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Third Person Limited multiple character 'thoughts'

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Jerry, Feb 24, 2018.

  1. Jerry

    Jerry Scribe

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    I'd like to read a good full page(s) scene of a third person limited section where the anchoring character (the POV) has multiple characters within the scene and they have thoughts as well as our main POV. I've read a few third person limited examples, but mainly with dialogue and would like to see a scene where multiple thoughts - NOT multiple POV's are at play. I have it somewhat handled but would like to see if in fact I'm on the right beat... Any suggestions!?

    I have a scene myself I'm reviewing and want to be sure. Read this from one of your members "Irene" and is very hopeful if I can sparingly squeeze in Omniscient: "Omniscient" can overlap with "limited" in the way I just described -- it just means you see the character's thoughts as well as actions."

    Many Thanks!
     
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I may be misreading your post, so correct me if I'm not answering the question right.

    If your pov is third person limited, you can't have anyone else's thoughts expressed except in dialogue unless you're POV character is a mind reader or something like that. That's what third limited is by definition.

    If the scene expresses multiple character's thoughts, then it's third omniscient. The second you inject a second person's thoughts into a scene it becomes a multiple POV scene.

    If you want to slip in a bit of omniscient in your third limited, that's fine, but just realize you're breaking from convention, and to do so can be detrimental to your story if you don't know what you're doing. Heck, it can be detrimental even if you do know what you're doing. IMHO, something like this should be done sparingly and carefully.
     
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You could do it with POV changes. Staying in a close third person limited POV for each character but just changing the POV character when you need to. It’s easy to make a mess trying that, though. It might actually work better in omniscient POV if you have a lot of characters whose thoughts are to be expressed in a short time.
     
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Yeah, I’m uncertain of what’s really being asked here. In third Limited you can draw back to a narrative voice and in tighter to the character thoughts and blend those... but omniscient doesn’t really blend with Limited. Telepathy or mind reading would be another issue.

    An example of what you’re trying would be needed.
     
  5. Jerry

    Jerry Scribe

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    Understood. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. I think it was borderline, something, somewhere I read, where it was 'third person limited with a sprinkling of omniscience' to coin my nonsense, and probably theirs. I didn't think it existed in terms. No telepathy here... but, yes, you acknowledged my problem. It was a situation where my MC-POV character is in a scene - not to break up the scene - with two other characters who do not speak and I wanted to acknowledge their thoughts, but without using omniscience... and not making my MC some sort of mind reader. I think I have a better approach now. Much appreciated.
     
  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Well...how well does your MC know those other characters? Is your MC able to “read” others?

    There’s nothing wrong with letting your MC acknowledge and mention the obvious internal reactions and/or thoughts of other characters. I, as the particular human being I am, without telepathy, can tell when a coworker is stewing or a sister is thinking, once again, that I'm being an annoyance.

    In fact, one of my pet peeves is the hopeless, helpless, clueless limited POV type of character who is always befuddled. That sort of character can be a good, enjoyable character; but on the other hand, I think there's too much of a tendency to lean on that type of myopia, and characters who are always befuddled can become annoying.

    What I'm talking about can be used in third limited and first person, both.

    Dajan leaned back and watched the effect his words had on his companions.

    Silvi stewed, preparing the most poisonous retort she could muster. Dajan cares only for himself, she would be thinking. As long as his needs are satisfied, screw everyone else. Ever since the night in the Gleenwood, Dajan knew where she stood. Against him. She would never acknowledge his leadership, never believe his efforts were also for the good of her people. She had told Trellifan as much. And Huhna. She would never be happy until she had convinced, or manipulated, those two into turning on him.

    Trellifan also watched Silvi. He knew. His eyes flickered toward Dajan's, and an understanding passed between them. Something must be done about Silvi.

     
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  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    This may be semantics in part. I recently read a book where I view the author as having employed multiple third limited viewpoint characters. Maybe someone else would view it as omniscient--there is no chapter break, section break, or other transition between viewpoints, apart from starting a new paragraph.

    An example (one I'm making up; this isn't from the book):

    Mark entered the bar and tried to blend in with a group of students drinking and talking loudly near the entrance. It was the kind of place he might have frequented back home, in the states, when he was in college. The chaos would work to his advantage. He hoped. His target was nothing if not perceptive. He said a few things to the nearest students, as though he'd known them his entire life, then shouldered his way to the bar and ordered the local lager. It was cold. Felt great going down after the day he'd had. As he drank, he let his eyes flick around the room, just a random sweep you'd expect from anyone just entering a bar on a busy night. He froze. She was looking right at him. Shit.

    Katherine had noticed him the moment he'd walked in. Something about his bearing and body language showed he wasn't quite a part of the group of students he stood next to. Could be just an awkward foreigner--you saw them a lot in the local pubs. Americans, mostly, and that's what this one looked like. She watched him surreptitiously, eyes on him no more than half a second at a time, as he made his way to the bar and ordered. When he raised his glass to drink, though, their eyes locked. That's right, she thought. Made you. But who the hell was this guy?
    Then the narrative goes back to Mark, who is the viewpoint character for the vast majority of the book.

    So--is that omniscient? Is it multiple viewpoint third person limited?
     
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    SteerpikeSteerpike:

    I'd call your example omniscient, technically; but omniscient vs limited third sometimes makes best sense when defining two opposing extremes or absolutes, heh.

    There's no other hard line—especially when the only differentiation is the length of time (text-wise) between two POVs. What is normally considered a limited third might still have switches at chapter breaks, with multiple POV characters for a whole book...so how is that different than having switches between paragraphs?

