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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Is third person bad???

   
Author Topic: Is third person bad???
JoeMaz
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In my limited experience interacting with writers, there seems to be an unhealthy emphasis on point of view. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the term “POV violation.” And actually, most of the time there wasn’t any detectable POV violation at all (this does not apply to anyone who has critiqued my work. I'm sure all my POV violations were in fact bad writing). But half the time when someone complains of POV problems the story is written in third person. In third person is a POV violation even possible?

Which brings me to my next thought; what’s so great about first person? I know, I know. In first person the reader sees the action, or boring conversation, or general wackiness unfolding from the character’s perspective, so it’s more like being there on the ground. But honestly, isn’t limiting a story to first person just too restrictive for a lot of stories. The Lord of the Rings is written in third person… isn’t it?

Think about an action scene where the hero is chasing a villain through the inevitable, old abandoned, factory. When the villain slinks into the shadows and the hero looses him, wouldn’t it be great if we actually could follow the hero and the villain? What an amazing concept, but if a sample of that book were posted here, I would not be surprised to see someone complain about POV problems regardless of how amazingly the bit was written.

Here’s an example that I just thought up…

________

Jack crashed through the window of the old abandoned factory, guns blazing. Carver took cover in the shadows. He was going to get Jack this time. He set the grenade on the ground with a piece of wood resting on the spoon, then pulled the pin. Jack scanned the room with his hand cannon as he advanced, feet crunching broken glass.

________

I can hear it already. “POV violation!!!” But isn’t that just third person?

First person would have said “I crashed through the window…”

So, what do you think, is third person a no no? Or is third person just not “in” right now? What’s the deal?


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Rhaythe
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If the point of view doesn't work for the kind of story you're trying to tell, then reconsider it. Really it depends on the kind of style you are trying to use and how comfortable you are with it. If you are more comfortable telling a story from a third-person perspective, have at it!

As for your example, I guess that the only thing I would say regarding it would be to maybe rephrase how internal thoughts are shared. Make it clear what who is thinking:

quote:

Jack crashed through the window of the old abandoned factory, guns blazing. Carver took cover in the shadows, swearing that this time he would get Jack.

Rules are meant to be broken anyway.

And it's the hammer on the grenade... not a spoon.


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JoeMaz
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The hammer... really? The spoon is the thin piece of metal that you hold in place after you pull the pin if you don't want to throw it right away.

I actually know that because I work with unexploded ordnance for a living

A gun has a hammer. A grenade has a striker on the fuse.

Anyway, thanks for your input. Your version or the Jack and Carver story reads better than mine did. But, it's just an example.


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dinoroxxx
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Third person is more than acceptable. First person, well I'll let others here comment as to its usage (should be interesting).

Now, the kind of third person, maybe that's more what you're asking about.

Limited third person, omniscient third person, narrator (reliable v. unrealiable), etc...

[This message has been edited by dinoroxxx (edited December 05, 2008).]


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kings_falcon
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There's a difference between 3rd person limited and 3rd person omni. A common trend now is a roving 3rd person limited, where the POV can shift between scenes or chapters. It's developed, in part, IMHO because Full Omni is out of vogue.

To answer your question, it depends. . . .

Whether your blurb is a POV violation depends on which 3rd person limited or Full Omni. As a full Omni, in which case the POV is an outside observer who has access to EVERYONE's thoughts and feelings, it's fine. If the POV is 3rd limited, i.e. told from one character's POV, then yes, there might be a POV violation. Barring a certain spec element, Jack can't know what's in Carver's mind and vice versa. If Carver's the POV and can see everything Jack is doing, this might not be a POV violation because we're not in Jack's head just observing his actions.

Third person limited IS very IN now. It's 3rd Omni and 1st person that are harder to write and harder to sell.


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LintonRobinson
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They're ALL bad.

The trick is figuring out how to make them work anyway.


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Patrick James
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Joemaz, like dinoroxxx, said third persn is fine. In fact it is prefered. Very few stories are written in first person. The violation of POV they are talking about is probably of the author doing something like this.

Jack moved behind a crate, he didn't want to catch a bullet on this one. Carver had placed a claymore behind that crate earlier in the day in anticipation. You fell into my trap, he thought.

You see, the story was following Jack's POV, then I gave you a thought from Carver, thus POV violation. This is what third person has evolved to. Traditionally third person was a tool you could use to tell all perspectives in a book or play. Dune uses third person and tells the thoughts of all characters present. It can be confusing for some readers, so strict POV is typical now.

Other POV violations are more subtle. Like the author writing things your character doesn't know: Jack tuurned the corner, not knowing there was a mine there. Some would say simply using father when refering to the MC's father in his thoughts, as opposed to Father is a violation of POV. They insist that when you think about your father it should be capitalized. I do not know how widely accepted this oppinion is.

Also, the strictest third person story telling doesn't allow for narration. Everything should sound as though it comes from the MC's(main character's) head.

I am very new to this myself JoeMaz and would not be surprised if someone who knows more would be more helpful.

Weapons of all ages is a hobby with me. Explosive devices are something I know very little about. Hope you don't mind if I pick your brain every once in a while.


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annepin
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kings_falcon has it right. You're missing the distinction between the different kinds of third person POV.

Third person simply means "he" or "she" (or possibly "it") is the main character of the story, as opposed to "I" (first person) or "you" (second person).

