1. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Third Person Limited POV...question?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Youniquee, Apr 16, 2011.

    In my Novel, my narrative usually remains in one person's view. If it's from a character's pov, their name would be said the most in that chapter. eg Anieli turned around...Anieli cursed. and also their thoughts would be mixed with the narrative.
    But when I use a word like 'they', it feels like I'm going out his POV.
    For example...
    The example is bad, don't comment on it lol
    But you get the point. I'm even questioning the 'Jace part' now...
    So how to refer to two people doing the same action in a third person limited pov?
    Thank you for any help.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure but I use they when writing in first person without taking it away from the current narrator.
     
  3. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see what you mean, Youniquee. The "they" kind of places the reader outside of all three characters, including the PoV character. I'm not sure it matters that much, though.
     
  4. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps you could say "Anieli and the others"... or something like that. But really, I doubt the "they" would bother anyone, and I believe that's how most writers does it.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it violates the POV at all. Everything described, whether performed by Anieli or Jace, is well within Anieli's perception. I don't see much benefit in writing a story where you never have a sentence that refers to the actions of other characters, for fear that it somehow transforms the POV. It doesn't. Using "they" is just fine to refer to a group of people, and since Anieli is there and is part of the group, there's no problem in terms of remaining in her POV.

    The answer to how you do what you're asking about in third-person POV is that you do it exactly as you've done it in your example :)
     
  6. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Ha, Btw Anieli's a guy lol
    Thanks everyone who helped :)
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    It is a POV slip if you're in a limited, third person, and people do notice it.

    The 'problem' is when you slip into a collective perspective, you aren't giving the precise, specific actions and reactions of your POV character. By definition using 'they' is generic, because you're now having to clump two or more character's actions into one description.

    It's more often an issue of slipping into habitual time. You're established in a scene, everything being delivered through your perspective character, and need to get to the a new point it time so just start writing 'they packed up and they headed outside and they got into cars and they drove to the campsite' instead of keeping with a tight, limited pov to describe all that action, if relevant, or simply creating a scene break.

    It's no surprise that a POV will slip into 'they' most often at the beginning or end of a scene, or to rush through actions when there should be a scene break. These are moments where the writer is often struggling to get to a new place and time, and the easy way out is to revert away from scene writing and into habitual time.

    Why it isn't consistent with a close, limited pov is you can't effectively give the perspective of your pov character unless he's now 'speaking' for the collective, somehow.

    "They gathered rags from their bags" for instance, doesn't give the opportunity to provide any perspective or commentary on what that meant to the POV character. It can't be precise or specific. It's just there to get rid of an action to get to something else. If that action isn't important enough to be given the full treatment of a limited, close pov, then one should ask if it belongs at all? And if it does, the best way to handle it is usually to dig back into delivering the close, limited pov, not pulling out into habitual action where the full experience can't be delivered.
     
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  8. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Even if I do take out the line 'Gathered so and so' I would still have to say 'Once they had finished cleaning, they settled on the floor.' After the scene break.
    In first person, the narrator might say 'We' but how come it doesn't sound like a POV slip?
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Still not seeing it as a slip in POV. "They gathered rags from their bags" is simply a straight-forward observation of what happened, and it seems to me it is still filtered through the POV of the viewpoint character. I don't think it lacks treatment as a limited viewpoint POV if it is merely the perception of the viewpoint character, which is what it looks like to me. It is simply a straight-forward and efficient sentence, and if you decided it wasn't acceptable in a third person limited POV you'd have to resort to all kinds of excess verbiage to try to give it some commentary or perspective when in this case that is not needed.
     
  10. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    It technically does break the pov. A limited pov (whether third or first) is such that the character's only speak for themselves. It breaks the 'limited' part by pulling out into a narrator looking at the action, as we're now viewing the group, not the individual.

    It's the least severe of these sorts of pov breaks, and as such is often done and not always distracting, but that doesn't mean it isn't breaking the pov. The most extreme example of this is in a limited third person where you have 'they were all excited about packing their bags' as you're now not only breaking the pov into a collective, but representing the internal workings of others in that collective.

    It's a subtle pov shift that many people may not even realize or notice. But it is a break.

    It's also why the psychic distance is often an important factor in designating a pov. For instance, you can have an omni POV that is close, or distant, the first having the ability to hop into everyone's head, but keeping the reader focused on that one scene, and the latter giving you a wider, panoramic scope.

