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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Going Deep (1st and 3rd POV)

   
Author Topic: Going Deep (1st and 3rd POV)
MrsBrown
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I really like to get deep into a character’s head when I read others’ work, but I’m having difficulty pulling it off in my writing.

I noticed that if I write from my character’s POV in first person, I can convey a lot of attitude, thought, and “voice” for that character. I speak as if I am that person. But when I write in third, I can’t get nearly as close. I slip into a more narrative mode. (It could mean that the story itself should be written in first person, but I don’t think that’s the answer.) I sometimes notice it in other people’s writing too, where the 1st person Character Interviews really sing but the 3rd person text is flatter. (That’s where I first noticed I had this problem, in comparing my character interviews versus my story text.)

Have any of you addressed this problem in your writing? Do you write in 1st and then convert it into 3rd? Can you do that and keep the deep penetration effective? I guess I should try it out… but it seems that would get wearisome after a while.

The real problem is, how do I penetrate more deeply, get closer to the MC POV, in 3rd? Card skims over this topic in Characters and Viewpoint when he talks about cool and hot POV.


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extrinsic
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I'm working on this too. I haven't gotten as far as I'm trying to get yet. One of the resonance development methods I've uncovered that goes a long way in third person is firmly establishing the tone and psychic access aspects of narrative point of view (as is easier to do in first person) in the opening sentences. Then what follows is taken for granted as coming from a viewpoint character's perceptions; sensations, thoughts, and attitudes.

A factor that gave me insight into narrative point of view as it relates to resonance is defining how deep a psychic access is relevant to any given story, even first or second person narrators. No psychic access at all is hard to do, can be very flat, harder to depict emotional meaning, but a useful exercise for practice. Superficial psychic access interprets exterior facial expressions and gestures, nonverbal cues that social beings have little control over. Slightly deeper psychic access interprets surface thoughts at the level of immediate awareness. Deeper access interprets thoughts at a level of personal guarding, the secrets we keep or only share with a close circle of acquaintances. Deeper, the secrets we don't share ever. Deepest, at the level of conscience where the caricature of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other argues about what's best for our self, which also presents publicly in our consequent actions.

Another method that's effective for establishing and maintaining resonance is having the viewpoint character take a stand on a topic, stating a moral, a message, like corporate free enterprise and big government are emotionally indifferent to individual needs, sort of a good and evil theme with perhaps dystopian undertones.

But in all things, a fresh viewpoint on otherwise tried and true worn out themes and storylines is paramount. Even the routine scandals of blasé suburbia can be dramatically meaningful if portrayed freshly, insightfully, uniquely different from what's gone before. Show readers that suburbia is a conflict ridden ecosystem fraught with collision of wills, and an environment prone to conflict. Suburbanites will fall deeply into the reader trance over a fresh take on suburbia.

Donald Maass in Writing the Breakout Novel goes into the nature of reader resonance in depth; however, he doesn't offer methods. The twelve fiction-writing modes plus tone and attitude are what I've uncovered that offer methods for developing resonance.

My mnemonic for the twelve fiction-writing modes in no particular order of emphasis is, A secret ends I;

A S-E-C-R-E-T E-N-D-S I
Action
Sensation
Emotion
Conversation (dialogue)
Recollection
Exposition
Transition
Explanation
Narration
Description
Summarization
Introspection

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 21, 2009).]


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Andrew_McGown
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what about free indirect style?
it may be the sort of approach you are looking for.

[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited September 21, 2009).]


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Architectus
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Have you ever read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson? It is a close 3rd person.


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KayTi
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I was going to suggest you try to read and re-read some books that you enjoy that do close 3rd person well. See if you can puzzle together what works the best.

I write in close 3rd because I find 1st too revealing, too exposing. It's too close, does that make sense? It's one of my writer hangups, I need to just get over it and learn to tell a good 1 person POV story, but since limited third has broad appeal and marketability right now, I'm not sweating it.

The thing I do to try to increase that psychic access/resonance thing that extrinsic is talking about is a lot of expressed thoughts of the POV character. Typically in first drafts they look very dialogue-y, with tags ("of course he doesn't," she thought to herself...) but over time, I try to edit back down to the more comfortable italics to indicate thoughts style.

I also try to firmly affix that mental "camera" to the POV's shoulder. Do you find that some of the problem you're having is POV shifts/slipping from the MC's POV to something more omni or to another character's POV/in another character's head? My main suggestion if you find that to be the case is to imagine that the MC has a head-cam like a miner's light on his head at all times. It only sees the world that is in the direction the MC's head is pointed in. He turns to the right, everything that had been to the left is now gone, he sees only what's to the right, etc.

While we can debate the literary merits of various books, I find the Harry Potter books to be good examples of a 3rd person close that works, although I do think that there is more psychic distance between harry and the audience than in many 3rd person tales. But the thing that is useful in those books is that you see how as the reader, you inherit harry's perceptions and *mis*perceptions, his misunderstandings about the world. This is both interesting and annoying at times.

