The Point of View questions thread

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

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  1. CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX

    CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX Member

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    I prefer the third person only because of the different POVs. This way, you get to see the protagonist from another's POV.
    I like the multi-character plots personally. This way I can also give the reader a view of what is happening while keeping my MC in the dark at times. It's a different sort of tension.
     
  2. JessicaT

    JessicaT New Member

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    I've always used third person multiple but my latest WIP is "third person limited (TPL)" and I'm enjoying it.
     
  3. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    I write all my stories in first person since the main character is more or less the focal point of the stories, nyaa. That said, if you're writing more of a plot-based narrative as opposed to some kind of fantasy soap box Fantasy of Manners kind of thing, perhaps Third Person's versatility wins out, especially if you're composing a novel with various main characters and that kind of thing. However, regarding the literary concepts of psychological exploration, I feel first person is superior overall, nyaa.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I've often felt that there's a subset of the many variants of first person, and the many variants of third person, that may over-influence people's view of first and third person.

    A good percentage of the classics that people read in school, or are forced to read in school, are in third person omniscient, often with a strong narrative voice. In a lot of these books, we're in the narrator's head, watching the characters, now and then dipping into their minds, but we're not committed to a single character. There's very often a sense of distance, especially when you add the fact that the language may be more complex and more formal and more old-fashioned, and the situations less familiar.

    Simultaneously, some genres seem to have a pretty high proportion of first person, some of them first person present tense. And the language may be less complex, less formal, and more modern, and the situations more familiar.

    I think that a fair number of people, especially fairly young people, (and I'm calling age thirty "fairly young"; I don't just mean kids) may have experienced third person primarily in school reading, while their pleasure reading has been dominated by first person or even first person present tense.

    As a result, they may equate third person with formality, old-fashioned writing and situations, distance from characters, and so on. And equate first person with informality, modern writing and situations, closeness to characters.

    All of which leads me to my usual assertion that you absolutely CAN be as close to a character in close third person limited as you can in first person. In fact, I tend to believe that you can be closer. But many people may not have had as many examples of that as they would if they were reading other genres, or were a decade or two older. If you've mostly seen a distant third person, then you reasonably feel that third person is inherently distant.

    Returning to add: It's also entirely possible that first person tends to dominate in other genres--does literary fiction tend to go to first person? My main point is that judgement of the POV is likely to be strongly affected by the context in which it is most often seen.
     
  5. lonelystar

    lonelystar Active Member

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    Yes another POV thread, but don't worry I'm not asking about which POV is best/preferred.

    My specific question is Should the scene always be from the first person who is mentioned in a the scene or is it okay if it's another character?
    Example -
    Natalie slid her hand along Lloyd's arm, slipping her hand into his. He'd been awake for hours, tossing and turning. He squeezed her hand. "Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
    "What time you going to Jessica's?"
    "Once Jacob's gone to school. Might go and see his mom later."
    Natalie said nothing.
    "Thank you for being okay about this."So many wives would have been jealous and bitter about the amount of time he'd spent at Jessica's.
    "You're Mel's friend. We're her friends. Of course you're going to spend time with her. Especially today. Today's a big deal. For both of you."
    Today, had been on his mind for days. The ten year anniversary. Ten years was a long time.
    She said. "You going to see Lucy later?"

    So, does this scene need to be from Natalie's POV because her action starts the scene?
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As it stands - taking the example at face value - there's nothing about the scene that would lead me to believe that we are in Lloyd's POV. I don't necessarily think that Natalie being mentioned first makes this an irretrievably "Natalie's POV" chapter, but there's nothing after that initial mention that ties it as belonging to Lloyd right now. If anything, this reads like a 3rd omniscient excerpt rather than a 3rd person limited excerpt, and your original question would lead me to believe that you are trying for a 3rd limited chapter from Natalie's POV, yes?
     
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  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think a scene has to be from the POV of the first character mentioned, or the first character to act, but mine usually are. I do think that it's best to have a strong POV clue of some sort very early in the scene.
     
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  8. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    It doesn't have to be the first person mentioned, although it should be clear. I can think of reasons to make the POV character different than the one first mentioned, an antagonist hunting his quarry, for example. In these cases, as ChickenFreak suggested, context needs to make POV clear.

    The example you gave above seems fine. It was clear to me that Lloyd was the POV character as the reader is given insight into his hours of tossing and turning which eventually woke Natalie.
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I was confused about who was speaking that first line. Was it Natalie or Lloyd? She performs the first action, but then he apologises for waking her? That's a bit confusing.

    And of course, if we're confused about the first line, we're going to mis-assign the second line of dialogue and the third ...and will need to backtrack when 'Natalie says nothing' makes it clear that the previous statement was Lloyd's.

