Monday, March 06, 2006

The way I see it: third person POV

Ray Rhamey at Flogging the Quill has a post up about "close" third person point of view. I write that way by instinct, so whenever anyone asks me to explain POV, I tend to go all stupid. It just feels right to me, that's all I can tell you. It's not anything I am aware of having learned, so it's not something I can explain.

Fortunately, Ray Rhamey can explain it. And he offers an excellent reason for writing that way:

Consider why you might want a close third person point of view. It's to involve your reader with your protagonist. To create an emotional bond, some form of caring. Why? If the reader cares about a character, they're a whole lot more likely to care about what happens. And motivated to turn the page.

More than that, the closer you can bring a reader to a character, the tighter the emotional connection and involvement, and the closer you bring a reader to experiencing the story rather than just reading information.

Because I'm writing to primarily to entertain myself and not to tell you a story, POV isn't something I ever think about. When I'm writing from the hero's point of view, I simply become the hero. If he's worried or ticked off or charmed, I'm right there with him. I'm not likely to make a POV slip because I'm not writing about him, but myself; I am experiencing the scene right along with him. I'm living the story, so deviating from his POV is no more likely than my spelling my own name wrong. (Not that errors don't sometimes crop up during the rewriting and editing processes.)

I call that "method writing," and while it obviously comes naturally to some writers, I suspect it's something that can be learned by most others. Those of you who write fiction, do you try to imagine what your characters are feeling, or do you know what they're feeling? And if the latter, is slipping into your characters' shoes something that came naturally to you, or something you had to learn?


Katie Hart said...

Close third person feels the most natural to me, too. I occasionally use first person, which gets you even deeper into a character, but it's so intense I only use it for shorter pieces.

I'm also a person who doesn't get other people not getting POV. With the writing books I've read I understand the different uses of POV - but I can't understand why people prefer cinematic and such. Sometimes I feel it's just laziness. (Compassionate, aren't I?)

Susan Kaye said...

I get so into character that I go naturally into first person. And generally my character is male.

I won't try and undo that particular knot at my advanced time of life.

My poor children, they're almost used to their mother, muttering with an English accent rather odd, 19th century "guy" dialogue.


Ray Rhamey, Flogging the Quill said...

"Method writing." I like that. Might use it one of these days. You're doing what I advocate, and have written about at Flogging the Quill: getting into a character's head.

But there are varying degrees of "distance" that can be useful. Too close too much of the time can be suffocating. A writer asked about this, and I'll be doing a post on the subject soon.

Thanks for your insights.


Brenda Coulter said...

Ray, thanks for stopping by. I would agree that on occasion, it's desirable to step back a bit from the characters. But since I write romance, which is all about emotion, that isn't something I'd want to do.

Sue and Katie, thanks for commenting. Isn't it fascinating how differently we all approach POV?

Mirtika said...

First person and close third are the POVs I do naturally. Anything else--and I have mildly experimented--I have to think too hard. :)

I wanted to try a more omniscient view, as several novels I have enjoyed do this. But I get all lost and want to revert to old ways.

One day, though....


Mom Nancy said...

POV is natural to me, too, and I don't understand why people don't get it, but then I had to work very, very had to understand GMC and rising tension and those kinds of things. I guess we just all have things we get and don't get.

I never really thought about how I do it. I guess I'm like you in that I become the character. I know what my hero's thinking so when I write him, I don't have to do all the questioning - what would he feel at this point? What would he say to what she just said?

I guess that's why I LOVE dialogue. I've had non-writing relatives ask me about dialogue (my mother, mostly) and wonder how I can write that? I, first ask, if they've met me. Me, the talkative one??? Dialogue is the easiest thing in the world, and POV is second. The rest has taken, and is still taking, a lot of study. I'm not sure I understand Deep POV or maybe I'm over thinking something I already get.