    It's hard to do a distant, limited third person, as the farthest out you can get before it breaks to an omni POV is basically still relatively close, and the different is basically a matter of internal distance to the character, not external. Meaning a 'close' third is delivering everything the character thinks and feels and 'distant' third that is still limited is not delivering anything internal, only external but still only what the character sees, and if you pull out into a vision of the scene you've broken pov because you're not looking AT the character from above, which by definition is no longer limited unless the character is also looking at themselves.

    But, it's all the pedantic stuff nobody cares about. It's all subjective, go with gut instincts, etc.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I see what you're saying, and it makes sense. When I read it I was still picturing it as filtered through the POV character's mind and perception. She's perceiving as they all do the action.

    But I see what you're getting at, and it is an interesting distinction. Now I have something to think about... :)
     
  12. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    So is saying 'We' in first person perceived as a POV break, because I think they 'They' in my POV is pretty much the same case.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think so. If I say, in first person:

    "I headed to the parking lot, knowing I was already late. Frank was there waiting for me. We got in the car."

    That seems to me to be just fine. I think every first person POV story I've ever read relies on that sort of thing.

    But now popsicledeath has me thinking...
     
  14. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    It depends on the story. As I mention in my longer reply, first person has the advantage (or curse, depending on your personal preferences) of actually having a reminiscent narrator. That is, the "I" is some place in the future telling of past events. The actual real-time storyline is that future, and since they're telling a story about the past, the 'we' can be used as they have the benefit of hindsight.

    In a first person story where the action is unfolding as if for the first time, the 'we' would in fact be a POV break and probably distracting.

    In a sense, reminiscent narrator stories usually don't appear to always be 'limited' really, because 'limited' means only what that character understands and knows at the time. But, they're still technically 'limited' in the sense we're limited to what the narrator-character in the real-time storyline knows, and that position is from a point after the 'told' part of the story occurred, with the benefit of hindsight.

    Think Stand By Me, the movie, which is 'told' in first person with a narrator looking back on that summer. The benefit of hindsight lets him tell us what occurred outside the perspective of the character, and it's not a pov break. Now, imagine that movie without Richard Dreyfuss, it just opens up and stays close to the perspective of the character in that moment, his inner monologue being limited to that time and place. And then, suddenly, the movie switches to a scene of the other gang smashing mailboxes in their car. That would be a pov break, and probably pretty confusing even in the movie, if it had been established limited and close to the POV character.

    If your narrator is a character, telling the story from the advantage of reminiscence, then saying 'we' doesn't sound like a pov break, because it's not.

    The problem is you don't really see reminiscent third-person povs, because first person is more suited to that style. But you could, if you wanted, as it's a pov that does exist, and has even been used.

    He sat down at his desk and considered all the things that happened that summer. He remember his friends searching for that body, blah blah, and they never forgot what they learned that summer.

    It would still technically be limited to the "He" that sat down at the desk in the present-time storyline, though, but with the benefit of hindsight, making that limited character have the authority to give collective commentary, basically.

    If all that makes sense. :p
     
  15. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you broke your POV with your quoted example. I have seen "we" used in first person novels before and I think this is a similar situation. As long as the person who is telling the story feels like they are part of the group, it shouldn't be a problem. After all, in reality we are experiencing first person in life and the concept of "we" is normal.

    I am writing my story with third person limited and sometimes I will have scenes written where the person telling the story is watching the actions of others.
     
  16. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Hah, see the next post after this.

    Would

    "I headed to the parking lot, knowing I was already late. Frank was there waiting for me. We got in the car and were both hungry."

    be a POV break, though? It depends on if the narrative style is such that it's unfolding as if for the first time in that moment, or the "I" has the advantage of hindsight, being able to point out in the moment what was learned later.

    Two different POVs, there, one employing the reminiscent narrator.

    And even still, a POV slip into 'they' or 'we' isn't a big deal, usually, besides almost always indicating a spot of habitual-time style of writing, which is usually weak writing that could be handled better in a different way and not cheating a little hoping nobody notices because the POV slip is relatively innocuous.
     
  17. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Watching the actions of others isn't really the issue. It's the perspective that's at hand. There's a difference between a character observing actions through their own experiences, and the 'camera' effectively zooming out so the reader is now watching the group of characters.

    From a purely technical standpoint, the difference is that it goes from prose being delivered through a character, to prose being delivered through a third-party narrator.

    In a third person POV that is limited, the purpose is to deliver prose through the character, so we learn about the character and empathize with them, etc. If a writer slips into 'they' it's just empty action, pushing around puppets on a stage, and one is no longer building that empathy and connectedness to the POV character.

    If you're writing in a limited third-person POV, and every sentence is a 'they' construction, it's not really an effective limited POV anymore, but more like an omni (and probably pretty boring and distant). So, while doing it once or twice is forgivable, that don't mean it's not a POV break, or advisable.
     
