The Point of View questions thread

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

  1. Darius Marley

    Darius Marley Member

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    This is something I struggled with about a week ago, while drafting my WIP. I'm about 50k words deep, and I decided to try third person as I kept writing. After about 2k words, I decided to scrap that idea, and stick with first person.

    Here's why: My character is not a bad guy, but not entirely good either. He's very immature and tends to learn things the hard way. After seeing how my story reads in third person, I decided that my readers will have more fun with a first person POV.

    But... another book I will write after my current WIP is totally different. It's fantasy/horror, and I think third person will work much better for that one. Or maybe not. I haven't even developed a strong main character for that one yet. I'll probably know more when I hit 50k words.
     
  2. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Question for the forum: In a 'shallow' third person limited story, how long—in your experience—will readers comfortably wait for the POV character's name reveal?
     
  3. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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  4. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Shit. I still have a piss poor understanding about the nuances of POV, and I'm not sure if I should write my next story in third person limited objective, or go with a very shallow third person limited. In my head, the opening scene is 3rd limited objective, but I imagine the scenes that come after the first one would be better served with a shallow limited third. Does that make sense? I won't be surprised if it doesn't.
     
  5. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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    How are you understanding limited objective and shallow limited to be different?
     
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  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Does your third person limited objective require you to know things that the third person POV character doesn't know? (I don't accept a "third person limited"of any kind that does that, but in this post I'm not arguing about what the term means, but asking about what you want to do.)

    If you don't have to, then it seems to me that you could just call the whole thing shallow limited, but at the beginning it's so shallow that you're not even breaking the surface of the character's thoughts.
     
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  7. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Feels to me like you're overthinking it. Write it however it feels right at the time and clean it up during edits. You may decide neither feels right and go to first or second, or fourth, or god knows. You could even decide to shake it up and switch between perspectives.
     
  8. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Good thinking; that should get to the heart of the problem. The following should also answer @ChickenFreak 's question.

    My understanding of limited objective, is basically the textbook definition of objective third person. Per Google: "the objective third person, in which the narrator knows or reveals nothing about the characters' internal thoughts, feelings, and motivations, but sticks to the external facts of the story."

    So I guess I meant objective third person, and not limited objective, if there's a difference. Honestly, I might have even invented limited objective by mistake. As to my understanding of shallow limited, I assume it's a minimal thoughts and feelings POV. The Witcher series comes to mind if you've read it.
    Possibly. Though I imagine I'm going to gain a better understanding of the POVs in question after I'm done here.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
  9. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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    POVs don't have a quota on how often you depart from the objective. You can write an entire novel and only have a single passage of subjective information. That makes it all limited third, but does it really matter? So I wouldn't think of it as changes of voice as much as being selective with what you share.
     
  10. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    I didn't know that. Interesting.
    I'm just trying to get out ahead of any possible POV criticisms. I was worried that if my first scene only showed the objective, someone might complain when my following scenes included the shallow subjective.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  11. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned Supporter

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    I take my 3rd person limited POV from objective to deep as the moment seems to require -- even within scenes -- like a cinematographer zooming in and out. No one has complained about that yet.
     
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  12. captain kate

    captain kate Senior Member

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    That's why you're getting bogged down on POV worries. Other than "head hopping" in the middle of a scene-without a paragraph break or something like it to tell the reader you're changing from one character's POV to another-there's no hard and fast rule. To be honest, the rules of writing are there so you can learn which ones you can break, and which one you cannot, in whatever project you are working on.

    In summery: write the story how you see it, let it sit for a bit to get out of your system, then edit it. It's really the only way to solve the issue to be honest.
     
  13. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    So, I've done a tone of writing in both first person and third. Also, read a lot of both. And while I went through a phase of writing almost everything in first person, I'm now wondering if third is a more sophisticated approach when it comes to storytelling. I think I'm better at writing in first person, but I'm not always sure this POV is what's best for the story. I'm keeping my novel in first person, but I'm not sure my next will be. Every short story I've had published has been in first person. I've written in both, but no one is buying my third person stuff. Am I wrong in thinking third person is more sophisticated in showcasing what a writer can do? Is it supposed to be harder? It's kind of harder for me, but I feel like this is something I just have to try harder at. Is third person harder for you? Why is it so much harder for me?
     
  14. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned Supporter

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    Third is more flexible, as it can be anything from omniscient shallow to deep limited, and can vary depending on the needs of the story. But some people think first person does a better job connecting the reader to the character.

    I grew up on third, so I prefer to read it and write it. But I'm apparently not typical.
     
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  15. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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    First person will always feel somewhat 'folksy' since it is the voice of a character with all their limitations and preferences built into their POV. Third just seems sophisticated because it can be used to avoid the 'bias' of any character and tell the story more clinically. Sort of the writing equivalent of cinéma vérité - the narrator is the most invisible in this voice.
     