POV comes in a range of flavors, with omniscient at one end and close or limited at the other end. Different writers have different terms for this.

Omniscient is when the narrator knows, and tells all. The narrator can dip into various point of views, look forward and backward.

"Jack knew the rabbit was in the hat. Michael didn't. For Michael, who grew up believing in magic, watching the rabbit emerge from the hat only cemented his belief that the impossible was, in fact, possible. Little did he know in three years' time he'd be pulling his own rabbits out of hats."

We're not "settled" in anyone's POV, but get a glimpse of each. This was very popular in the late 1800s (Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc) but has fallen out of favor. Tolkien is a great example of this. I see this more often in literary fiction.

On the other end of the spectrum is the limited. Here, the author only provides the knowledge and sensory information the MC experiences at that time. Therefore, it's a much more intimate, engaging read.

"Mike tried to stifle his excitement, knowing Joe would laugh at him. Still, he couldn't help but stare as the magician reached into the hat. There was no way there could be a rabbit in there. Heck, a rabbit wouldn't fit! He remembered the time Uncle Chuck had showed him the same trick."

Everything is filtered through Mike's lens. Mike is the POV character. We know nothing of what Joe thinks or experiences except as Mike knows it. We can switch to have Joe as a POV character, but that would be best in a separate scene.

"Joe thought it touching Mike got so excited at the magician. It was just like when they were kids. Joe cringed inwardly to remember how mean he'd been to Mike, telling him magic didn't exist."

In first person, the narrator is by necessity the POV character.

OSC's book has a fantastic explanation of this. His website does too, somewhere.

Third person done well makes for a great read. It's "easier" in some ways than first person. Third person done clumsily is difficult to read. This is why people point out POV violations. It's when you start out in someone's POV, but slip in info that the POV character shouldn't be able to know. If you are going for omniscient, that's a different matter; however, it's often difficult to pull off omniscient POV effectively.

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited December 05, 2008).]


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LintonRobinson
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Know what, Joe? I liked my response to you so well (and really, who wouldn't?) that I put it on my blog.

(Yeah, yeah, I've got one more damned writer's blog. Call me a sell-out.)


POV disease, my point of view

[This message has been edited by LintonRobinson (edited December 05, 2008).]


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LintonRobinson
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Rules are meant to be broken anyway.

Yeah, but who says it's a rule? This is one of the big problems with writing advice doo-doo, if people repeat it long enough, it suddenly becomes a "rule".

Well, know what? Football has rules. You can buy the rule books.

Writing has almost NO "rules" apart from the grammar of the language involved.

Somebody ALWAYS says this in such discussions, I can't beleive I forgot it in my scenario in the link above. "You have to know the rules in order to break them". And everybody nods like bobblehead dolls.

In point of fact there is NO rule against adverbs. There is NO rule against giving every character in your book their own point of view.

And calling them rules doesn't make them so.


(Oh, and by the way, it's a spoon, not a hammer. The hammer is inside, spring loaded to snap down and fire the grenade once the restraining spoon flies off when no longer detained by the pin or some outside object like a hand or brick or whatever. Just so you'll know if it comes up again. Tip: one way to avoid passing on bad information, especially when oontradicting somebody, is to run a quick check on google. Try "grenade, spoon" then "grenade, hammer". Or you could ask somebody who has actually handled grenades and sat through the boring lectures on how to kill people with them without killing yourself.)



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annepin
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Linton, out of curiosity I read your blog entry. I'm wondering why you are here. Everyone finds their own path to writing; it seems you don't see a lot of value in the critting process. But don't listen to me. I'm just another knucklehead.
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Cheyne
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Joemaz, your example with Jack and Carver is not wrong. It is however out of fashion. As others have pointed out there are many degrees of omniscience in the third person POV. Your example illustrates the least current of these and is in full omniscience. It would be a 'POV Violation' if you had not been writing in full omniscient POV before this scene. You can write stories in this POV, but it is somewhat archaic to do so.
A more accepted POV (by today's reader)is the limited omniscient form in which the writer "limits" himself to one viewpoint character at a time, changing viewpoints with chapter or scene breaks.
As to the rules of writing, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to style. I think many people at Hatrack can take advice too seriously at times. They look for fault (because you asked them to) and point out your use of adverbs or said bookisms as breaking rules. Sometimes the use of an adverb may strengthen your prose by adding rhythm as well as meaning. Strunk and White have a good deal to say about "useless adverbs" but would not advocate the abolishment of all of them. But that is for another thread.

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KayTi
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It's worth mentioning here that when Hatrackers write about "rules" it is safe to assume what they mean is "guidelines that will help get you published." As is true with so many things on The Intarnets, each poster has his/her own experience and some are more valuable/relevant/in-depth than others.

So when people here talk about low use of adverbs and limited third person POV as "rules" (and I continue to use quotes because it's not common for people to come right out and call them rules) - they're talking about what they have seen as trends in the marketplace *now.*

One risk with first person POV is that many new writers use it because it feels more natural to them, even when first person POV may not be the right choice for telling that particular story. I read slush for an online magazine. It is clear when the POV choice is not the right choice for the story.

