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Third Person Objective, Strengths, Weakness and how to use it to the Fullest?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Logos&Eidos, Jul 22, 2016.

  1. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    While I was looking for a writing mode that suited my tastes and gave me reason to do something that I like, descriptions of persons,places and things that are strictly tied to a pov characters immediate experience.

    Third person objective is the closet mode that I've found to that.

    I'm curious as to how to use it effectively, what are its strengths and weakness, can and not be done with it.

    What are everyone else experience with it,have they read or written anything in this mode.
     
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    In a sense, this is screenwriting. 3rd objective in present tense. So in that respect, I've done it. All dialogue and action, with minimal scene description.

    For a novel? Probably fairly risky considering publishing trends and how popular intimate portrayals are, if looking in that direction. Carrying someone for 400 pages without entering a character's head would be interesting and challenging. For shorter works, I could see it being more effective. As a writer, I wouldn't do it for a novel, the loss of intimacy with the character would dent my enthusiasm to write.
     
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    The primary distinction between 3rd person objective and other types of narrative is that the internal thoughts, feelings, opinions, and so forth are not presented to the reader. Think of the way you experience watching a movie when there is no voice-over from any character. You only see and hear whatever the characters do and say on screen, and from that you can glean what they are thinking and feeling. The same is true of objective narrative. So you'd never write, "Tyrion could not tolerate Cersei's smug smile a moment longer." Rather, you'd show him interrupting her special moment, by speaking or maybe throwing something at her or turning and leaving the room in a rush. You could describe the way his cheeks had turned a flush hue and his lips were pursed and his nose flared, maybe. Because it's written fiction and not a movie, you would basically have to write everything for the reader to see and hear while avoiding giving internal thoughts and feelings for characters.

    Also, the narrator in 3rd person objective is typically hidden behind the objective description. As the Wikipedia article states, "Often the narrator is self-dehumanized in order to make the narrative more neutral." So you wouldn't be creating a storyteller voice or omniscient narrator, with opinions and bias of his own, but just presenting the facts of the scene.

    I have very little experience with this kind of narrative, but I'd guess that one weakness would be the potential for distance between the main characters and the reader. But one of the strengths could be that "fly on the wall" feeling of being there while totally unobserved by the characters. Ultimate eavesdropping.

    Plus, you have options for describing scenes that you wouldn't have from an intimate 3rd-person limited point of view. Basically, you could give a cinematic overview of the scenes.

    Even though the narrator has no personality, he/it/she sees more than the characters see. Handled right, this could give the reader that feeling some eavesdroppers/spies/etc. probably feel: greater understanding of events than the characters themselves have. This could be played up to increase tension, suspense, and so forth. I suppose that not having a direct feed from inside characters could also mean that some characters could remain a little mysterious to readers at first. I.e., readers will only know what the writer shows them about any given character.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    IMHO, third objective is one that will take away one of the greatest strengths of books, getting into a character's thoughts. Third objective, sometimes called third person cinematic, tends to be very cold, making it more difficult to for the reader to become invested.

    I believe Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is written in cinematic, and I read somewhere Hemingway wrote some things in cinematic too.

    I haven't really written anything in cinematic, but here are some of my thoughts, which may be very off base.

    Without a character's voice to draw the reader in. The writer's voice becomes all the more important, as well as the ability to draw the reader in through the character's actions and situation. Without a characters thoughts to give things context, you'll have to be very clear on the context. Any ambiguity can lead to confusion.

    You'll have to design your scenes to play out in ways that bring out emotions and relationships without feeling awkward and forced. You basically have to lean on actions and dialogue more heavily to make up for the lack of internal narrative.

    I don't know. That's my general, inexperienced, impression of writing in third objective.
     
  5. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    The only place I'd consider using this would be in a flash fiction or a short, short story. And there would have to be some kind of justification for it, otherwise the story should be told in a different medium, because internal character thoughts is one of the great advantages of using the written word.

    The questions I'd be asking myself if pondering this POV would be: Is this the right medium for this story? If this story is best told objectively, why shouldn't this be a screen-play or a graphic novel?
     
  6. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    The potential problems aside it's the closest mode to my ideals and natural inclinations.
    My enthusiasm comes from the events that unfold, the characters are a means to an end.


