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How deep do you go into 3rd person limited?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Alex Reiden, Jan 13, 2020.

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  1. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    When I write my drafts, I sometimes find myself going deep into the POV character to the point of writing in their voice. Then when I edit, I'll correct some off this language and bring it back a little bit toward the overall style of the book. I want the reader to identify and stay immersed in the character, but reading in the language of a 10-year-old child can get tiresome -- and doesn't suit the overall mood of the book.

    Obviously, I keep all dialogue and internal reflection in the character's voice, and some of the more colorful inflections, but one area I've gone back and forth with is character names. For some reason, when I started writing this book I've labeled other characters by how the POV character perceives them. One character, Sarah Keating, is usually written as Sarah when found in the POV of most characters, but when writing from her 10-year-old ward's POV, I revert to Miss Keating, even in the narrative.

    Would this throw you off or would you consider it charming even if the rest of the narrative is written in language obviously more advanced than the thoughts of a child? I do try to offer up character thoughts and internal dialogue fairly often to keep the reader immersed in the POV character, but that can't always be done.

    How do you handle the styles of different POV characters with various types of voices in your work? Do you find your narrative changes from character to character in 3rd limited or do you try to keep everything consistent?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think for third person limited or multiple first person points of view it makes sense for each POV to have its own "voice." If I was reading the scene from the viewpoint of the ten-year old ward, I'd have questions if the character was referred to as "Sarah." If the author didn't establish that the relationship was such that the ten-year old addressed Sarah by her first name, I might assume the author messed up.
     
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    For me, I'd be good with it so long as it's clear and the story keeps me engaged... But, I've little doubt opinions will vary as always.

    I change some details when blending narrator and the POV character... a priest's POV will call monks, priests, etc adherents while outsider POV will call them holies. However, I once changed narrative voice enough that my editor said it jarred her straight out of the story. Ayup, I backed off and make sure to keep these things more subtle. What is interesting now that one character who started out a fisherman's daughter at 11-12 years of age is now 15 and has been educated in courtly speech and whatnot, so, I have to check lapsing back into commoner-youthful language.

    I do know readers can be confused by changes in naming convention... I've heard this a few times, even if none of those I've heard from were put off by it enough to stop reading. Nicknames in particular.
     
  4. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    That's what I'm trying to negotiate here. I'm trying to keep the character's perspective in the reader's mind without writing entire scenes like a ten-year-old, which would come off as, well, like a children's book. It seemed natural to me that the character would be called by the name the POV character while writing it. So I went with it.

    I also attempt to describe adult concepts and topics from the perspective of the child, such as exploring concepts she would understand, while only hinting at one's she wouldn't, though I use adult language for consistency and readability in the narrative.
     
  5. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    A good strategy. It can really keep you on your toes keeping up with characters who grow and mature as the story progresses.

    The plethora of character names is one of the reasons I'm revisiting this topic. My book has many characters, and thus, many names for the reader to digest. I try to space them out as much as possible, but it's still a lot. For this issue particularly, I try to mention characters by their first and last name occasionally, so readers don't forget Sarah is Miss Keating. To pile it on, some characters have spirit names in addition to their human names, and I'll occasionally repeat them together too, especially when relevant. I have it all sorted in my head, but readers' absorption may vary.

    Another possibility I considered is having the child call her Miss Sarah, but it's been my experience this is mostly a southern USA convention, and the novel takes place near Boston. I'm from New England, and we never used first names for adults when I was a kid.
     
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  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    If we're doing 3rd person, depth seems irrelevant to me. The narrator is its own voice, separate from dialogue. If I start putting the narration--descriptions, etc.--into the voice of one of the characters, it sort of breaks the purpose of the initial choice of POV. If I wanted to have the characters essentially narrate the book, I'd switch to first person. If I wanted multiple characters to do this, then I'd have separate chapters told by different characters, all in first person.

    YBMV, of course.
     