POV violations can happen, head hopping can happen, and sometimes that doesn't get in the way of the story. But all too often, in my experience, this sort of thing yanks me out of the story, makes me pay attention to the writer, and that's never a good thing. At least in genre fiction, which is what the majority of Hatrackers write much of their work in (not surprising given we're on a genre-fiction writer's website), the STORY is the king. Tricks or mistakes that interrupt the reader's immersion in the story are bad news in genre fiction (this is true in other genres that we don't happen to do much of here on Hatrack like Mystery or Romance too.)


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LintonRobinson
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There is no such thing as "POV violation".

Pretending something exists when it doesn't is really tantamount to superstition. And harmful.


But don't take my word for it: ask yourself what is being "violated".


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LintonRobinson
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annepin, there is really nothing in my post about the "critting process" or critters in general.

Your statement that "Everyone finds their own path to writing" goes right to the heart of the problem I'm getting at in that post, when you think about it.

Not that compatible with the concept that there are "rules" to be "violated", does it?


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Robert Nowall
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I suppose "rule" would be a bad term...maybe "convention" would be better.

The notion is, that, even though you're writing a scene in third person, you're only supposed to show what's going on from the point-of-view character [hence the term point-of-view], and you're not supposed to jump to the viewpoint of some other character.

Lotsa guys violate it all the time. I'm reminded of Frank Herbert's Dune, where he kept putting out the thoughts of everybody who happened to be on stage. (I found it extremely irritating when I first read it, well before I entertained the notion of becoming a writer and studying such things.)


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benmackay
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I agree with KayTi. Story is the overarching "rule". That is the guide by which perspective choices should be made. I definitely like third person limited, I've just found that it has to be clear to the reader when perspective shifts change. Ensuring that these shifts are clear will let you pull it off. If you want to track the hero and the villain in the chase, why not tell the chase in chunks, switching back and forth in different segments that overlap just enough to give the reader the place?

Ben


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JoeMaz
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Thanks for all the feedback!

I’m getting two things out of this discussion.

1- Great writers use third person all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it.

2- LIMITED Third person needs to be nailed down a little tighter.


If the story has to follow only your MC’s POV, isn’t that basically the same as FIRST person?

Here’s Annepin’s example.

___________

"Mike tried to stifle his excitement, knowing Joe would laugh at him. Still, he couldn't help but stare as the magician reached into the hat. There was no way there could be a rabbit in there. Heck, a rabbit wouldn't fit! He remembered the time Uncle Chuck had showed him the same trick."

___________

Let me get this straight. If instead of writing “Mike” the author wrote “I” and "my" then it would be first person and not limited third?

What if the example above stayed just like it is and the very next paragraph went like this?

__________

Joe looked at mike. Mike was trying to play it cool, but it was all over his face. The idiot kid actually thought the goober on stage was a wizard. Joe knew better. It was just a trick.

__________

Is that a “violation” or does it mean the story is being written in omniscient third person?

[This message has been edited by JoeMaz (edited December 05, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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That would be 3rd person Omniscient. If it switches at will from one PoV (or perspective, if you prefer) to another, or no character's PoV, it's is in some form of omniscient. There is a 1st person Omniscient, too, but it usually takes the form of a story teller.

Omniscient, put simply, mean God's-eye-view. To know everything about everyone and how they are feeling. When the surroundings are described in equal detail with the character and his or her thoughts, that's Cinematic Omniscient.

None are wrong, but I find when writing in omniscient, starting with deep penetration of a character is misleading--and leads to the feeling of PoV violation--because the reader believes he or she will be following that character around.

I hope this helps.


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LintonRobinson
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I suppose "rule" would be a bad term...maybe "convention" would be better.

The notion is, that, even though you're writing a scene in third person, you're only supposed to show what's going on from the point-of-view character [hence the term point-of-view], and you're not supposed to jump to the viewpoint of some other character.

Not even a convention, really. There just isn't anything wrong with what you're describing. (In fact, if you examine it a little more carefully what you're saying is that the point of view can't be transferred to anybody other than a character with a point of view)

Granted if the whole piece is locked into one view point, it would be a little jarring to pop out of it. (Less than most people who obsess over this stuff think--you want to see a mega example, check out Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion)

But that qualifies this "rule" or "convention" in two major ways. One, that the writer is using a restricted viewpoint in the first place for whatever reason. And two, that the lapse in viewpoint (a more usual term instead of "violaction" which, you gotta admit, pretty much invokes "rule")

In point of fact it is quite normal and not "head hopping" or whatever to have point of view distributed widely without concern or obsession. Usual, even.

[This message has been edited by LintonRobinson (edited December 05, 2008).]


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Cheyne
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"Violaction" -cool.

Edited to add that I really do think this a cool new word and my post was not meant to make fun of a typo. We all maek them.

[This message has been edited by Cheyne (edited December 05, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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LintonRobinson, after perusing the examples on your site, I see only 1st person. Do you write fiction in any other form?


Also, you said:

quote:
Not even a convention, really. There just isn't anything wrong with what you're describing. (In fact, if you examine it a little more carefully what you're saying is that the point of view can't be transferred to anybody other than a character with a point of view)

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but are you saying that the PoV can be transferred to a character without a point of view? Because I am wondering how exactly one sees a story through someone's eyes that doesn't know the story? It's fair to say that it is a rule (common sense rule) that if someone's telling a story, it's their point of view (even if it's the author/narrator/God).