Ender's Game (by OSC) is another book that's a really well-done 3rd person POV.

What are the books you've read that you like that you think do 3rd person really well? Maybe if they've been read by enough ppl we could talk about them in the Discussing Published Books... forum. Sometimes dissecting another's work helps shine the light on the problems we're dealing with as writers.


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Andrew_McGown
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I really think you guys are reaching for 'free indirect discourse', see link in my post above.

[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited September 21, 2009).]


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extrinsic
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I agree that one popular and modern method of close third person for first person transference is in at least one well-known writing style known as Free Indirect Discourse, Free Indirect Speech, or Free Indirect Style. I'm partial to the Wikipedia topic on the subject because of its more accessible content and informative examples. The Literary Encyclopedia's content goes into some rarified air, but essentially relates similar concepts. The Answers.com article adds to the discussion, but I don't think it's as insightfully accessible as Wikipedia's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_indirect_speech

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 22, 2009).]


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Andrew_McGown
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Yes. Wikipedia is more readily understood.
I just wanted to point out that there are alternatives.

[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited September 22, 2009).]


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KayTi
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Ah, yes, I tend to edit toward free indirect speech when I'm in revisions on stories.

I didn't realize there was a term for it.

The big question then becomes whether you italicize or not. I actually think, on reflection, that I don't italicize this sort of thing much. It's just part of a character's voice.

But I'm not looking at any one work right now and just guessing. But yes, free indirect speech is what I do.


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Andrew_McGown
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Hey, I just found this: The Book Show.


You should be able to just right click on the link above and 'save target as' to save the MPeg


It is an MP3 download, and is the literary critic James Wood, and he discusses free indistinct style. If you want it, it will only be posted for about a week.

It is very good, if you can put up with the accents.


[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited September 22, 2009).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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If you want to download the mp3 file, right click on the link and Save Target As, perhaps in your My Music folder (create a new folder for podcasts, if you like).
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InarticulateBabbler
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I have the opposite problem. I go in so deep, I feel like I'm "telling" if I let myself get distant.
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MrsBrown
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Here's a passage that I wrote in first person:

Someday soon I’ll fly again. They won’t believe it when I go down to the village square and tell them who I am. Gramma Ida, they’ll say, we know you, you’re no dragon. I’ll laugh with them and then I’ll stretch out my fingers to the sky, and they’ll see. Finger to claw and nose to long snout, wings sprouting from my shoulders. It’ll hurt, but when it’s done their eyes will be so wide. The little ones will glow with wonder. The adults will be puzzled, confused, perhaps a little scared. But the elders, they’ll be angry, because I kept myself hidden away.

It's all just thoughts, but I don't see how I can drop it into her 3rd person POV. It reads like a diary entry, but I can't use it that way because she cannot write. It can't be dialogue with someone else, because she is keeping her identity a secret. It's not believable as dialogue with herself.


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extrinsic
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It might seem awkward at first or for awhile but third person reverie as introspection;

//Someday soon she’ll fly again. They won’t believe it when she goes down to the village square and tells them who she is. Gramma Ida, they’ll say, we know you, you’re no dragon. She’ll laugh with them and then stretch out her fingers to the sky, and they’ll see. Finger to claw and nose to long snout, wings sprouting from her shoulders. It’ll hurt, but when it’s done their eyes will be so wide. The little ones will glow with wonder. The adults will be puzzled, confused, perhaps a little scared. But the elders, they’ll be angry, because she kept herself hidden away.//

A reader gets caught up by the reverie.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 23, 2009).]


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MAP
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I think extrinsic's rewrite works. I find it just as engaging as the original in first person.
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skadder
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...Someday, soon, she'd fly again...


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extrinsic
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Assuming she'd is a contraction of she would and not she had, would in that case makes a conditional tense verb construction of 'she would fly.' Will, and there's no doubt that she'll is a contraction of she will or perhaps the similar meaning she shall, makes a future tense verb construction, compelling conviction rather than conditional function.
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jezzahardin
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I agree with what's being said here. Literally, just change the words themselves to third person and see how well it works.

If it's bracketed by action (and the character is thinking this while they walk the hills, or mend the laundry, or hoe the fields) and I have a setting pictured, I don't mind these forays into the minds of the perspective character. I even enjoy them.

It only becomes a problem for me when I don't have any place for these thoughts, and they're just floating around in white space on the page.
(Brenda Starr monologue maybe? )


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MrsBrown
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Huh. So I should write in 1st to get that deep immersion where its needed, or where I sense too much narration and distance, and then convert to 3rd. Don't know why I've been resisting it. Its worth a try. Thanks, folks!

I've started reading Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. It looks promising! Thanks, extrinsic.

Once again I'm reminded that my focus is too much on the sentences and not enough on the story, for where I'm at in the process. I have to allow myself to write in first-draft mode, but it feels impossible! My inner critic wants perfection.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited September 23, 2009).]


