Sunday, July 25, 2010

Distant or Intimate - 3rd Person P.O.V.


I often write in third person point of view (P.O.V.) because it gives me the chance to filter everything through one character's mind. The most popular way to use third person is ‘open’ third person, where the author switches from one character to another throughout the novel. Cop dramas are the prime example. The detective is the main filter, but occasionally, the author hops into the killer’s head to give another perspective of the crime.

I prefer ‘closed’ third person point of view. I stay in one character’s head throughout the entire book and therefore the reader learns what the main character knows, when he learns it. Since I write suspense, it works out well.

There are a few things to watch out for when writing in third person P.O.V. Because it is a bit removed, the character’s thoughts and feelings can come across as distant or cold.

For example:

August leapt across the table at the killer and closed his hands around his throat. Sorren yelped with surprise. August didn’t let go.

We are in Augusts head here, but it’s sort of clinical…like we’re observing through a window. If we change it just a little, we can draw the reader in closer:

August leapt across the table at the killer and closed his hands around his throat. He didn’t let go, Sorren’s yelp resonating in his ears.

This is a little better. We’re in August’s head and now we’re hearing what he does…when he does. It’s more in the moment. We can actually make this just a bit more immediate:

He leapt across the table at Sorren, his hands already closing around the killer’s throat. Sorren’s yelp resonated in his ears blocking out all semblance of sanity as he squeezed tighter. August wailed as his sister’s smile blazed across his memory.

This scene is immediate and frantic. The leaping, choking, and squeezing all intermix with what the character is hearing and thinking. All three examples are third person P.O.V., but the intimacy with the main character is greatest in the third one.

I challenge you to take a look at your W.I.P. and see where you can yank the reader off their bum and into the action where they belong.

Until next time…Go Write!

Photograph by asluthier.

7 comments:

Justin W. Parente said...

I strictly write closed 3rd PoV. I agree with you knowing what the MC knows, when he/she knows it. I do switch to a second protagonist in my manuscript, but it's always intimate details that they know or think, never a breach of the story to tell it another way.

Ann Best said...

I just switched from third to first person with my current "novel" that's in editing with the publisher. I originally wrote it third person to get some distance, since it's an autobiographical novel. But because it's autobiographical it needs a more "intimate" voice, as I finally realized. This viewpoint allows me to get deeper emotionally into the MC's (my) head. Point of view IS important.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You alway provide great examples. And I prefer third person from two or three character's POV.

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Raquel, thank you for a great post on 3rd person. My current wip is open POV and you put your finger on something that has bothered me in a few of my recent chapters. The intimacy comes through in dialogue, but may not when in narrative. I can now revisit and know what to look for.

THANKS!

~that rebel, Olivia

Mary McDonald said...

I write third person limited, which I think is the same as third person open, but I only pop into about three characters heads, with the main character getting well more than half the 'screen' time, so to speak. I think it's just as intimate as the closed, although like you said, it allows me to go places my main character can't. Since my book had my main character in prison, and I wanted to show others working to free him, I had to use open third person or it might have been quite boring. lol.

Catherine A. Winn said...

I've tried different methods (first, third limited) but my most successful pieces are third person closed.

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