The reason for "restricting" the point of view is to show a deeper penetration into the character--his feelings, thoughts, opinions--that cannot be fully experienced (or honestly experienced) form omniscient or cinematic. They are all preferences, just as they are all valid.


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annepin
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quote:
If the story has to follow only your MC’s POV, isn’t that basically the same as FIRST person?

No. "Person" in this context is defined by the particular pronoun used to evoke character or to tell the story. I know there's a more eloquent way to say this...

So, First Person Voice uses "I" or "we".
Second Person Voice uses "you".
Third Person Voice uses "he" "she" "they" or "it". It has nothing to do with the scope of "knowledge" or the depth of perspective.

quote:
Let me get this straight. If instead of writing “Mike” the author wrote “I” and "my" then it would be first person and not limited third?

Yes.

quote:
Joe looked at mike. Mike was trying to play it cool, but it was all over his face. The idiot kid actually thought the goober on stage was a wizard. Joe knew better. It was just a trick.

If this was the bit following what I wrote, then you'd have a limited third person POV that switched POV characters. We went from Mike's head to Joe's head.

I would not say this is omniscient. Because you're still limiting perspective to a particular character, even though you are switching POV characters. Omniscient takes on a more global perspective. Think of it as a commentator or observer noting what happens.

My understanding of the term "POV violation" as I've experienced it here on the forum refers to an instance when you "break character", that is, you are shooting for third person limited, but you slip in knowledge that the POV character shouldn't know.

So:

The smell of the peasants made Mike want to sneeze, but he held his breath and wriggled through the crowd. He cursed--the magician had already started the routine. But the hat sat on the table, untouched. Mike breathed a sigh of relief. He'd been looking forward to the trick since he'd woken up that morning. His excitement shone on his face.

The last line breaks the third person limited POV because how would Mike know what he looked like? As a reader, I find such lines jarring because it pushes me out of the story, out of character, and makes me wonder, okay, who is making this judgment? Who is observing Mike and seeing that he's excited? It's an external observation, which naturally causes me to wonder who is the watcher. I thought I was the watcher, looking through Mike's eyes.

Omniscient POV can have observations like this. However, I find the most skillfully done omniscient doesn't make it jarring; rather, it's like a lens, focusing gradually close, focusing in the past or future, and then panning out for a broader perspective. Not in physical space, necessarily, but in emotional and temporal space.

*aside*
Look, we go through this whole "rule" thing periodically. Sure, they aren't rules. You can write whatever you want. Many different styles and kinds of writing get published. Writing is a combination of story and style, and a darn good story can go a long way to covering up awkward writing.

The underlying understanding here, and at any workshop, critting group, etc, is that you take what works for you and leave the rest. So, if you don't want to call them rules, don't. If you do, then do. If you don't want people pointing out how a POV affects them, or how an opening might be too slow, then don't listen to them.

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited December 05, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited December 05, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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I disagree about Omnicient. 3rd Person Omniscient is exactly the ability to have deep penetration and leap from viewpoint to viewpoint, and then pull back into a light penetration at will. It is Cinematic Omniscient which limits the amount of deep penetration.

If it's 3PL, there would have to be (at least) a line break to separate PoVs.

However, annepin, we are in agreement over what we define as a PoV "violation" or "slip". (I've done this with person, too-- gotten too close to the character and the narrative swithed from "he" to "I". Not so much, but it's happened.)

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited December 05, 2008).]


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annepin
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? Not sure what you are disagreeing with. I think I said something similar:
quote:

Omniscient POV can have observations like this. However, I find the most skillfully done omniscient doesn't make it jarring; rather, it's like a lens, focusing gradually close, focusing in the past or future, and then panning out for a broader perspective. Not in physical space, necessarily, but in emotional and temporal space.


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InarticulateBabbler
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I'll show you (bear with me):

quote:
I would not say this is omniscient. Because you're still limiting perspective to a particular character, even though you are switching POV characters. Omniscient takes on a more global perspective.

It was the above statement I was responding to. That would be a more accurate description of "Cinematic Omniscient".

I feel, though it may be semantics, that omniscient can be 3pl for multiple characters and pull back to a distant narrator.

I agree with making it a smooth transition--but all of our prose is supposed to be smooth.


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LintonRobinson
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Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but are you saying that the POV can be transferred to a character without a point of view?

Of course not. Reading more carefully avoids making you look bad.

The idea that restricting viewpoint leads to deeper insight is commonly put forth in places like this, but is essentially wishful thinking. And certainly not a characteristic of the style.

From an omnisient point of view you can do absolutely anything you'd do by limiting it (and yes, "restricting" is a synonym for "limiting") except you can do it for more than one character.

This just stands to reason.

Its another reason I advise against over-thinking this stuff and getting all cluttered up. Like the centipede told to concentrate on what his legs were doing and ending up unable to move.
These terms start taking on lives of their own, and running your story and head, instead of the other way around.

And you go on a hundred writer forums and people are saying silly things about them while some other people are just sitting there writing a story.

You can write in any person you want. There are novels in second person.

But the matter of not being able to say what's going on in the head of any given character is there for you unless you choose to restrict it. And your ability to do it is not enhanced by choosing any particular category going in.

[This message has been edited by LintonRobinson (edited December 05, 2008).]


