1. AuroraJenkins
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    AuroraJenkins Member

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    Point of View Question?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AuroraJenkins, May 27, 2013.

    I'm writing a story in third person limited point of view, focusing on a human character who is interacting with some weird alien-like creatures. The aliens can speak English, but they have another language that they use to talk amongst themselves. My main character can't understand the aliens' language, but I really want to show what they're talking about... I heard somewhere that when you have a limited point of view, you shouldn't describe anything the narrator themselves would not understand. Would it violate the point of view to show what the aliens are saying, but use italics when they are speaking in their own language?

    For example here's a few random sentences;

    We’ll need some light in here, Tonsri,” Z’tagn called out, speaking with three voices at once in a language that no human could ever hope to understand. To Claire, he spoke in plain English. “This is my new apprentice, Tonsriaurantico. You will be seeing them quite shortly.”

    This excerpt probably sucks when it's out of context like that, but you get the idea. Would it be okay to do something like that with a third person limited point of view?
     
  2. Emily Kevil
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    Emily Kevil New Member

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    Hmmm. Well, I'm not an expert on the different rules of various points of views, but I can't see a reason why you wouldn't be be able to do that. Since you are not writing the story in first person from the main character's point of view, you as the narrator can understand more than your character does.
     
  3. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    I way I would do this is is just say the MC doesn't understand and show what the MC does whenever they do it or show what the aliens do when they say it. Whenever anyone talks, body language usually accompanies it.

    And personally, I think your excerpt suffice and does the job well.
     
  4. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    No rules are set in stone, so you can probably get away with how you have done. But I think it'll be more engaging as a reader to not understand the language and try to deduct what they are saying through the MC's senses. Third limited is all about utilizing the limitation to the writer's advantage in telling the story. If you are giving up the uniqueness of writing in third limited then you better have a damn good reason for doing that, otherwise, what's the point of writing in third limited in the first place.
     
  5. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    In third person limited I would see it was out of place. As a reader, I only ever want to know as much as the protagonist knows when the story is being told from this POV.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't use italics as duct tape for sloppy writing.
     
  7. AuroraJenkins
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    AuroraJenkins Member

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    What specifically is sloppy about it? The little excerpt I posted, or the general idea of making the alien language understandable? (The reason I want it to be understandable to a reader is to make the aliens more "three-dimensional" and round characters, instead of just flat antagonists. If a reader could hear their own private conversations, they would know more of the reasons behind what they do to the main character instead of just generic "evil".)

    But, if you think the sloppiness outweighs the benefits, I might change it to make the readers not understand the language... Or maybe make the aliens say it all in English, though that wouldn't be as realistic.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you show what the aliens are saying, then you are no longer in third person limited. Of course, you're not required to use third person limited, but showing this would definitely violate the definition of that point of view.

    I would consider why you want to show what the aliens are saying. If it's because you're afraid that the reader will be confused, isn't that confusion actually a good thing? It lets them identify with what's happening to your viewpoint character, sharing his confusion and his struggle to guess what's going on. What do you lose if you lose the translation of the aliens' words?
     
  9. AuroraJenkins
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    AuroraJenkins Member

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    And this is where things get too complicated to explain well :(

    I think maybe third person limited isn't the right point of view for me... Because, if the readers can't understand the aliens, my story will read like a generic horror story about the main character being brainwashed and forced to do things for no reason. If the aliens can speak, the reader gets their perspective on things and realizes that they are actually pretty reasonable creatures. The only "bad" thing about them is their condescending attitude toward humans. I think it would be interesting to portray two sides of the same story, and see who the readers sympathize with.

    Basically, one side of the story involves a younger girl (around 10) finding a baby "alien" (Actually, the "aliens" are simply creatures that live very far underground in localized areas and haven't been discovered by the scientific community yet.) She takes the "alien" home, kinda like E.T, and wants to keep it as a secret.

    The other side of the story is from an older girl (18). In the past, the underground creatures legitimately saved her life when she fell down a mine shaft she'd been exploring. So they sound like good guys, right? But then they decided to brainwash her so she would loyally work for them and do anything they needed on the surface. So... Bad guys... But everything isn't black and white. The creatures found out that one of the babies of their species was loose on the surface, and they didn't want the human government or scientists to find out about it, so they sent the teenage girl to find the baby alien and bring it back.

    Later in the story, the two girls will actually be on opposite "sides". To the younger girl and her mother, the teenage girl will seem like an enemy. To the teenage girl, the other people will seem evil as well. This whole thing gets some added depth to it if a reader can sort of see things from the creatures' perspective, including their private conversations about the missing baby and their general attitude toward humanity. That explains why they treat the teenage girl the way they do.

    So does any of that make sense? Would anyone even read that? Or am I better off writing a stupid generic story about the teenage girl getting captured by these alien-like underground creatures?
     
  10. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    You could always use third person limited POV for everything except the alien's communications--and so bleeding what...!


    'Course, I wouldn't. I'd be all excited about how to pull off such an interesting challenge...But that's just me.
     
  11. jdforbes
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    jdforbes New Member

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    You might try to find a reason that the narrator can pass on the alien language. For example if the narration is in the past tense, there may be a device or mechanic that is later found that allows the narrator to fill in the blanks.
     
  12. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    You can use multiple viewpoints. Have some chapters be told from an alien's perspective.
     

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