea that writing in objective POV puts you into competition with movies and TV. If you treat description as simply painting images in the readers' mind (which is a big part of it, obviously), then fair enough. If you treat description as setting a mood, I think the advantages of pictures lessen significantly; maybe the playing field isn't equal, but it's closer to being so.
     
  5. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Remember film is also using its visuals to create mood. As well as its soundtrack. You have to be a pretty good writer to create moods as good as in film.
    I think mood is a great example of an aspect where writers can use character POV to compete with film. Character thoughts, emotions, internal sensations, sense of touch, they're all tools that can be used to create mood in ways that film can't.

    Maybe if you have a strong lyrical style, maybe you are skilled at creating none cliched metaphors, then you can create mood as strong as film from just audio visual description in ways that film can't. But that's harder to pull of well while maintaining clarity and not producing purple prose and is the sort of thing I'm talking about when I say 'really strong narrative voice'
     
  6. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You remind me of myself, years ago and I was starting my first ever novel. The problem with your train of thought, as stated above, is that you can't just "set" a mood, you need to make the reader feel it. One of the easiest ways to immerse a reader in setting or mood is through a compelling narrative. When we can empathize with someone, be it a dog or a human being, the mood you try to set will be easier for us to digest. With a completely objective 3rd person POV (this is called fly on the wall, right?) it is harder to make the reader care about the characters, and thus harder to make them care about the mood. A movie doesn't have this problem. A good actor can exude things that might take you 1,000 words to capture, if you try to stick objective descriptions. Worse, a good actor can show things you can't capture in any amount of words, if sticking to objective descriptions. Top this off with vivid settings and music, and the cards are all stacked against you. I'm definitely not saying its impossible to write a great 3rd person objective POV. But you need to be a really, really, good writer to pull it off.
     
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  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maligned by whom? I always thought "show, don't tell" was the mainstream opinion. The POV you describe is nothing more than the author's refusal to tell anything that can be shown. I thought that POV was, by far, the most popular POV.

    In third person, I personally prefer that the book minimizes exposition of characters' thoughts. Save that for first person, where the imaginary entity telling me the story is the same imaginary entity who has thoughts about the story.
     
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  8. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    How does this not also apply to subjective descriptions? A good actor can show an angry character, for example, far better than 'he clenched his fists and grit his teeth', or 'I'll kill the bastard, he thought', if we're going off economy alone.
    I take issue, as well, with the idea that mediums compete with each other. All forms of art have their pros and cons, but they don't directly compete; you could look at basically anything and see something it could have gained by having been written for a different medium. We don't look at those movies which do have internal monologues and say that they're competing with prose.

    Simply because we have something else, films, that already excludes character thoughts, and arguably does it better, doesn't mean that the novel loses its right to the same ground. If that were the case, why would anyone write plays? Everything a play does can be done at least as well in a movie, with the extra benefits of post-production.
     
  9. 123456789
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    Show don't tell has nothing to do with it. An subjective POV shows events as experienced by that POV. An objective POV shows events as experienced "objectively," which I suppose can be described as being filmed from a camera.
     
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say that neither of those examples are very good demonstrations of a subjective POV hard at work. I believe therein may lie your problem. The first example you used is a physical description, and can be experienced from a video camera. The second, which can't be experienced from a camera, is a rather impotent statement, without any context. A subjective POV really starts to excel when you can color the world (eg mood) from the perspective of your POV, focus on only things that matter to that POV (eg a subjective lens) and relate things that only the character would know (his past experiences, fears, hopes, dreams, etc). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a taste of things a subjective POV can do that most movies can't, although you do have a good point about the monologue.
     
  11. plothog
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    I thought third person limited was the most popular POV these days and that third person objective was comparatively rare.
    Most published third person books I've read are jammed packed with sentences that are clearly in a character's POV rather than the narrator's.

    Directly quoted thoughts are relatively rare, but there's an awful lot of indirectly implied thoughts, memories, desires, emotions, descriptions via a character's five senses etc.

    I don't think the choice to use objective POV really has much to do with how much you are showing and telling you are doing. It's entirely possible to write in objective POV with lots of telling or with lots of showing.
     
  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    @123456789 @plothog

    The OP basically defines "objective" as "the narrator cannot read the characters' minds". I think your confusion comes from using a different definition.

    That is why, in my post, I used the phrase "the POV you describe" instead of "the objective POV".

    This:
    is an effective way for an author to give feeling to a story while avoiding what the OP wants to avoid.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015

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