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LintonRobinson
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LintonRobinson, after perusing the examples on your site, I see only 1st person. Do you write fiction in any other form?

Normally there is no point in responding to idle question like this that have nothing to do with the discussion. But I notice a tendancy here for people to post things that are just flat-out, demonstrably untrue. So I'll mention that there are three fiction pieces among the samples on my website. Two are in first person.

[This message has been edited by LintonRobinson (edited December 05, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:
Reading more carefully avoids making you look bad.

Great advice. Take it.

Your quote (which I had to read twice, because it was so plainly understandable, right?):

quote:

Not even a convention, really. There just isn't anything wrong with what you're describing. (In fact, if you examine it a little more carefully what you're saying is that the point of view can't be transferred to anybody other than a character with a point of view)

Help me out here, I don't want to misunderstand you, what are you trying to say by the line I made bold?

And we're not trying to say what someone can't write in, but to help someone avoid switching the person in which they are writing in (or, more to the point, understand why someone else would think they are). We try to give constructive criticism here.

As to your attempt at a cutting remark as a reply to my honest questions, they are not "idle" questions. As to your "samples":

1) "Even now we call her Cladita, as she called herself before she could pronounce Clarita."

2) "As a Catholic, I believe that if a certain man says certain words he can convert ordinary wine and bread into the actual, literal blood and flesh of a man who died twenty centuries ago but it's certainly nothing I would try to prove to anyone."

3) "My life in Vallarta was sweet and successful from the day I arrived."

4) "At the Vons store in Bonita where I was to meet my new patrones, Javi got out with me and walked me over to a parked car, a huge blue Cadillac."

I don't count MEXICAN SLANG 101 because it's not a fictional story.

So, which of the 4 examples is not in 1st person?

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited December 05, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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And, I almost forgot:

quote:
From an omnisient point of view you can do absolutely anything you'd do by limiting it (and yes, "restricting" is a synonym for "limiting") except you can do it for more than one character.

That's pretentious bulldookey. You cannot be so personal that you only know what one character sees (thereby allowing true mystery element because of what his PoV limits) and do that for all characters. You'd have to cheat the reader by intentionally withholding necessary information. You do realize that O.S.C. has written a very good book on point of view called Characters & Viewpoint, in which he discusses and shows the differences in writing 3PL (deep and light penetration), 3PO, Full Omniscient, Cinematic Omniscient and 1st person, right?

Maybe you should read that book carefully.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited December 05, 2008).]


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LintonRobinson
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Listen, appropriately yclept "Inarticulate babbler", I called your remarks idle because they have nothing to do witht he discussion and I have no desire to get off into personal crap. Like you seem to. "Honest" has nothing to do with it...they are off-topic personal questions of no general interest.

I see now what the problem is. When you said "YOUR SITE" I assumed you meant MY SITE linrobinson.com, not the site of the publisher of my book of non-fiction essays that you quote.

That those are essays, previously published in magazines is pretty clear to most, I would say. OKAY. Does that clear up that non-essential little detail for you?

Then you get even more personal, though equally off-kilter with your "pretentious bullpookey" cavil later. (bullPOOKEY???)

There is nothing particularly "pretentious" about the remark you quoted in that little blurt of spite.

Your argument is kind of unintelligble (ok, "inarticulate") but I'm not going to try to sort it out for you. I'm really happy you read a book. Good for you.

But the thing is pretty blatantly obvious right on the face of it to anybody with logical sensibilities. You can't get more insight by limiting your over-view. Duh.

I'm sorry, but that's really all I have to say to you on this. You really don't seem to understand what I'm saying, or even what you're saying yourself.

But I'd like you to stop the personal insults. A good start might be knocking off blowing things up into imagined insults to yourself. This is tedious, unproductive and you're making a mess of yourself. So let's stop it.

OKAY?????


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InarticulateBabbler
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LintonRobinson, what you choose to write in is not a personal issue. I'm not insulting you by asking, but your responses have been condescending without due cause. The relevance in what you write--while your up on your soapbox professing nobody else knows what they're talking about--is what the entire discussion has been about.

Violating PoV is real, it happens all of the time. True that it can't happen in Omniscient, but omniscient isn't very easy to sell. So you go on with your golden advice about writing however you want, jumping from PoV to PoV and jamming as many adverbs as you can get into a piece...

You can explain later why nobody that writes like that (with blatant disregard for the conventions or tightening their prose) has sold anything.

When I said "your site", I was talking about the one you have in your profile, as a link.

Oh, and I didn't quote it out of spite--I quoted it because it is misleading and detrimental to what we (for the most part) are trying to accomplish.

There's no "personal insults" from me; but I do call a spade a spade. Though I'm unlikely to "blow" any more time on you. You were right on one thing: "This is tedious, unproductive..."

Oh, and:

quote:

I'm really happy you read a book.

Yeah, I've read many. But, interestingly enough, none by you. I have read many by OSC--whose site we are on--and I believe his advice can actually help me get published. Oh, I mean, it has helped me get published.

Now, I'm done with you.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Let it end here, okay?

Or else I'll close the topic.


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TaleSpinner
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And now, back to the topic ...

quote:

I’m getting two things out of this discussion.

1- Great writers use third person all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it.

2- LIMITED Third person needs to be nailed down a little tighter.


If the story has to follow only your MC’s POV, isn’t that basically the same as FIRST person?


