The Point of View questions thread

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SB108, Jul 8, 2007.

  1. GoldenGhost

    GoldenGhost Senior Member

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    The best advice is to read great authors who've included flashbacks in their short stories. One that comes to mind is Bradbury's, "The Swan," which has a few that are masterfully done.

    I would say the most common way to insert one is after a page break, to let the reader know it's an entirely different scene, setting, and even time period. You can clue them in with the first sentence, or you don't really have to, as long as there is something there that lets them know it's back or forward in the timeline.

    You don't always have to do the pagebreaks, and you'll see in Bradbury's short he uses that technique, and also seamlessly transitions into a flashback without having a pagebreak. This is done by a masterful first, and last sentence, which brings the reader out of the current scene without detaching them from the narrative, while also bringing them back in the same fashion.

    From what I've read, the best flashbacks used no typographical tricks, such as italics, to cue the reader a flashback is taking place. They've let their words do the work for them, and if there was any trick employed, it was nothing but a simple page break.
     
  2. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen!
     
  3. Vladcasm

    Vladcasm New Member

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    Hi,

    So I'm new to this forum, and I'm pretty sure that someone already made a post like this, but I need some clarification.

    I'm writing a story from a third-person limited point of view (multiple characters, but that's not important), and I'm having some trouble with it. Basically from what I understand a limited POV means that I can only perceive what my character perceives, so anything the character doesn't see, hear, feel, whatever... shouldn't be written.

    However, occasionally I would write something like this:

    His heart hammered in his chest and his face turned red. "Enough!" (Poor example, sorry...)

    But the character shouldn't be able to tell if his face turned red since, he, himself can't see his own face.

    So my question is, am I limited to writing only what my character is experiencing, or I can act as a sort of a camera/reporter that watches over him, so writing that his face turned red is acceptable?

    Thank you for your help! :)


    P.S. Also if I'm writing something like this:

    He pressed his face against the window. Seeing her inside, _______'s mouth twisted into a goofy smile. (again, horrible example.)

    Again, if it's his point of view then it wouldn't make sense for the character to describe his smile as 'goofy', wouldn't it?

    Sorry if I'm not clear enough...
     
  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One of the advantages of third limited is that you can "slip the leash" somewhat without disrupting the flow iof the story. So although you are correct that it breaks the mold of true third limited, it's probably okay. I wouldn't recommend fracturing the guidelines all the time, because you will lose the advantage of the similar feel to first person, but this will only tweak the strictest editors/readers.

    You can feel the heat of a blush, even if you cannot see the ruddy glow, so that may be a better way to approach it.
     
  5. tcol4417

    tcol4417 Member

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    The "goofy" part sticks out because if you're aiming for true-limited-third then it could definitely break immersion, especially if it conflicts with that character's perceptions and behaviours.

    Take a character like Ned Stark or Sherlock Holmes: They may very well have a goofy smile, but you'd never have a piece written from their perspective come within spitting distance of the word. The closest thing would be "Smiled in the way that X always hated."

    Don't be too rigid, just keep reader engagement in mind.
     
  6. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    One of the advantages of third-person limited is that it is, in fact, third person, not first person. It's okay to do this kind of thing - the narrator is permitted to "see" the viewpoint character. One advantage of this POV is that it enables the writer to describe the character without having him look in a mirror. Another is that it permits the writer to use his own language level and style rather than that of the character.

    What a third-person limited POV does NOT permit is describing the thoughts of characters other than the POV character. Also, the writer is not permitted to discuss what is happening in other places (no "Meanwhile, back at the ranch ..." kind of writing).

    Third person POV offers a certain amount of flexibility in that the rules for its use are not absolute. (What rules of writing are?) However, you should be careful to be consistent in your own use of it - the "rules" you set up in your own story - otherwise you risk confusing the reader. So if you refrain from describing your character's smile throughout most of your book, only to do so in the last chapter, you'll probably pull the reader out of the story, as Cogito suggests. But if your rules are made clear early on, and are strictly adhered to throughout the story, your reader will likely follow you quite happily.
     