    That's what I want.


    I don't want to explain the world really, and I to be honest living inside a characters head isn't all that important to me.
    Besides hugging a character's perspective limits my ability to describe the world to the expectation that information will come solely from that characters.

    The answer is simple I can't draw and have a story that I wish to tell despite the fact that telling the story as I envision it would be far easier in a visual medium. I like what has fallen out of fashion detailed description of people,places,things that are not tide to or filtered through a characters perception. Third person objective seems to play to my natural inclination,however limited omniscient might be even better.
     
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I'd mentioned objective 3rd in a previous thread. At that time and now, it's occurred to me that we already typically do this partially with non-POV characters when writing a limited 3rd person narrative. People come in and out of the story without having their inner thoughts, opinions, feelings told to us; we must infer from their actions and speech. Some of those side characters have become my favorite characters in books.

    The difference is that in limited 3rd, we also have the POV character's impressions and feelings about those non-POV characters. I suspect these impressions often color our own opinions of those characters.

    But I think it's very obvious that characters can be drawn whole, or as whole as prose will allow, even when we write objective descriptions of them and their actions and reactions to events and through dialogue. There's no reason to believe that sympathy for those characters must be diminished whenever an objective 3rd narrative is used. However, I think Penpilot gave some very important advice in this regard:

    I would add description of the scene to that list. You can, for instance, describe a character's body language and other aspects of that character's appearance in addition to clearly defined actions and meaningful dialogue. But these things will need special attention, and 3rd objective probably requires a different style of writing scenes than other forms of narrative to insure this connection to characters and events.

    ...So I'd caution against dismissing characterization as being unimportant in a story.

    Here's something odd (at least I think it is.) I generally agree with you, in that I, too, have more and more found that ultra-close, intimate filtering through a character's POV to be a tedious exercise. I do believe that too much of what's being written forsakes description in lieu of what amounts to some kind of brain-in-vat stream of consciousness by the character. But I recently experienced reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, and although I really enjoyed it at first, I eventually realized something: Although the characters certainly have personalities, there's no strong emotion of any sort. I may not be the best person to give a whole impression of the book, because I didn't finish reading it. I was distracted by something else and then didn't feel a strong need to return to it. I should go back at some point to finish the novel and try analyzing it, but I think (from memory) that it's a fairly objective 3rd POV. At least, access to internal emotions and thoughts for the characters seemed absent to me. And I think it suffered for this reason. This doesn't mean that a more objective approach is automatically a recipe for failure, but I do think that 3rd objective doesn't automatically succeed. The odd thing for me is that I agree with you somewhat about filtering events entirely through a POV character's mind, but simultaneously I also want to feel that I have some access to real character emotions and thoughts—even if not direct access.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Addendum:

    Since I haven't finished LLL and am a little too lazy to go back, right now, and see if it adhered to an objective-3rd approach, I've been looking for various reviews and descriptions to see what others have said about the narrative style. Here's one that I think is close to my own experience, although I think there's some confusion over terminology:

    The shallow omni POV also leaves me feeling distant from the characters. I don’t mind a narrative zoom-in or zoom-out at the start or end of a scene, telling me something outside the character’s view (like an unseen pursuer tailing our heroes). The POV at least head-hops smoothly from one character into another in the same scene, rather than abruptly. But I’m constantly distracted by the huge quantities of arbitrarily withheld information — things that Locke and the other POV characters obviously know but the author is artificially hiding from the reader to maintain suspense.

    This all combines to make the narrative feel extremely distant to me. The POV does describe the characters’ simple emotions and physical reactions, but except for that, it feels almost cinematic.

    [Scott H. Andrews]​

    He goes on further in describing the narrative approach.

    I've found LLL described as "omniscient 3rd" in other places as well, and I think that maybe that's wrong. Isn't omni 3rd typically described as the narrator a) knowing what all the characters are thinking and feeling and b) delivering those thoughts to the reader? Also there might be a c) describing aspects of the story and/or environment that are beyond the characters' knowledge/POV.