I wondered about that a while ago when I was writing a story which eventually turned out to be my first attempt at first person narrrative.

It's almost the same as third but not quite. When it's first person it feels more intimate, because the narrator can get truly inside MC's head. I decided it was more a stylistic choice than anything else. I suspect it's a harder POV for new writers to master because POV violations are more obvious to the reader and will spoil the experience. And that's the other side of the coin of course: in limited third the narrator has more choices in telling the story than in 1st, because the POV can slide around a bit.

quote:

Here’s Annepin’s example.

___________

"Mike tried to stifle his excitement, knowing Joe would laugh at him. Still, he couldn't help but stare as the magician reached into the hat. There was no way there could be a rabbit in there. Heck, a rabbit wouldn't fit! He remembered the time Uncle Chuck had showed him the same trick."

___________

Let me get this straight. If instead of writing “Mike” the author wrote “I” and "my" then it would be first person and not limited third?


Yes, but you'd probably go deeper into Mike's feelings.

"I didn't want to show my excitement because I didn't want Joe to laugh at me. I glanced at him--and he was staring at the magician and we both watched as he reached into ..."

I think when it's first person you reach deep inside yourself to imagine how MC would feel, more so than in limited 3rd.

My conclusion is that they are indeed similar, and I use first person when the focus of the story is MC's feelings and experiences, limited third when it's more about action and plot.

quote:

What if the example above stayed just like it is and the very next paragraph went like this?

__________

Joe looked at mike. Mike was trying to play it cool, but it was all over his face. The idiot kid actually thought the goober on stage was a wizard. Joe knew better. It was just a trick.

__________

Is that a “violation” or does it mean the story is being written in omniscient third person?


The answer depends on knowing more of the story's narrative. If it's limited 3rd then yes, this was a violation. If the POV is all over the place--omniscient--then it's okay.

My understanding is that omniscient is very common in movies, perhaps less so in books, because the distinguishing feature of books is that the narrator can get inside the MC's head; in movies that's much harder unless you use tacky voiceovers.

How to choose then becomes a matter of style. Clive Cussler uses omniscient in his Dirk Pitt novels and, while I love the books, when the viewpoint shifts from Dirk to someone else, I get irritated. Cussler does it to raise tension, so that we know something that Dirk doesn't. I just get annoyed with Dirk for not having figured out something that to me seems obvious. But the books sell well and I doubt most people notice or care; it's a matter of taste.

Thus, I happen not to like omniscient--usually. Recently, I found myself requiring omniscient to tell a story the way I thought it needed to be told. I wanted a cinematic kind of POV. So there isn't a right or wrong POV, it's a style choice which, once made, you have to stay consistent with if you want to avoid POV violations.

I've noticed though that in published works there are sometimes POV violations (can't remember any examples off hand) and I suspect the judgment call is this: if the reader isn't likely to spot it, and if the rewrite is too difficult (e.g. sometimes, to avoid the violation, you need an extra scene just for some trivial detail and it derails the pace) then let it go. Again, that's a style choice for the writer.

A final point: when a Hatracker points out a POV violation, the writer can choose to fix it or ignore it. It should not be necessary to say that, but keeping in mind the derailment above, perhaps it is necessary.

Cheers,
Pat

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited December 06, 2008).]


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kathyton
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My favorite POV reference is a short story anthology --

Points of View, edited by Moffitt (2 bucks, used, on Alibris!)

Moffitt arranges his 44 selected stories from Interior Monologue(only in the narrator’ head, like the outside  5367;orld doesn’t even exist through all the grades of narrator intimacy to No Character POV (like watching a play. Moffit lets the stories show you what the dif ference is among the choices available, and more importantly illustrate what materiA 345;l might require a parti ; ;cular POV. 
I think every story has 2288;an inherent POV (the  most effective way forA 353;t to be told) and the  writer’s job is to dis 5359;ver what that POV is.

[edited to remove mystic runes this story seemed to think it needed. What's that all about?]
[the editing didn't work. See translation from the Icelandic by Talespinner, below]
[This message has been edited by kathyton (edited December 06, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by kathyton (edited December 07, 2008).]


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extrinsic
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The "mystic runes" are what's known by printers as ligatures that result from copying and pasting formatted type code from sources or applications that have different type code equivalents. The numbers in the post are a similar product, but from numeric character entity references or Unicode. Windows 1252 for Word and Windows type faces is one of a host of digital type specifications (character encoding) that crosses applications in unpredictable ways. Web browser HTML uses ISO-8859 as the standard character encoding specification. Many of the glyphs in 1252 aren't supported in ISO-8859 or they convert to other glyphs. Many's the content poster who finds curly apostrophes converted to question marks, curly quote marks converted to the Æ ligatures, and the em dash converted to the Ö ligature.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited December 06, 2008).]


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philocinemas
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Who are these people we keep talking about?

We throw around 1st, 2nd, and 3rd without ever thinking about who these "people" are. One thing we do know is that he, she, or it is writing the story. Let's investigate it further.

The first person is obviously someone in the story (I will refer to this person as "he" for convenience). He keeps using words like "I" and "my" when not in dialogue. Therefore the first person must be someone in the story - most probably the main character, but not necessarily. This person is directly experiencing the things that are happening in the story and telling about them. He cannot tell us his expressions or appearance during the story unless he's looking in a mirror.