    So I would make it clear, right at the start, who speaks that first line. Maybe dialogue tag the second speech as well, just to make sure.

    Something like: "What time you going to Jessica's?" Natalie asked.

    Or with an action beat: Natalie gave him 'that look.' "What time you going to Jessica's?"

    I think it's the confusion about who is speaking that makes the POV seem out of kilter. It's clearly his POV when you get to the part about him thinking about the anniversary. But there is some confusion up to that point.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
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  10. raine_d

    raine_d Active Member

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    Neither is in itself more sophisticated, it depends on the individual book, story and author. First person is more dependent on character voice, and in my opinion needs more discipline to write really well and imaginatively because of the need to make every word both fit the POV character's mode of speech/thought, even their vocabulary range rather than your own. And you need to keep it strictly on what they would know or even notice. With third person seeing all, knowing all (even when third person retricted, you can push it just a little) the canvas is wider.

    On the other hand, one of my favourite (and yes, for me most sophisticated if done properly) tropes is the Unreliable Narrator, which needs first person to work its magic. For instance... The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, anyone?

    I tend to fall into one or the other instinctively as the story starts (or even, for a few very short pieces, second person, which is even harder to get right and so so easy to get wrong). I will admit, however, that if my main character is demonstrably brighter, more worldly, more experienced in a vital field than me (which is not hard!) third person is probably the way I'll go...
     
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  11. labelab

    labelab Member

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    I'm writing a short story from a third person limited perspective, and have hit an obstacle; pretty much all of it is action. There's a bit of insight into the protagonist's emotions, but for the most part, it's this happened, then this happened, and I want to avoid it feeling list-y.

    What else can I put in that isn't action? Thank you!
     
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  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like I need more detail to the question, because you can have thoughts in third person. Are you asking what thoughts to have, or how to phrase them?
     
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  13. MythicMirror

    MythicMirror New Member

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    There is no real difference between first and third person. Althought many people think there is one. Those people actually meant the deep point of view. But that's like shoot scenes without a break. – the master class.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just slow down and pretend you are that character, going through these events. How do you approach the events? (Are you worried? Enthusiastic? Curious?) What are you thinking or feeling as events occur? (Do you think about staying still and facing the bullies, but then decide to run away?) What is your opinion of the events or the other people participating in these events? Get us inside your character's head, and see if you can let your scenes play out in real time.

    It doesn't really matter much whether you're writing in first person or third limited, for this exercise. Just don't focus on plot, or, rather, don't focus on just spitting out your plot points.

    The object is to get the reader to 'experience' your story, as if they were there. They will struggle to do this, if you aren't 'there' yourself, while you're writing it.
     
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  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    In case examples help, I grabbed a few books off the shelf, for examples of characters in third person having emotions:

    From An Episode of Sparrows:

    "He's dark and she's fair," said Lovejoy glibly, then paused. She, who photographed every detail about everybody she met, instantly and certainly, was uncertain about these two. "He's dark, with dark eyes, and she's fair with blue." But was she, Lovejoy, just saying what she made up?

    From The Murder of Mary Russell:

    Mrs. Hudson caught herself, and made a tsk sound with her aged lips. She was secretly pleased to be rid of that dreadful saucer--the mends had haunted her. And she had no cause to feel uneasy, on a beautiful sunny Sussex afternoon with three nice busy days of party preparations before her. The past was dead; good riddance to it.

    From Death of a Mystery Writer:

    Making up for the evening in her bedroom some half an hour later, and listening to the grunts from next door as her husband changed into his dinner jacket, Eleanor Fairleigh-Stubbs looked at herself and wondered in her vague way why she bothered: why she bothered worrying, why she bothered trying to coax Oliver into good behavior, why she bothered trying to build a normal family life.
     
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  16. labelab

    labelab Member

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    More like, how much thought should I add? Is there anything else I can talk about besides thought, emotions and action?
     
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I remain confused. :) Maybe I'm over-focusing on your mention of third person. Is there something specific about a third person POV that is making this a challenge, or would it be just as much of a challenge in first person?
     
  18. labelab

    labelab Member

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    Haha, okay, let's scrap third person. Let's say, in general, what other components are there to a story? We have...

    - action
    - thought tracks
    - emotions
    - what the character can sense

    And that's really all I can think of. What else??
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, that's a pretty broad set of resources to build a story with. I'm still having trouble with what the question is. :)

    Maybe we should return to your original concern--that what you're writing 'feels list-y'. IMO, the three examples I gave don't feel list-y. I don't know if you'd agree or disagree?