  7. Caesari

    Caesari New Member

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    I am writing a novel in which I employ the flashback technique to begin every chapter... revealing just a little more about the main character. It keeps it simple, but it also provides just enough info to continue, without revealing too much.
     
  8. adt1990

    adt1990 New Member

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    Which technique are you using, Caesari? How does the reader know?
     
  9. Caesari

    Caesari New Member

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    I use italics, writing 2-4 paragraphs focusing on different instances in the past. A snapshot, if you will. When it is over, I use a line break, which indicates the transition back to the "present."

    So while I do use a "gimmick," it is because they are short and relatively frequent. When writing a whole chapter, or a large chunk of one, I'd recommend avoiding gimmicks.
     
  10. PeterC

    PeterC Active Member

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    This thread is interesting to me. I'm an inexperienced writer but now I'm realizing that I've been using third-person limited POV fairly consistently in my WIP. In each scene I tell the story as if I'm "sitting on the shoulder" of a particular character. I stick with the same character throughout the scene but when I shift scenes I will "follow" a different character. I definitely break the rules a lot, though... probably too much. Now I'm feeling the need to review my material to make sure I'm being at least somewhat consistent. That said, it doesn't seem like a big deal to me to describe the primary character from the outside when appropriate. However, hearing the thoughts of one of the other characters would definitely be off limits.
     
  11. adt1990

    adt1990 New Member

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    Yeah, obviously a whole chapter in italics defeats the purpose of it.

    I think I'm just gonna go with the whole 'SIX YEARS EARLIER' thing.
     
  12. Vladcasm

    Vladcasm New Member

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    Thanks guys! :)

    My current story (my first actually... it's a fanfic--don't laugh! :D) started off in omni-POV and gradually zoomed in on the central character/s. Now I'm having trouble deciding how deep I want to delve into my characters' heads.

    When I try writing in a very deep POV it ends up being very awkward, and I end up wishing that I wrote in first-person instead. I prefer keeping some distance between the narrator and the characters, without becoming too detached (like in omniscient.)

    I think that, occasionally, "reporting" on the character from the outside wouldn't hurt too much (it's not the character's voice anyway), but I do agree that showing what the character himself is experiencing is probably more immersing.

    Now the goofy smile thing... I probably should keep those kind of things to a minimum, since the character himself wouldn't perceive himself that way, and I don't want the narrator to have his own opinions on the characters (again, back to omni...)
     
  13. Sir Mac Jefferson

    Sir Mac Jefferson New Member

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    But George R. R. Martin (writer of "A Song of Ice and Fire", aka Game of Thrones) does that all of the time, and his stories are written in third-person, right? They only give you thoughts from the character with the POV, but he changes who has the POV every chapter, and (he says) some of the events are happening at the same time as each other.
     
  14. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Italics should not be used as duct tape to fix shortcomings of unclear writing.
     
  15. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Third limited is a subset of third person. You can have third person with multiple viewpoints, or you can have third omniscient. Each variation has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, the very thing that is a strength for one story is a weakness for another.

    Third person is the most flexible of the simple POVs (third, first, or second), and because of that, some of that flexibility is differentiated into different narrative patterns.
     
  16. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!

    and paragraph-long chunks of italics are hard/annoying to read...
     
  17. hnamartin

    hnamartin New Member

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    I absolutely agree. If the story was written exactly as it would have been if it were written in first person, than you might as well just exchange an "I" for a "he/she."

    The way I usually think about third person limited is not that the narrator is inside the character's head but rather that the narrator is floating around the protagonist like some specter. It can see what the character is doing, and it knows what the character is thinking, but it makes decisions about what specific details it would like to give to the reader.
     