The second person is tricky. Whoever this guy is, he keeps talking to me, the reader. He's using words like "you", "our", and "us" when not in dialogue. I've got it - the second person must be me! When someone writes in second person, it is not the writer who is being described, but the reader. Maybe more specifically, it is the writer's direct relationship and familiarity with the reader.

Let's look at this mysterious third person. There must actually be several of them, so let's narrow down the suspects. We know it's not someone in the story, because the writer is not using "I" or "me" out of dialogue. We know it's not referring to me, the reader, because I am not being addressed (as if I am not even here - how dare him!). Therefore this third person (or people) must be someone who is neither in the story nor reading it. He or they must be someone else, a third party, who is telling us what's going on.

Let's look a little closer, because this third guy has been given names, apparenty due to how knowledgable he is.

He's sometimes called Limited, which I find to be somewhat derogatory, but who am I to say. This guy follows around our character and tells us the character's thoughts, words, and actions.

quote:
The smell of the peasants made Mike want to sneeze, but he held his breath and wriggled through the crowd. He cursed--the magician had already started the routine. But the hat sat on the table, untouched. Mike breathed a sigh of relief. He'd been looking forward to the trick since he'd woken up that morning. His excitement shone on his face.

annepin, I respectfully disagree, I don't think this last sentence is a POV violation. The writer is not looking through the character's eyes, he is a "third person", watching closely and knowing that character's thoughts. Therefore he is in a place to also describe the character's appearance. Many third person limited stories include descriptions at the beginning or when introducing characters.
quote:
Joe looked at mike. Mike was trying to play it cool, but it was all over his face. The idiot kid actually thought the goober on stage was a wizard. Joe knew better. It was just a trick.

I would consider this a close call. One could argue that we are seeing Mike how Joe sees him. In my work I have to be very specific when describing my clients. I have to describe actions to give evidence to the emotions that precede them. I can't just say Mike was angry, because I can't crawl inside Mike's head. I have to say that Mike appeared to be angry as evidenced by... This third person is in a similar situation - he has to report only what and how Joe perceives things. If Joe is giving an opinion of Mike or using perceptive evidence of what he thinks Mike is thinking/feeling I don't see a problem with it.

This third person is sometimes a Roaming Limited guy. He goes from scene to scene and picks out one person to follow around and reads his mind, telling us what that character is thinking while he's interacting in the story. The same "rules" apply for this guy, and the only thing that changes is which character is being watched during each scene.

Finally, sometimes he's called Omniscient. Here, he's a real know-it-all. He tells us what anyone is thinking whenever he chooses. He thinks he's God, or at least a god. Sometimes he's personal and watching really close, and sometimes he's cinematic or deitistic (if that's a word) watching from afar.

I am not describing POV this way to poke fun but to use a means of showing how the "views" are different. I don't have a problem with one POV over another, except perhaps a prejudism against second (but I even make exceptions for this).

I have learned quite a bit from this forum. I have learned about current trends, starting sentences with adverbs, using few attributive words other than said, what constitutes "purple", and more. I am eager to continue to learn more. This site is very helpful and the people are very considerate most of the time, except when they feel attacked. However, I do think we get caught up in nit-picky stuff that is often more a matter of style or perception than of "violation". Maybe it would help if we were all a little more specific in our wording - not criticism, just a helpful suggestion.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited December 06, 2008).]


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LintonRobinson
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I prefer a my own unique viewpoint in these matters.

First person omniscient.

Not many can pull it off.


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kings_falcon
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Unless the MC is a god and can see inside everyone's thoughts and feelings there really isn't a "1st person omniscient." Now I've written a story with a goddess who could see inside people's heads, and had a first person narrator who could, therefore, properly comment on someone else's thoughts. Personally, I'd call that 1st person though. But that's just, MHO.

There are generally recognized POVs.

1st person - "I" or "me" the reader learns only what the narrator knows, sees, smells, tastes, touches, experiences. It's difficult to do well because you have to get the reader to connect to that one person and you have to police youself so that the voice stays true and doesn't convey information the 1st person doesn't know.

2nd person - "You." It's hard to write because the voice necessarily distances the reader from the story (rather than brings them in like you'd expect).

3rd person - he/she/it. This is the most common form in current literature. To some extent it's all Omni because the "narrator" is almost a separate character. It's the level of flitering of the POV that gives this form its depth and causes great confusion for writers.

So keeping to convetional terms:

It has a range from strict limited (3PL) where you are only in one POV/one character's head to omniscient in which the narrator knows all and can tell all. Even with Omni, as IB pointed out, there's full v. cinematic.

Lots of novels getting published now are some version of 3PL. Even where the readers is exposed to multiple POV - ie being told the story through multiple characters - is generally 3PL these days. What I mean by this is you ONLY get ONE character's thoughts in a section. Sections are often broken by chapters in GRR Martin's books or line breaks - Terry Pratchett (who doesn't generally have chapters).

Ex:

Mary wiped her hands on her pants. This was it. It all came down to the next words out of her mouth. If she couldn't convince the judge that her client was owed ten million dollars for construction services, she could kiss her position as the youngest partner in Dewey Cheatum and How good bye.
The baliff wrapped the gavel on its block. "Here ye, hear ye. The Honorable John Smith presiding."
A black robed man swept into the room. His striking blue eyes pierced Mary. "Let's begin Miss Jones," he said in his slow Texan drawl.
Crap!