  7. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    I'm with you on this one. Personally, I prefer my own voice as narrator and believe I can write it better anyway. I've noticed deep 3rd person POV is becoming more popular though, particularly among younger readers. My book is certainly not YA, so I don't try to follow those trends, but I've also been seeing it pop up more often in GA and adult books.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've been getting pretty deep into the POV's voice lately, to the point where a scene that's kind of lacking it just isn't good enough yet.

    The character's POV voice doesn't replace your voice as an author. There are certain writing techniques and skills that you use which are - and should - be there for the narrative to all of your characters. Writing the POV of a ten year old, in 3rd Person Limited, doesn't mean it has to look like a child wrote it. Imagine you were this ten year old, fifty years from now, writing this as a memoir. That's a little closer to the way you want to think about it.

    I find that there's a subtle flux between the straight narrative and the deep POV, where you have to find endless ways to seamlessly work into the POV without feeling jarring. Here's a quick excerpt from a piece of fanfiction that I wrote and uploaded recently (yes, yes, I know it's been a while, and here I am beleaguering everybody with another LB excerpt).

    Forget the details of the story. Notice how the POV gradually deepens as the passage continues.

    The paragraphs after that are mostly back to straight narrative and dialogue.

    Now I've picked a fairly weak example over all (questions are low-hanging fruit), but it has the framework of what I'm describing fully in place. First he rolled over on the couch. That's straight narrative. And then we're told his thoughts were jumbled - queue someone telling me to cut that line - and then we get to see his jumbled thoughts first hand.

    But notice the change in sentence structure as the POV deepens. We don't have "He did this." Instead we have questions, and vague sentences like "Somehow that's all it took." But do you see something in particular missing in that last sentence?

    Marinette… was it right (for him) to feel so strongly for her so quickly after giving up on Ladybug?

    At this point we're so deep into his POV that the subject of the sentence doesn't even need to be said. The passage works its way from a narrative seamlessly into sentences that represent his thoughts exactly as he would think them.

    In this passage I deliberately slow rolled into that point. The character, as I've written him, is routinely slow and confused when it comes to these things. I've written lots of passages where it happens more quickly, where it sits there longer, where it mixes back and forth with the narrative for long periods of time.

    But what I want to express is this basic premise: You have a narrative that casually deepens in and out of a character's thoughts. You don't need to sit in a specific level of depth - and probably shouldn't.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  9. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    I feel like for this to avoid complete confusion in a book with many POV characters, the time frame for the narration would need to be established and clear to the reader in an elegant manner than raw meta-exposition. As of now, the rest of the book clearly is not. I know I'd struggle to find a way to present this and keep it consistent with POV's from other characters, particularly for those who don't live to become older!

    How you wrote your excerpt is very close to what my first drafts look like, as far as getting deeper into the POV (but less polished and filled with typos). When I edit, I generally take those deeper thoughts and depict them as the character's thoughts either with internal dialogue or descriptions of the character's thoughts. Those I cannot translate into the character's voice, I rewrite as pure narrative.

    Of course, my ultimate goal is to avoid confusing the reader, and secondly to avoid jarring changes in tone.
     
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    If you're already writing in deep POV why would you rewrite it? People usually consider it stronger when it's written in deeper POV than when it's filtered through narrative beats like "he asked himself" or as dialogue tagged "he thought." It sounds like you're trying to water it down from what you naturally write in a draft and I don't understand why.
     
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  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    More direct to the op, I went back and looked at a passage of mine where the mc speaks to his father. I use the father’s name in basic narration and either “his father” or just “father” as the POV deepens. But the father is also a POV character so readers know him by the first name already.
     
  12. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    Oh, most of the book is not deep POV. I find myself drifting into it occasionally a bit too much, so I back out some so the scene doesn't look like it was written by a ten year old.

    I don't always tag my internal dialogue either. In some works, depending on the medium, I'll put it in italics. In others I use quotes or line breaks.
     