  18. Kamaria

    Kamaria New Member

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    My most recent project is a fantasy series that I have been working on for about a year and a half. I started having every book narrated in third person but then switched to first person because I felt like I write better in first person and I think it makes the books flow better. I wanted my protagonist to narrate all the books. Then, for some reason, I started writing sections from another character's point of view. Finally, I decided to have two 'sections' to each book - one complete story narrated by my protagonist and the same story narrated by someone else. Does anyone know if this has been done before? I assume it has been done but I just have not heard of anyone using this technique. I would love to read something like this; I like to get multiple points of view into what is going on.

    If someone has tried it, have you found yourself starting out with the plot but then deviating? The first book in my series has the second section narrated by the antagonist. And he keeps trying to change things around on me. So far, I believe they have been good changes and I think that they really help my novel. I like having both points of view presented; I think it adds something to my series. My antagonist is a fun character to write and I love to get into what he is thinking and feeling during the story. I feel like I have a better understanding of him and his motives by writing this alternate novel. It is also helping me develop secondary characters as some alternates are written from their point of view.

    Any thought and/or experiences you would like to share?
     
  19. NellaFantasia

    NellaFantasia Member

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    I tried something like this several years ago, only instead of writing the same story twice with two different viewpoints I divided the first person viewpoints into chapters. For instance, chapter one was in Character A's viewpoint, written in first person, and then chapter two was in Character B's viewpoint, also first person, and so on and such. Sometimes I would write the same scene from each viewpoint because it gave such a drastic difference in perspective.

    I've never read anything like what you described, but you could always try it. That's the glorious thing about writing. If it doesn't work you can change it.
     
  20. PhilipJLeae

    PhilipJLeae New Member

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    In Darren Shan's Demonata series he writes from three different points of views, but he switches between them when changing books. (Warning it's supposed to be a horror series!) So, if you're looking for an example you could try that.

    I've tried something similar. From a first person point of view, but occasionally I'll have a conversation between two characters right before or after the narrator leaves the room, or is out of ear shot. Hope this helped.
     
  21. radnommandess

    radnommandess New Member

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    Robert Rankin chops and changes povs quite a lot. Particularly the suburban book of the dead where he succesfuly brings a first person charact into a third person characters chapter and runs both povs simultaeneously.
     
  22. Sved

    Sved New Member

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    Orson Scott Card did it as well. He wrote about the same events from a different POV.
     
  23. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lawrence Durrell wrote a series of four novels called The Alexandria Quartet, in which each novel deals with the same events, but seen from a very different point of view. The series is considered a classic of twentieth-century literature and nearly snagged Durrell the Nobel Prize for Literature (he was up for the prize the year John Steinbeck won).
     
  24. trufflepigg

    trufflepigg New Member

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    Hello,

    I am writing my first novel and feel the best way to capture the characters is from both a first person pov and a third person pov.

    In general, the book is about a father and son, the son idolizes his father because he's an astronaut and a famous public figure, but the father doesn't seem to encourage his son getting into that line of work, even though the son is extremely interested. It's a thriller/suspense/science fiction kinda young adults novel...or something lol

    Anyway, I want to write some chapters from the son's first person pov and other chapters narrated from third person pov when dealing with the Dad. Is this too much jumping around? Are there other books out there like this? I just don't want to make a rookie mistake if there's any 'rule of thumb', when it comes to POV's.

    Thanks all!
     
  25. Karnival

    Karnival New Member

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    From what I've gathered from speaking to people and this may not be the gospel but if it's your first novel it would be more favourable to write in Third Person, unless it is of necessity to the story that it has to be in First Person.

    Generally the reason being that due to first person being a single viewpoint, if not written well it can descend into kind of preaching that lacks objectivity, forcing a view on your reader and therefore not allowing them to make their own inference and connection to the story. So in a way hindering the stories development.

    People will have their own view on this, that's just my thoughts. Hopefully you'll get some more replies that will help balance the argument. Anyhow, as long as your happy with what you write that's all that matters, the rest is a bonus :)
     

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