It's third limited. It's from Mary's perspective. We don't know what the client, the opposing counsel, defedant or the court is thinking. While Mary described the judge, SHE's the one who thinks he has striking blue eyes. She's the one who thinks "crap."

There are two basic ways (and thousands of variations on the theme) to show more than one character's POV. Either roming 3LP or full Omni. With 3LP, you'll have that line break before the switch. With full Omni, the switches between the two are seamless. It's what makes full Omni so hard. Also, because the "norm" is 3PL, if you are writing full Omni you'll often hear "POV Violation" if the switch wasn't done well i.e. it was jarring and obvious.

My WIP was originally full Omni. I had one scene about 100 pages in that all readers, editors and agents cried "POV violation." This ignored the fact that for the previous 99 pages I'd been head hopping at will. BUT the scene jarred the reader - which may be the best definition of a POV violation - and I took out that head hop. Given the level of concern the full Omni arose, I now rewriting the whole thing from a more conventional 3PL POV.


Now this either full Omni or a 3pl POV violation depending on what's gone on before.


Mary wiped her hands on her pants. This was it. (<--- Her thought)
The baliff wrapped the gavel on its block. "Here ye, hear ye. The Honorable John Smith presiding."
John pushed open the door from his chambers. He swept a bored glance over the courtroom. (<---John's thought) Mary Jones ruffled her papers.
"Let's begin Miss Jones," he said.
Mary stood up. The sheaf of papers she was holding fell to the floor.
Crap

NOW the "crap" need to be attributed since it could be from Mary or John.

OSC has a great example of a scene from these two styles in his book.

POV is always an author choice. Find the one that best fits the story you are telling. Know the "rules" that apply to it. Choose to break those guidelines WHEN it matters, for a GOOD REASON and be willing to PAY THE PRICE for doing it.

[This message has been edited by kings_falcon (edited December 06, 2008).]


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LintonRobinson
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I SAID it was unique and you couldn't pull it off.

I can be first person omnicient only beccause I am also first person omnipotent and first person omnipresent.

Do NOT try it at home.


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MrsBrown
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My crits do tend to lean toward 3rd person limited. It is my personal preference, and I do not know how to write in Omni (at least not well). So when I see Omni with head-hopping, it usually jars me right out of the story. I often assume the author was going for 3PL and missed the mark. If it was done seamlessly, then I suppose I wouldn't notice it.

Something I'll be more aware of when I'm reading someone's 13 lines: be clear about what type of POV I thought it was supposed to be, and why I got pulled out of it.

Interesting topic.


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TaleSpinner
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I agree the terms we use to describe different POVs are misleading, but they're in common use and it's a waste of time trying to find better. English is not a context-free language: word meanings vary according to context. It's simplest to keep in mind that "violation" in the context of POV really means inconsistency, and that "limited" means limited to the viewpoint of the selected character.

I suspect that when LintonRobinson talks of 1st omniscient, he thinks he's being funny and no doubt finds it highly amusing to be taken seriously by yet another writer's board frequented by few professionals and several knuckleheads, clowns and kibitzers. Certainly, I don't recall seeing it used in F&SF although I can imagine it might be helpful in the egomaniac genre, if such exists. Mind, I could be talking crap again.


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TaleSpinner
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I could not make sense of kathyton's post above because many of the letters showed up as little squares. I've just realized that it's unreadable in Internet Explorer but decipherable in Mozilla. Here it is in clear--and if I have anything wrong, kathyton, please do correct it.

kathyton's post:
================

My favorite POV reference is a short story anthology --

Points of View, edited by Moffitt (2 bucks, used, on Alibris!)

Moffitt arranges his 44 selected stories from Interior Monologue (only in the narrator's head, like the outside world doesn't even exist) through all the grades of narrator intimacy to No Character POV (like wawtching a play). Moffit lets the stories show you what the difference is among the choices available, and more importantly illustrate what material might require a particular POV.

I think every story has an inherent POV (the most effective way for it to be told) and the writer's job is to discover what that POV is.

--end--

I've done this because I think kathyton's post will be of interest to many, as will be the book ref.

Hopefully helpfully,
Pat


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kathyton
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thanks very much, Pat --

I have no idea why that one post did that -- well, someone explained how it happened, but I don't know why --; I just typed in the little box, as per usual.

[This message has been edited by kathyton (edited December 07, 2008).]


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djvdakota
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Really, you can do anything you want with POV...

...but ONLY if you can pull it off so smoothly and seemlessly that the reader is never confused and doesn't notice.

The real trouble is that the people who are going to read your work prior to publication (at least the ones that are going to sign the check) aren't you best friends or mothers who'll say they love everything you write even if it stinks. The people who are going to read your story and decide if it's going to be published are people who know a thing or two about writing; people who recognize unwise POV (and other) choices when they see them.


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kings_falcon
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LintonRobinson - personal attacks aren't warranted or appropriate. Keep it professional or keep quiet.

Back to the topic -


I think once you slice past all the rhetoric, what is a POV violation/inconsistance? IMHO, some change in the narrative voice that jarred the reader.

If the writing is smooth and doesn't cause a "hu?" moment for the reader, you can "get away" with almost anything.



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