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  1. CaliWriterWV
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    CaliWriterWV Member

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    Third Person Narrative

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CaliWriterWV, Nov 10, 2009.

    So I have a small dilemma at hand.

    Narrative writing style. There's so many out there to use. Some even mix different voices together. But how do we know which is which.

    I need to figure out which writing perspective a short story is written in. It's not for school rather for personal reasons. I believe that it is written in Third Person Omniscient. But my friend is telling me it's Third Person Limited. Actually, they're not my friend. They're someone I'm debating with over the internet.

    The reason I believe it's TPO is because we get to know the inner feelings and thoughts of more than one character. Now, from what I've seen on the internet, people say that Third Person Limited can go from one characters thoughts to a few. I've never heard of that before. Which is why I believe it is Third Person Omniscient.

    Throughout this story we know thoughts of a antagonist and a protagonist. (and TPL usually follows the protagonist) if this story was really written in Third Person Limited, shouldn't we not be able to know any other character's thoughts other than the main character the narrator is following?

    Throughout the story the author uses words like "the man thought/felt", "the girl thought/felt" . Which indicates we're not limited to only one character, making the story's narrative voice Omniscient.

    Am I wrong to assume that this story is written in Third Person Omniscient?

    Another thing, if it is Limited, is the following sentence the female character's feelings on what Tom is to her, or is it the author stating it as a fact?

    Tom was her friend, her beloved — a symbol of what was important to her, and someone to be protected."

    Again, I believe it is the author saying that Tom is her friend and lover, a symbol of what was important to her, and someone to be protected.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That still may be third person limited, but with the POV shifting among multiple characters. If the transitions between characters are inconsistent and poorly managed, it's a phenomenon called head-hopping. Normally, a writer should stick to a single POV for any scene. However, there are good writers who can make the transitions within a scene without the reader getting lost mod-hop. Frank Herbert was such a writer. His son Brian tries to do the same in his Dune prequel novels, but in my opinion, he fails miserably at it.

    A third person omniscient POV can be identified when revealing in formation not known or knowable by any of the characters. "Unbeknownst to them, ..." is a phrase that almost invariably is followed by a chunk TPO narrative. Similarly, a description of a cosmic or geological event taking place over a span of years or millenia are TPO.

    TPO tends to be rather cold and impersonal, because it is not tied to a character perspective. It also has a tendency to tell the reader too much. Many infodumps are written in a TPO perspective,
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    TPO does not have to be cold or detached. It is capable of allowing the same intimate access as TPL, though it does have the capacity, as Cog said, to move away from any character at all. Generally speaking, if the narrative moves (in third person) from character to character in a smooth way (by which I mean without a sudden break between the characters), it is most likely that the narrative is TPO, simply because there is a transition in the narrative. If the character changes at, for instance, the beginning of each chapter, then it is possible that the book remains solely in TPL. Its hard to say without actually reading the book, but what you are describing sounds like TPO.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    TPO is by its very nature detached from characters. As soon as it gets intimate with a character, it becomes TPL. But if it's drifting around aimlessly, it's merely sloppy writing.

    You really can't have it both ways. You CAN have TPO passages in a predominantly TPL story, but you have to be careful how you manage them. Personally, I prefer to stick to TPL as much as you can. It's more personal and reader-friendly.
     
  5. CaliWriterWV
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    CaliWriterWV Member

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    Thanks you two. That really helps. This story is a Fantasy. A deep fantasy book.

    Well, I'm gonna provide a paragraph or two. Will you two glance through?

    This is chapter two and three from the short novel (which is about 5000 words) I've put the thoughts in Heavy font.

    *2*

    The woman was an Ancient. Which explained how she was able to maintain her individuality even within the Lifestream. If she so wished she could become part of the planet at any time, but the woman thought it too early for that just yet.

    The woman had sensed a different presence within the Lifestream cycling around the planet. It was the vehemence of a strong will, one that would never join with the planet. She knew this consciousness. It was the man who had taken her life. A merciless spirit hidden behind a beauteous wall. That spirit was now operating from within the Lifestream. The woman sensed that he was planning to exert his influence to the surface of the planet. She wondered what she could do.

    Because it would be dangerous for her to come in contact with him, the woman tried to keep away from the man’s consciousness. Because of this, she couldn’t learn much of the man’s plot. However, just once, when the man’s spirit had suddenly appeared near here, she discovered that he had made his memories of Cloud the core of his being.

    Cloud was her friend, her beloved — a symbol of what was important to her, and someone to be protected.

    *3*

    When the Lifestream erupted onto the surface of the planet, the man had already surrendered his inconsequential memories to the planet. Memories from when he was a boy, of his few friends, of the battles when he was still unaware, of his life in bygone days– all these became a part of the inundation, encased around Meteor, and finally receded. At the same time, the core of his spirit, and those memories deeply related to it, moved from torrent to torrent, and traveled around the land, from city to city. When the people who were trying to escape, or those left unable to do anything but stand still, were enveloped by those streams, he decided to leave them with his stigma. If Cloud noticed that stigma, the man was certain that he would never disappear. As long as Cloud remembers me, I can continue to exist. Within the Lifestream, and on the surface. Even if my spirit disseminates, even if just one fragment of a memory courses around the planet, in the end I can count on Cloud’s consciousness to bring me back, the man thought.


    Those are just two of the chapters for example.

    I forgot to say, that another reason I believe this is TPO is because how detached we are from the characters. I agree that TPL is more reader friendly. But TPL isn't as reliable as TPO, correct?

    One last thing, if this story is TPL is this;
    "Cloud was her friend, her beloved — a symbol of what was important to her, and someone to be protected."

    how the girl feels or is this the Author stating it as a fact?
     