    If you feel that they don't have the problem you're concerned about, maybe you could offer an example of writing that does have that problem, and we could compare?
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Put yourself in your character's shoes. Not only where they are right then, but what they know about what has happened before, as well as what they think, fear, hope or expect is going to happen next.

    It's important to stay IN the character. There is no point in describing what the character can sense, if, at the moment, they're not sensing anything important. Maybe they are walking down a street, deep in thought, and aren't noticing their surroundings much. Or maybe they are very aware of their surroundings for some reason and aren't thinking a lot. They're just observing. And what do they observe? They won't see everything, so what DO they see? And why are they in a particular frame of mind to notice these things?

    Maybe they are a plant lover, and are noticing all the wildflowers that are in bloom, but aren't particularly interested in the colour of the path they're walking on. Or maybe they love the colour of the path because it contrasts so well with the flowers. Or maybe they wish the path was less bumpy, so they could look at the flowers instead of watching where they're putting their feet, and etc. You can take your characters in any direction you want, but stay in their heads.

    It's a trick, but once you master it, these questions won't arise again. Put yourself in your character's shoes. You are THEM at that moment in time. Then just write that moment, including whatever would be important to that character at that moment.

    Don't make this more complicated than it is, or—heaven forbid—turn it into another set of lists you need to tick off. Just create the experience that character is having (and that includes internal as well as external ' happenings') and your readers will be right there with you.
     
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  21. labelab

    labelab Member

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    Oh wow, thanks for sticking with me as I desperately try and phrase the question correctly.

    The examples don't feel list-y at all; in fact, this is very much what I'd like my writing to sound like. I think I was overthinking this whilst I was writing it, and, at this point, have basically forgotten what I was asking.

    Thank you for these examples though; it's really useful to know what I want my writing to sound like, and I hope I can fix this up when I go back and edit it, because, although it's centred around one of my characters, I feel like I keep shifting from third person limited to omniscient, which means I don't make room for the protagonist thought, which is also confusing and a whole other question.

    Okay, I'm rambling now. Sorry!

    Please ignore me. This is just my way of saying that I've put off writing for so long that it feels as though I'm starting over, and there are so many problems to consider that I'm completely stuck.

    Yelp.
     
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  22. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Senior Member

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    The third person perspective can help you write characters reactions to events, describing their mind stage, help the reader understand the world around your characters, and probably much more. If I were you, I would not bother with that question. Just write your story and see what works and not. :supersmile:
     
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  23. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Loved by a Sweet lady. :) Supporter Contributor

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    Toss in some dialogue (if another character is present), or
    some internal personal thoughts on the issue/activity at
    the moment. Break it up a little and let the character be
    apart of the action, as opposed to being a puppet on strings
    to a series of motions. Helps things move a bit more fluidly
    and naturally.
    Though I know how it feels when things start to feel a bit
    more like a list of things, over being a fluid series of events
    in succession. :)
     
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  24. Radrook

    Radrook Banned Contributor

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    When listening to advice one has to be very careful that it isn't designed to ruin the work. Some persons are envious of a writers abiilty-will read the composition, notice that it is excellent, feel angered because they can't do it as well, and lash out with bad advice.

    Others will base their advice on their personal ability to appreciate certain literature. Not everyone is educationally able to process certain sentences with full understanding. That inability might lead to the conclusion that it is the work itself that is at fault and not their own deficiency in reading comprehension.

    Some might even be in the early stages of Alheimers and incapable of sustained reading and blame the composition. They might claim that they don't understand what any of it means and blame the writer.

    So reader advice isn't necessarily trustworthy.
     
  25. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Penny1234 - I'm not convinced that first/third person is the issue here.

    Your issue seems to be about authenticity. If your POV character is French, living in the part of France where she grew up, then you will need to get the details right (or risk the disapproval of those who are familiar with the setting.) If your character is merely visiting France, or new to France, you can get away with her superficial impressions of the place. Because she is NOT a native, she will only be aware of what she's exposed to. (Her impressions might be totally wrong, and that's okay if that's her character.)

    It won't make any difference whether you use first or third person.

    If you're more comfortable writing in first, I'd say continue to do so. You just need to figure out how much your main character knows about the 'France' she's staying in.

    Maybe you passing through France yourself has given you enough of a perspective to get started. You can study photos of the place, read up on the place, get familiar with the sound of the language, what sorts of things people do there ...and then write from the perspective of somebody who is just visiting or who has just arrived.

    It will be more difficult (but not impossible) to pull off the story if your character is a native of the place. You will need to immerse yourself more deeply in what that would be like. But it makes no difference whether the story is written in first or third. It's the accuracy of the atmosphere and the details that will count.
     
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