  18. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Imagine writing a scene in limited 3rd where your viewpoint character is watching another character doing something. They would say next to nothing about themselves, and all the action would be focussed on the other character, yet the context and earlier setting would make sure the reader knew, and as long as you only described the surface actions and not the thoughts of the watched character it would violate no rules of the POV. :)
     
  19. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    This thread gets me thinking I should change my POV to first person..but I'm 40k in...soo..
    But what would you do to replace saying 'They'. Anieli and Jace? But I would still need to say 'their'.
    There's mixed opinions on this. Personally, I don't think it is...but the discussion is interesting.
     
  20. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Focus more on what your POV character is experiencing. If the character is experiencing something along the lines of 'we're packing our bags' or 'we're riding in a car' then consider getting your character in to see a psychiatrist, as normal people don't narrate their life, but react to it: "I'm excited to be packing bags for this trip" or "I love riding in the car with my friend."

    In third person, you're representing the character, so while you aren't in first person, you're still delivering prose basically on their behalf. So, "They packed their bags" or "They were riding in the car" is equally awkward, distant and meaningless. You'll have to translate it to a personal experience, but cant use first person, so: "He was excited to be packing his bags for the trip" or even "He was excited they were both packing for their first trip together."

    So how that's still rooted in the character's experiences, and giving us insight into the character? The information of the situation is still imparted (the fact they're both/all packing up bags) but the focus is still on the character, and building meaning for the event by also building insight into the character.

    And as I mentioned, do a search for 'they' and analyze these sentences/moments/scenes. You might find you're actually just trying to rush to the next point of action, when instead you could have ended a scene, used a scene break, and then opened up at the new place of action. Or you may find you're dipping into habitual time, at which point you can still do so as mentioned above by still rooting the actions and information through the character so it's still building meaning, and isn't empty action meant to just rush to a next point in time.

    A quote from Ezra Pound's essay "A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste" comes to mind: ‎"Use no superflous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something"

    My question is, outside of the most basic, functional passage of information, what are most of your 'they' constructions actually revealing about the character, story or world? My guess is probably not nearly as much as if these moments were more firmly grounded and delivered more through the character.

    Like I've said, it technically is a POV break, but that's not even the most important thing to realize, but rather that it might be indicating spots where your prose can be tightened and strengthened, especially if you're really trying to use a limited third-person POV to its maximum potential.
     
  21. Auskar
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    Auskar Member

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    Finally, I think I am beginning to understand what people mean by POV. I like 3rd person best, but one reason I started writing in 1st person is because I had so much trouble figuring out point-of-view, understanding what it means, how to write it, how to convey a POV.

    I have to reconcile that with "telling" versus "showing"...
     
  22. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    In a close, limited third-person, the prose will actually be strikingly similar to a first-person, non-reminiscent narrator.

    Meaning:

    He watched her pull the doll's head off and couldn't believe what a monster she was being, wishing she'd calm down already.

    vs.

    I watched her pull the doll's head off and couldn't believe what a monster she was being, wishing she'd calm down already.


    What happens, instead, is people get confused and don't look at the psychic distance, whether a pov is limited, whether it's reminiscent in first person or not (which makes it a different type of limited pov). And even more often, people just excuse bad writing under the guise it's a POV quirk, like breaking a limited, close third-person to give writerly commentary or rambling non-stop and forgetting all aspects of pace and time because it's first person.

    Once one understands what POV they're using, and how to use it, and the purpose of that POV, it's actually rather liberating. For instance, a limited, close third person POV exists to bring the experiences of a character alive in the most empathetic way a third-person POV can manage. As such, your job is to build the experiences of the character every moment. If one is focusing on this, many of the adages like 'show, don't tell' or never using adverbs become pointless.

    You ask yourself if your sentence is delivering the most empathy and truth in that moment. If not, and it seems an adverb is the cause, you know how and why you're rewriting the sentence. You're basically focusing on how to create the effects you want from your fiction, instead of just worrying about terms and adages that don't always even make much sense, and in the end the writing is better.

    So, a sentence like 'he ran quickly' may not be delivering the truth of the moment, since it's vague. It's not that advebs are bad, it's that the sentence isn't conveying what it needs, because the character isn't just running quickly, but sprinting. Or, better yet, you bring the experience of sprinting alive through what the character is seeing and feeling, and don't even have to worry about whether you're showing or telling (which can both be good or bad, so aren't very prescriptively sound), only whether you're creating the right experience, which can be done in all manner of ways that have nothing to do with quibbling over terms, but focusing on more important things like the effect and experience the prose is creating.
     

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