  6. Cogito
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    Sorry, but I'm not going to ruin my eyes trying to squint at that.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "not as reliable." As I said, I tend to stick tightly to TPL, although I will use TPO to show broad establishing shots. For example, one of my novels has a scene on the first page of the spacecraft backing into the star system with a fusion flame preceding it as it decelerates. There is obviously no character placed to see it, but there is a virtual observer who describes the appearance of the colony ship on the last leg of its journey, most of its huge fuel tanks jettisoned, before I return to the first character finishing his workout before his shift on the flight deck.

    I'm using the emotional distance of the TPO scene, too. It helps establish how alone the crew of the colony ship is on its long mission, not even any nearby space debris or planets since they first entered the system months ago (and a lot of that is also shown in dialogue over the next few pages).

    But even though this scene is TPO in a literal sense, there is no information imparted that isn't absolutely known to the character I have introduced at that point. The scene could as well be in his mind's eye, and in fact that is the unspoken implication.
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I disagree. TPL is only called limited because the narrative is restricted only to what that character knows or experiences themselves. Its possible for an omniscient narrator to focus on one particular character without limiting their narration to only what that character knows. The novel Holes by Louis Sachar is in TPO yet remains intimately close to the main character Stanley while seamlessly shifting into the two other stories running through the novel or briefly moving to other characters. The narration certainly isn't limited, but it manages to produce the same intimate relationship with the main character that a TPL narrative would create.



    EDIT: @OP, there's nothing in your first paragraph to indicate that it is TPO, as it focusses consistently through the woman, but your second is TPO. Also, is this a FFVII fanfic?
     
  8. CaliWriterWV
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    Sorry. I fixed the size.

    By "unreliable" I mean, TPO can tell the reader facts the character doesn't yet know of.

    But can you tell me if this; "Tom was her friend, her beloved — a symbol of what was important to her, and someone to be protected." is how the girl feels or is this the narrator stating it as a fact?

    Good point arron89.

    Yea, it is Final Fantasy VII. But it isn't a FanFic. It's an official novella. Why?
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    In any third person narration, you would read that as a statement from the narrator, not directly from the character unless that is explicitly stated. And certainly not the author...don't confuse 'author' with 'narrator', they are never the same thing.
     
  10. CaliWriterWV
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    Ok. So, does this statement mean there is no reason to distrust what's being said?
     
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    arron89 Banned

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    The concept of an unreliable narrator only applies to first person narration or third person narration where the narrator is characterised, which it doesn't seem to be from what you posted above.
     
  12. CaliWriterWV
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    CaliWriterWV Member

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    All right. Thank you so much. You helped out so much.

    Now, the two chapters I provided were of one book. Is it possible that they can both have different narrating voices at once? Like you said the first chapter was TPL and the second was TPO?

    What do I label this book as, TPL or TPO?
     
  13. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You can have multiple narrative viewpoints in a single novel, but it can be jarring if you're not careful. In general, it would be better to stick to one (probably TPO). I would say label it TPO....its far more flexible and can accommodate anything that is done within TPL as well as everything beyond it.
     
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    CaliWriterWV Member

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    All right. Thank you for you help.
    So I mark this book as written in Third Person Omniscient. And the friend/lover statement as reliable/truthful.

    Thanks again.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Don't label it at all. A book's predominant perspective may be TPO or TPL, but individual scenes may differ, as in my example.

    The difference between first person and third person matters far more, not to mention (please!) second person.

    The advantage of using TPL for a scene, and staying bound to one character for that scene, is that the reader feels well-rooted in the scene, and experiences a close affinity to that character for the duration of the scene.

    You want the reader to feel that intimacy with the character. That is the intimacy that many new writers believe they can only achieve through first person.
     
  16. CaliWriterWV
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    CaliWriterWV Member

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    So how reliable is the sentence: "Cloud is her friend, her beloved — a symbol of what was important to her, and someone to be protected"?

    It really does matter on what narrative voice it is to know whether or not how truthful this statement is. And if I shouldn't label it as either how can I find out whether or not the statements (or the one in general) is reliable or just a characters view on it?
     
  17. Cogito
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    The nature of the statement is subjective, regardless of who says it. It doesn't make sense to state it omnisciently.

    Reliability just doesn't enter into it, as far as I can see. The opinion must be bound to someone, and is most effective (assuming it comes from narration) if it comes from a POV coupled to that character. That could be first person, but I would use TPL.
     
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    Ok. So is "Cloud is her friend, her beloved — a symbol of what is important to her, and someone to be protected" a reliable statement that can be seen as truthful? Or what?

    EDIT: Well I must go for now. Thanks for all your help everyone. Hopefully I'll get an answer for my question above.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's subjective. That is its core truth. It is true to her, at that time. To someone else, it may be sheer delusion.

    That is what subjectivity is. Even many statements that appear to be objective really depend on the observer:

    "The sun rose over the ridge to the east."

    Move a few yards or half a mile in any direction, and the sunrise will take place at a different time or at a different landmark. Nevertheless, few readers would see this statement as anything but an objective fact.

    Reliability isn't particularly related to the POV that pronounces te assertion.
     
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    arron89 Banned

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    I don't understand why its important to ask that question at all. Unless it is indicated otherwise, which as far as I can tell it isn't, everything you write will be considered 'reliable'. As far as that statement goes, the reader may not agree with it, but nothing you've provided here indicates in any way that it is unreliable. The narration really doesn't come into that discussion at all though, unless you have an unreliable narrator, which, as I mentioned in an earlier post, you probably don't.
     

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