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Yes, but why? There are lots of different ways to write certainly, but honestly, a deep POV is more than a passing fad, it’s a real development in storytelling. If you’re not using it, what are you doing with your prose instead? Is there a stylistic purpose to avoiding it or are you just trying to avoid the trend?
     
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I confess to not actually knowing what deep 3rd person is. My first guess, that it had something to do with pearl diving, proved to be incorrect. <g>

    So I read some articles and honestly it just seems silly. There is absolutely nothing about any POV choice, or choice of tense, that of itself makes writing more visceral, personal, engaging, or any of the other adjectives those articles trotted out. Readers do *not* necessarily "feels story events as the character does." A poor writer can botch it in that POV as readily as in any other. It's about the skill of the author, not some innate attribute of the POV.

    Articles claim that Deep (shortened for convenience) lets the author "do away with" phrases like "he felt" or "she wondered" as if every instance of such phrasing is necessarily bad and switching to Deep magically makes them go away. It lets the author, in the words of another article "cut filter words." Good grief. That option is always available to the author. Among other virtues seemingly peculiar to deep are to let the author "make the most of showing and telling", to "delve deep into your character's voice", and to "limit dialog tags." Again, good grief. The payoff, though, was that article's Point 5, which was to avoid passive voice.

    I'm not here to argue against Deep. If someone wants to call their 3rd person that, I'm not going to call them out. But it does irk me to see writing advice columns tout these virtues as if they somehow adhere naturally to Deep, or more naturally than to other forms of POV, because I hate to think of new writers taking that nonsense seriously.

    The only peculiarity I could detect with Deep is that the narrator takes on the voice of the character, which is what the OP was talking about. And, as the OP pointed out, this can lead to some truly odd juxtapositions. For myself, I try never to take a position that is juxta.
     
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  15. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    To each their own, I guess. I'm not going to argue which is better, as I believe both deep and traditional 3rd person POV have their merits and drawbacks. Deep POV is certainly popular these days, but I also know some readers who lament the limited selection of modern 3rd person omniscient works. Personally, I prefer 3rd person traditional because it allows me to interject things the character may not know and foreshadow easier. I can head hop a little bit more if necessary, but that doesn't happen often. I find it's a good balance between deep POV and omniscient voices.

    To give you a clearer idea of how I work it out, here's an example from my work of a character who recently lost a measure of "innocence" and begins to mature after a near death experience.

    It had been mere hours since Courtney had “died” and Amber nearly so, and despite her casual attitude on the plane, the dark-haired woman was torn up inside. The attention that Amber had shown her on the plane made her feel loved and warm inside, but it also deeply concerned her. And now that they were moving again, and the quest was in sight, her wife’s obsession had taken over again. Courtney wasn’t sure what she hated more, that or what she had to do next. She had to do the right thing.

    That’s what makes her love you,
    she thought sadly.

    Deep down, she knew that wasn’t true, but she couldn’t help but feel a little resentful of their mission and how it had consumed her wife’s life in the recent weeks. Hell, it took over all their lives, and not necessarily for the better. Maybe it would have just been better if they said no to it all and took care of themselves first.

    No, she chided herself, that’s not you, anymore. You’re a good person now.

    And though those feeling crept up in her mind, she somehow felt wrong about them. The old Courtney would have damned the cautions and charged ahead without second thoughts, willing to stand by her wife no matter what. But it was different somehow. She knew something inside her had changed… somehow. Something was just… off.

    “Court? You coming?” Amber asked her suddenly, and Courtney realized they were heading out.

    “Yeah, sure. Let’s go,” she replied.

    They hailed a cab and were on the road to one of the city’s many standard-faire hotels. Nothing that would call attention to them. Few words were spoken, and Courtney wondered just what the others were thinking about. Likely they were already planning their next move, but those plans couldn’t include her anymore. So, she sat silently and thought of her own plan.