  16. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I've struggled with the exact same thing. I love writing in first person, and I still do for personal projects. But I've read so many first person novels that I just really don't care for (An Ember in the Ashes comes to mind) that I've begun to doubt its usefulness for commercial works. Meanwhile, a whole bunch of books I love are written in third, and they carry with them that air of sophistication you're talking about. Now, that said, it's entirely possible that I just haven't read the one first person book to blow my mind and change my perspective! And to be honest, I think either PoV can be useful depending on what kind of story you're trying to tell. But for me personally, I think 3rd will always win out when it comes to writing novels. It's the one I practice getting better at.
     
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  17. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    V.E. Schwab imo is the current p4p genre champ of writing 3rd person in a 1st person voice.

    I don’t think it’s more sophisticated. I think readers come to the table with notions about 1st or 3rd, and like the sound or don’t. I think writers choose first or third based on their notion of what they think it should sound like, but some writers can make third person super voicey, or in my illustrious case, make first person distant and clinical.
     
  18. Just a cookiemunster

    Just a cookiemunster Active Member

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    I read both but to me third person definitely sounds more sophisticated. It's hard for me to take a first person story seriously but that doesn't mean it's bad. I have read a few good ones but when I read a good third person I usually end up connecting more. In spite of the distance I actually feel closer.
     
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  19. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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    Just for clarity, whether your prose "sounds sophisticated" or not has nothing to do with whether you story is quality or not.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think that third person is necessarily more sophisticated, but I do think it's much more flexible. Third person is easier for me--I can make choices with narrative distance that don't seem to be available to me in first person. (Though I could be wrong--I've written very little in first person.)

    Is it possible that your struggle is with going really deep in third--that you end up with a more distant voice, even if you don't need to? Maybe it would be worthwhile to specifically seek some well-regarded books/stories in close third, and read them with an eye to seeing how they get the effect? Maybe you tend to be hampered by the need to attribute, in third person, thoughts and feelings that in first person you're more comfortable just putting on the page?

    I've also forgotten your position on present versus past tense. Third person present tense has always felt even more "wrong" to me than first person present tense.
     
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  21. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter Contributor

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    I listen to a lot of audiobooks and actually forget whether a book is in first or third. It’s just part of the window frame through which we see the story and there are many ways to do it well.
     
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  22. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Yep, I second this.

    3rd POV can be a combination of the protagonist's voice AND the author(invisible narrator)'s voice, whereas first is limited to the voice of the person telling the story. Obviously, the options for both POVs are endless, but I'd argue that it's the confluence between the protagonist's thoughts and feelings and the author's own voice that make 3rd person more sophisticated.

    There are ways around this. Nabokov's first person narrators craft worlds in which they are the virtual masters, allowing them the same sort of authorial powers you'd find in third person.
     
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  23. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. This is how I see it as well, although I'm not sure 'sophisticated' is what I would call it. But the difference between a single voice and a 'double voice' is there.

    In Third Person Limited (my preference) the narrator is only allowed to deal with what the POV character can see, hear, experience, feel and think—but the narrator can employ any story 'voice' that seems appropriate.

    In First Person, the story's voice is always the character's voice. It's a subtle difference, but maybe that's why Third Person Limited is a popular choice. The author gets to present the character's voice any way the author chooses. It gives the author a bit more control, while still keeping the limited point of view.

    It's fun to try writing from a different perspective. I know I tried writing First Person, and found I just can't get my head around the notion that when I say "I," that I'm actually talking about somebody else! It wasn't that the story was about 'me.' It's just that my tone became far too cautious, for some reason. I showed my story (only partly completed) to a beta who had already read my novel, and she said she thought the tone of the First Person was impersonal. She said she never got invested in the character the way she got invested in my Third Person characters. As this was my own impression as well, I decided to stick with Third Person from now on.

    Many many successful (and sophisticated) novels, from many different eras, use a First Person perspective. So while you can have fun experimenting, don't assume that First Person is less 'sophisticated.' I think if you strive to be sophisticated, the striving is going to show, and not in a good way. Just write from the perspective that feels natural to you, and conveys the story the way you want it to be conveyed.

    You can always change around, if you think Point of View is affecting your chances of publication. For fun, maybe take one of the stories you wrote using First Person and change it to Third ...and see what happens. Maybe that's a way to do both!
     
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  24. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    This. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is one. I just thumbed through mine to verify this, and it is First Person all the way through.
     
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  25. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Third person is the most familiar perspective for readers, because more tales have been written in this perspective than in any other. Moreover, third person has fewer intrinsic restrictions, because switching points of view is harder to manage seamlessly than in third person withou leaving the reader disoriented. With a third person narrator, no one gets disoriented when the narrator focuses on a different character's viewpoint.

    First person can be more interesting to read specifically because of its conventional restrictions. You can only reveal to the reader what that character knows or perceives at that moment, either at that point im the narrative or at a fixed time after the events have played out. When writers choose to bend those rules, they usually do a disservice to the reader and to themselves, and one has to wonder why they made that POV choice to begin with.

    Of course, that's not an absolute. I've read novels that stick with one first person's POV through a large part of the story, then go back and retell it very successfully from a different POV. Gone Girl was just such a novel.

    POV choice, as well as first vs third person, is not a completely arbitrary choice. You select these based on which choices best tell the story you wish to tell.
     
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