    In the example I gave, the internal states and thoughts of other characters are still being filtered through Dajan's POV. He might be right all the time, or only most of the time, or...we might come to discover, as the story continues, that he's often wrong about other characters. Or maybe he only reads some things extremely well but not other things; maybe some things he doesn't see at all. As readers, we can't know the true internal states of those other characters and may only go by faith in Dajan's observational prowess—until, at least, character actions and dialogue confirm his observations for us or at least never disprove those observations.

    But in the example you gave, we are meant to recognize the authenticity of each character's POV observations. Even if Katherine's and Mark's "reads" of each other turn out to be false, they are authentic POV states. Heck, since we have access to the internal mechanisms of each, we can know almost immediately whether one is not "reading" the other well. We have the overhead view, ultimately.

    ^I think this differentiation might be important for our understanding of the limited third vs omniscient approach, perhaps more so than factors relating to text lengths for each POV.

    I do think that some blending can happen, particularly when the writing never insinuates or suggests that a limited third POV character might be wrong about the internal states of other characters. I think that's doable: always having a good "read" of other characters. But there'd still be that hint of filtering rather than direct access to the internal mechanisms of those other characters.
     
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  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    FifthViewFifthView I think, technically, it is more third limited. While the author is in the viewpoint of either character, Mark or Katherine, the viewpoint is limited. POV isn't broken. The only difference between what this guy did and what you always see in multiple third limited POVs is that he didn't use a section or chapter break between the viewpoints. The line does get a little gray, though.
     
  10. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I've read lots of different thoughts on this, all with subtle differences on how to slice the pie. To me, it comes down to how you're switching view points. Is it happening as a scene unfolds, or does it happen only when moving from one scene to another, and is this a consistent pattern throughout the story. When it's happening as a scene unfolds, it's head hopping, and that's omniscient. Though, only just. When it's happening from scene to scene, I'd say it's limited, even if the next scene is the same scene just told from a different POV.

    This is there gray area where things can get very very messy. Let's say you have a book where the first two scenes are each told from a different character's POV. This at first would seem to be a Third Limited POV story. BUT if the next scene unfolds and is told through two different character's POVs, alternating between them, then it becomes an omniscient story.

    I think some confusion is because I've seen third limited defined as having only one POV character and only one. I've seen third limited labelled as limited omniscient. And honestly my head hurts just thinking about it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    This is an interesting consideration.

    For me, it's in the effect the narrative has on the reader, or the way the reader experiences it.

    For either omniscient or limited third, a narrator exists who is not the character. With head-hopping omniscient, the existence of this narrator is far more noticeable; whereas, with a close limited third the narrator is muted and might even seem to disappear.

    Omniscient POVs will give the sense of....omniscience, heh. Flipping back and forth between different character POVs within a scene will give the impression of a singular setting and set of events and a narrator able to be all those different places at once.* By "places," I mean even different character heads, although other sorts of omniscience might not go so deep/close into characters but instead flit between different places within the scene. But those character heads are places, in a way, because with those POVs come different perspectives, or looking out on the same scene from a different location and perspective.

    *RE: "once." The experience of time plays a role in this. The reader, seeing through the eyes of the narrator, and thus experiencing the scene as the narrator experiences it, is impossibly two places at the same time or else going back and forth between character POVs much more quickly than humanly possible IRL.

    Larger blocks of singular POV narration...mute the outside narrator, heh, or may. For instance, two "scenes" or chapters involving the same set of events but told from two different character POVs. The sense I have in these cases is of two different scenes after all, even if it's the same set of events. Objectively, and metaphorically, this is like taking two cameras filming the same set of events from two different positions but afterward only watching one recording at a time without the other recording playing simultaneously: either recording could be considered entirely alone, without the other, and be a single, self-contained, POV and scene.
     
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  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I think some of this comes into free indirect speech, which I see as something of a marker for “3rd Intimate”. Oh, the craziness.
     
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  13. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    I think one complication here is that what the OP is describing appears to be an attempt to build an omniscient viewpoint without a narrator. Or maybe by "anchoring character" the OP is referring to a narrator, but doesn't realize it.

    I disagree with the idea that omniscient and limited can overlap; you can, however, write in omniscient and keep the lens on one character for a lot of it, which can give the feel of a limited POV, and maybe even a first-person feel depending on the narrative voice. That is completely different than mixing omniscient and limited, though.

    The trick is that omniscient requires a narrator, and you need to have a narrator if you're going to head-hop. The narrator is the storyteller--an additional character through which everything is lensed--and when you change perspectives, it's the narrator changing perspectives, not the reader.

    This is an important distinction, because when you're shifting character perspective through narrative voice, the voices of the characters become, for all intents and purposes, the narrator doing impressions of the characters. The reader still hears the narrator while they also hear from the characters. If that sounds weird, it's because it is. It's also really, really hard to do well. Unless you have a spectacular gift for voice--and granted, some people do--it can take years, and maybe decades, of study and practice to write omniscient fluidly.

    If you head-hop without a narrator, you'll have a mess. Don't do it.
     
  14. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Third intimate omniscient? :ROFLMAO:

    If we eliminate that as a viable approach, we might end up eliminating head-hopping omniscient as a recognizable category. If it is?

    I think the issue might be in how we define point-of-view vs close/distant narration. These may be two separate considerations—that overlap in crazy ways and create a lot of variety.

    Edit: And maybe the terms are "intimate/objective" narration rather than "close/distant." Just covering the bases here because we may not have common terminology, heh.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2018
  15. Jerry

    Jerry Scribe

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    Insightful everyone - and greatly appreciate the knowledge and feedback.
     
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