    Courtney had “died” mere hours ago and Amber nearly so, and despite her casual attitude earlier, troubling thoughts plagued the dark-haired woman. She had relished the affection Amber expressed for her on the plane, feeling loved and warm inside, but deep concerns now began to infiltrate her mind. They resumed the quest, and her wife’s obsession took charge again. Courtney wasn’t sure what she hated more, feeling neglected in her wife’s presence or what she must do next.

    You have to do the right thing. She looked away from the others, wiping tears from her eyes. That’s what makes her love you.

    Despite recognizing Amber’s real love for her, resentment for their mission and how it had consumed Amber’s life in the recent weeks pervaded her thoughts. It predominated all their lives, endangering everyone.

    Maybe we should’ve said no to the adventure and looked out for ourselves first. No, that’s not you, anymore. You’re a good person now.

    She pondered the feelings creeping into her mind. The old Courtney would’ve damned all caution and forged ahead without reservation, willing to stand by her wife no matter the cost. Her priorities were different now. Something inside her changed… somehow. Something was just… different.

    “Court? You coming?” Amber asked, and Courtney realized they were heading out.

    “Yeah, sure. Let’s go.”

    They hailed a cab to one of the city’s many standard-fare hotels. Nothing that would garner much attention. Few words were spoken, and Courtney considered the others; imagining they contemplated their next moves, which couldn’t include her anymore. So she remained quiet and developed her own plan.

    As you can see, there are other fixes too, but I feel the passage is stronger in the normal narrator's language than using the character's.
     
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  16. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    :ROFLMAO: No pearls of wisdom?

    I'll admit using a deep POV makes some of the things you mention easier to incorporate, but I also agree most are manageable in 3rd traditional and omniscient. It's a style (trend maybe, maybe not?) that's becoming rather popular now, but not universally embraced from discussions I've seen. Some characters just don't have a voice I feel comfortable with representing my writing.
     
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Thank you for sharing a little more. I personally find the italics and some of the other techniques you're using here to feel awkward, but it wasn't my intention to develop an argument. If this is what's working for you then go for it.

    I think you know by now how much I hate those advice columns, Skip, but I disagree with you here. If you're going for the big emotional jugular then "Deep" is definitely the way to go. There are other ways to write, and other priorities to shoot for in your writing, like theme, humor and action. But if your goal is to make the reader feel what the character feels, that's what Deep POV techniques are designed for.
     
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  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Deep third person and first person can more immediately engaging with readers if you've got a strong character voice. The same thing can be done with a more removed POV with a distinct narrator. That doesn't mean you always want to use a deep POV--it's one of many decisions a writer makes about the style of a work. I do see tendencies toward deeper 3rd person in SF/F over the past few years, and not just in YA fiction. YA tends to provide ground for more experimentation, and choices authors make in YA tend to permeate up into adult fiction when 1) they work well; and/or 2) those YA readers become adult readers. Deep POV, present tense, multiple first-person POVs, and the like may put off some older readers (though many times I think it is just an initial sense of being put off, until the reader acclimates), but I think adult literature will continue to move in the direction of more varied stylistic choices.
     
  19. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    Depends on the medium for me. Where this work was originally posted, italics for character thoughts was a common convention, and readers almost expected it. Had I posted it elsewhere, I'd use quotes or line breaks. Publishers will have their own demands preferences anyway, but when writing for myself, I'll do whatever I want. :sneaky:
     
  20. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

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    I get that. Old dog; new tricks. I fall into deep POV as a reader quite readily but can only take so much before I need to back out take a breather. A fair number of new writers don't seem to know when to pull it back.

    Of all the new tricks writers are using these days, present tense has taken me the longest to get used to. I'm not sure if I've seen it used in many adult works so far, but yeah, others are spreading across genres and audiences. Actually, I once used 2nd-person present tense in a short story, and the result was quite interesting and fun.
     
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