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Zero
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My experience has been that 3rd limited, whether single or multipls PsOV, gets me deeper into a character's head than first.

It doesn't make sense to me. It isn't intuitive. But that is my observation.


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KayTi
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Zero, I find that as well. Contrasting the two above passages by MrsBrown, I have a strong preference for the 3rd POV that extrinsic translated. It feels more real to me, more authentic. Is it that I'm turned off by what feels like a general "bragging" tone that much of 1st person conveys? That's just a personal feeling, by the way, and not specific to this passage.


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MrsBrown
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Zero, is that as a writer or a reader? I mean, do you find 3rd more immersive overall, or is it that you have an easier time expressing immersion in 3rd?

It sounds like conveying the character's internal world through his thoughts is the key to immersion. What I find is, its easier, more natural, for me to write about the character's thoughts and include them in the text when I'm in 1st. I tend to pull back and narrate more when I'm in 3rd, unless I pay attention. Head-hopping is not an issue, but I have to watch I don't slip into a distant 3rd.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited September 23, 2009).]


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extrinsic
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Third person is a narrative point of view that's generally considered less biased, more reliable, more trustworthy. First person because it's naturaly a subjective viewpoint is subject to bias, unreliablity, and more open to interpretation, which might add a layer of critical thinking effort for readers in order to maintain suspension of disbelief. Although if a story is better told from a first person viewpoint, first person really shines.

I rewrite published first person story passages in third person to see if I think they're improved by it. I've yet to find one that wasn't ammenable to third person. Improved? not in every case, but few that were appreciably altered. For me, the meaningful impact of first person comes from its inherent untrustworthiness, but I've yet to find stories that really get into that as a virtuous rhetorical device to the point that being in first person makes a story stand out surpassingly. However, writing in first person then translating to third is a widely recommended method for accessing a story's more intimate and personal deeper sensations and psychic accesses and tones. Once the method is mastered though, writing directly in third person becomes natural.

Third person is also more flexible in terms of allowing a narrator to move about the landscape varying psychic distance and touching on multiple viewpoint characters and multiple psychic accesses and tones. Third person also allows for a milieu, event, or idea rather than a focal character to influence readers' immersion in a story's meaning space.

Third person's power to entice reader immersion comes in large part from its trustworthiness and to a great extent today because it's more easily accessible from repeated exposure to third person in visual dramatic arts and print and visual media journalism. But then there's Gonzo journalism where first person subjective involvement in a news story is an artful editorial device.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 23, 2009).]


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Kitti
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Might I suggest reading (well, skimming, if you've already read it) through Ender's Game with POV in mind? I never realized this until I had it pointed out to me, but when OSC goes deep into Ender's POV he actually switches over into 1st person. Conventionally, we'd put these "thoughts" in italics, but he leaves them in the same font as everything else (though he does put them in paragraphs like tagged thoughts or dialogue, to keep the reader from being confused). If you're having trouble getting the MC's thoughts across in 3rd person, writing your POV along these lines might help.
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MrsBrown
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Go figure! I'll have to check that out. Thanks, Kitti.

quote:
writing in first person then translating to third is a widely recommended method for accessing a story's more intimate and personal deeper sensations and psychic accesses and tones. Once the method is mastered though, writing directly in third person becomes natural
That's encouraging; thanks.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited September 23, 2009).]


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Andrew_McGown
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i like hatrackers
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I like them, too.
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extrinsic
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Last night in that twilight moment between wakefulness and slipping away into the little death of sleep, I came up with a more memorable and meaningful mnemonic for fiction-writing modes, D-I-A-N-E-S S-E-C-R-E-T, Diane's Secret.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 23, 2009).]


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Architectus
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MrsBrown, what works for me is to pretend I am writing 1st person, but write 3rd. I put my mind in the POV character as if I were writing first person.

BTW, I like your snippet. Sounds cool.

For example, if I were writing from the POV of a female vampire, I would become her, but make sure my fingers write in 3rd person.

The blood always went down hard, and to hell with what her maker had said. She would never get used to it. How could she? Blood tasted like chocolate to a child and just a smooth; she wasn't denying that, but knowing she was draining the life of a person, though a criminal, haunted her thoughts, ruined the feeding process. Damn the bastard for making her this way and not dulling her sensitivities.

I just came up with it, and this is not a character I had previously invented, but I find it easier to write if I pretend I am writing 1st person. It would take too much time to actually write it in first person and then translate it.

Anyway, it works for me.


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Andrew_McGown
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extrinsic, please tell us what is DianesSecret?
Also, be careful of the phrase 'little death'.

[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited September 23, 2009).]


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extrinsic
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Diane is my creative muse's name. Her secret is there isn't one. Shh! For my Native American ancestors, sleep is known as the little death.
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Andrew_McGown
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shh! i hope your french ancestors don't hear then...
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