1. Matthew Watson
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    Matthew Watson New Member

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    Style Third person limited question?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Matthew Watson, Feb 9, 2016.

    Hello all!

    I am new to this. I am writing a novel, and have some basic questions about point of view. My book will be told in third person limited (I think). So most of the book will be told through the protagonist in third person.

    But is it okay to have scenes with other characters that don't include the protagonist if I choose this option? i.e. is it okay if the protagonist is not in every scene?

    There is another major character who will feature heavily, and I'd like to describe her thoughts too. Is this okay? And there may be another character who features in this way too (thoughts described as well as actions).

    Am I moving into third person omniscient if I write this way?

    Any advice most welcome! I've read that third person omniscient is less 'fashionable'.

    many thanks

    Matt
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    With third person limited, you can change the point of view character. So you can be third person limited as Joe, and then later as Fred, and then later as Alice, and then return to Joe.

    Usually, you want to make this switch at some fairly clear transition.
     
  3. Matthew Watson
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    Matthew Watson New Member

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    Thank you that's very helpful. Could you give a couple of examples of books that do this? I think the Harry Potter books are all limited just to Harry? Does someone like Ian McEwan ever do it?
    many thanks
    Matt
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Harry Potter #1 opens from an omniscient POV, doesn't it? Harry isn't in the scene with Dumbledore and McGonagall until Hagrid arrives, and then he's a baby and it isn't from his POV.
    Book #4 opens from either Frank Bryce's POV or omniscient again - can't quite remember.
    Book #7 opens omniscient (Bellatrix and Malfoy's mum?)

    Have you read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials? Sometimes it's Will's POV, sometimes Lyra's, and at least one scene it's a secondary character (Lee Scoresby).
    Tess Gerritsen does it.
    Dean Koontz does it (Phantoms springs to mind).

    I'm not very good at thinking of examples but there are countless of them. Having multiple POVs is by no means rare.
     
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  5. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pillars of the Earth
    Just about anything else by Ken Follett... and he's an amazing writer. Brilliant, even.
     
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  6. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Multiple POVs are very common, and can be powerfully used, especially if you have a lot of characters. In fact if you have a lot of characters, with actions taking place in different places, you almost have to do it. One character is in one scene, the others are elsewhere. Then in another scene, another character picks up the POV.

    Don't mix them in a single scene, that is "head-hopping" and can be quite confusing to the reader. Only one character should think/feel/observe in a scene. If you want to convey emotions of the non-POVs do it through actions observed by the POV, the sound of their voice, expression of their face, trembling of their hands.

    If in a single chapter, you feel inclined to change the POV
    1. Make a change of scene, and be careful doing this... why not start a new chapter? But sometimes it can heighten the suspense. For example, in one scene a character is thinking one thing is true, in another scene another is thinking something else is true. Which is correct, or when will the wrong one discuss the error?
    2. Insert an extra paragraph to make it clear.

    I have an example of case 1.
    POV is Buddhist monk arranging jailbreak for characters in China, disguising them as Buddhists monks, as close to invisibility as westerners can get in 100AD China. The Romans had arrived by ship in Tiantsin to the east. But their ships have sailed, and they know it, because they sent them on their way before their problem emerged. They are heading west by foot back to Europe somehow... they are improvising but that is the direction they have to go. In the night a cavalry patrol clatters by, causing alarm, but pays them no attention. They are just monks, after all, get out of the way!

    Scene shift to the Chinese minister of guards POV. The Romans seem to have vanished like smoke. No matter, he will send fast riders to the ships in Tiantsin and hold them there, and search all the river traffic along the Yellow River. He expects to catch them in a day or two.

    So for now, the reader knows this is working for them. It's not so much the Romans' plan as simply no other alternative. Eventually the Chinese will find the ships are gone, so where else could they have gone? And it is a long walk out of China, just how far they have no idea.
     
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  7. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah - you are looking at writing Third Person Limited with mutliple points of view - I like to call that Multiple Close Third for short (I talk about this a lot because I write it).

    The trick to doing this is that every individual scene must be written in Third Person Limited with only one point of view character. If your protagonist is off stage, you need to identify who the POV character is for that scene and only allow us access to their thoughts in that scene. You can only be in one person's head at a time, period. If you change heads - you need to put in a scene break and then start your next scene by explicitly grounding us in the new POV character's head.

    You can not, under any circumstances, have two people's thoughts running at once. That's called "head hopping", and it's bad - or if you do it right it throws you into Omniscient, which is still bad if you're not TRYING to write in Omniscient.

    The other rule is that, if you have two or more POV characters, the authorial voice actually has to be distinct based on whose head you are in. Different characters think in different rhythms just like they talk in different rhythms. They think at different speeds, notice different things, etc. - and if you're in their head, that shows up in the text. For instance - when I'm in my MC's POV, she's a reporter and she's really good at reading people's faces - so a lot of the descriptions dwell on her reactions to people's behavior and her attempts to judge whether they are hiding something. If I switch into my sidekick/co-protagonist, things change - that character is a professional fashion blogger and part-time DJ - she notices what people are wearing, how rooms are decorated, and what type of sound system is playing the background music - so the exposition and analysis in her POV centers on those things and what they say about the people or environment. She's also worldlier and more sarcastic than the main character, and that changes the rhythm of the writing, because at least for that scene, I now have a worldly-city-girl protagonist instead of a smart-but-naive-small-town-girl protagonist.

    So - if you add a second POV character - think about how that person conceptualizes the world and how that affects the way you tell the story when you're looking at it through their eyes.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
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  8. Matthew Watson
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    Matthew Watson New Member

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    Thank you so much. This is really helpful! I really appreciate your comments.
    Matt
     

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