1. Brandon Peterson
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    Brandon Peterson New Member

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    POV and Scene Setting

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Brandon Peterson, Jun 15, 2012.

    I prefer to write in third person limited but have found that I am slightly confused on some of it's more detailed mechanics. For example:

    In the first chapter of The Stand by Stephen King (not the prologue), he begins describing the town, it's history and some of it's development before any characters are introduced.

    So my question is actually two questions.

    1) How do describe a setting or anything for that matter, before introducing a character?

    2) In third person limited, are you allowed to simply describe the history of a town without making it explicit that the character is thinking this?
    "The city of Jamestown was founded in..."
    as opposed to
    "Sam thought on the founding of Jamestown..."

    First post btw, thank you in advance.
     
  2. lallylello
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    lallylello Member

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    Just my thoughts but here goes:
    question 1: beware of putting in too much description before you get to the action. Stephen King only gets away with it because he's Stephen King. You know something's going to happen and it's going to be good. As an unknown, you have to prove yourself which means working a lot harder than Mr King does.
    Question 2: "Sam thought on..." is terrible. I'm sure you'd agree. I'd go for option one but you could put something like: "The city of Jamestown was founded in 1806, Sam had lived there for twenty years...." or "Sam hated Jamestown, couldn't wait to leave. He didn't care that it was rich with history ...."
    (or something along those lines)
    Hope this helps!
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    For someone who used to write in Third Person Limited POV quite a bit, I'll try help.

    If it's third person limited, the character will have to be there for the setting to be described. I see Third Person Limited like a mirror of first person, excluding the the usage of I and We. In my opinion, I don't think it's good to dump the town's history like that in a paragraph as that could be considered an info dump. It can be weaved later in the story. What works for other stories may not work for yours. Every writer has their way of doing things, right?

    When describing a setting, the best advice I've gotten is that think of the things the speaker would be interested in. If it's a scene that the character has seen hundreds of times, they won't describe it in large amounts of detail. If it's a new scenery to them, they'll most likely describe it in more detail.

    2) I think so. I never added, 'she/they/he thought' to any of the thoughts of my character. I simply weaved it into the narrative. For example.
    Alexis walked down the road, admiring the new scenes around her. This town was always known for it's beautiful sky scrapers and architecture, as someone had once told her.
    (Yeah, it's a horrible example)

    I hope this helped.
     
  4. Mr.
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    Mr. Member

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    Third-person limited doesn't have to include things like "he pondered..." expressly spelled out, as it's already understood who we're paying attention to (Youniquee already nailed this). I think I know what you're getting at though and it's a hard thing to deal with. The tempting to drop infodumping/foreshadowing into a story when the structure doesn't easily allow for it. Maybe he could walk by monument that got him thinking about it?

    There's also the route of treating it in literal past tense, as if he's telling the story with hindsight to someone else, meaning he would already know which things were important to mention and would take care to emphasize them. I don't see it very often, but when I do it's a welcomed change.
     
  5. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    There's a difference between third person limited (which usually follows one character with a limited POV) and third person omniscient (which deviates from the one character limitation.) If you're citing this Stephen King opening as something you want to replicate then third person omniscient is more the style you're referring too. If you're narrating a scene without a character then that's not limited. For instance in Harry Potter most of the books are third person limited. There are a few chapters however (like the scene with Nagami in one of the later books) that switch to third person omniscient in that Harry isn't there. If you're looking at alternating I'd be very careful as it takes some skill to do it well.
     
  6. Brandon Peterson
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    Brandon Peterson New Member

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    Thanks everyone - all of that helped immensely. I think having someone simply walk by and notice an object or small detail and simply writing the sentence without "he thought," etc, is the right way to go.

    As far as my first question - what I meant was more along the lines of: How do you even describe anything about the setting before the character is introduced in 3rd limited. For example:

    If you have a character Sam, who is working in a barber shop - is it 100% necessary to describe the character first or can you describe the setting first. Practically, it would probably be a better story if you started with introducing Sam but I want to know for completeness sake. You couldn't start a book with "Sam's Barbershop had been the cornerstone of the town for nearly twenty years." - if you don't know who's point of view it is coming from right?

    Does that make sense?
     

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