    Going from a camera focus on one to another to another character may not be authentic "head hopping" either, more like a change in objective view. I'll have to crack that novel file back open and take a look.*

    *Edit: Cracked open an excerpt online. I suppose it probably is 3rd omniscient, to the degree that the narrator has access to and occasionally describes the internal workings of the characters' minds. But it's fairly shallow, cursory—a kind of quick interjected overview. It's like the narrator's assessment. In any case, perhaps not a purely objective approach, although the shallow nature can lead to that feeling.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  9. I usually write in first person, or occasionally third limited. I like the intimacy of the first person POV. You hear the story through the voice of the character. I suppose third objective would be like the polar opposite of that.

    In first person POV, the story is tainted by the narrator's perspective. The reader sees the story through a warped lens. Third person objective removes that warped lens. So, in certain circumstances it could be useful. If you were very good at showing body language and dropping clues through the characters' actions, it could definitely work.

    The main risk is disconnecting your readers from the characters. If you don't give enough clues about the characters' feelings, their desires will be lost on the reader. If the reader can't relate to them, they won't care about them.
     
  10. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    I should clarify I don't mean to dismiss characterization.
    To use your words "that ultra-close, intimate filtering through a character's POV to be a tedious exercise." is something that I
    don't feel is necessary. And for me it would be contrary to me desires for audience to read the stories as observers.




    I'll take this into consideration, showing body language and reactions is something that I don't have a problem with.

    Do you know anything about limited omniscient/omniscient limited and or characterization through action.
     
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    So for me, I believe that POV has a big role in a story. I have read really good books written in omniscient (something I could never personally pull off), and some of my favorite books are First POV, and I write in Deep Third Limited.

    One thing I've noticed is that the more "objective" a story, the more a writer's narrator voice needs to function to pull a reader in. Basically, if you can manage a strong narrator voice (as we often get in omniscient writing that features a narrator relying the tale), this might be a really powerful method of storytelling. However, if the voice of the writing is rather plain, then the story itself may fail to impress readers.

    If you're just writing for yourself, do whatever you like. If you're trying to snag a particular kind of reader, write some chapters and send them to some folks to critique, and see how they respond.

    To me, the biggest drawback of this kind of style would be the distance created between story and reader. I've said it before, but when I read a story, I'm like an excited party-goer. I just want to come on inside and have fun with my friends. Certain things can be jarring and feel like a bouncer stiff-arming me, keeping me from the fun. When people talk about exploring emotions with characters, they don't necessarily mean that the characters have to be sensitive and hyper aware. It's more about intimacy of thought than it is about "feelings". And it can be hard to get close to a character if we don't get to know their thoughts.

    I think every writer who writes in third POV should carefully select where to get intimate and where to leave more distance. For example, when my character has an immediate situation, she isn't reflecting right then, she's running, or talking with someone. But when she's alone, it's more appropriate for her to contemplate.

    Good books mix up the variety of scenes you get to read. Contemplative scenes, revelation scenes, action scenes, etc. and within those, you get banter, internal thoughts, sensory descriptors, scene-setting descriptions, etc..
     
  12. I have only written in first person and third limited. Third omniscient seems very unnatural to me so it's something I've never really done. I've never tried third objective.

    I actually don't fully understand third objective. Can you add details about the character seeing a particular thing, or feeling pain ("He saw the dragon..." "Pain lanced into his side...") or can you not venture into his mind and perspective at all, and only describe his reaction to those things ("His eyes widened..." "He let out a cry...") as if observing him while hovering above him, as in a movie? b
     
  13. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    I agree that POV is important which is why I'm searching for one that suites how I've experienced stories.
    I even while reading first person works have always felt the I am an outside and passive observer, an inviable and intangible documentation following a subject or group of subjects around. Thus I looked for a mode that suited it and found Third Person Objective, also Cinematic POV and Limited Omniscient/Omniscient Limited. I also like a level and style of description that has fallen out of fashion, I want to set the stage and describe space in which a scene takes place without being tide to the perception of a POV character;however focus with in the seen should shift with attention of a POV character. A more zoomed out mode of seems to cater to that.

    The only works that I remember with a narrator that has a clear and distinct personality is the DiscWorld series. For I feel that at times too much personality and information came through, at least too much for me to want to use that style for. I want the narrator's voice to be more unobtrusive.


     
  14. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think it's important to remember that these labels for different narrative strategies aren't always clear cut with strategies exclusive to each.

    3rd person is 3rd person. Some 3rd limited approaches will have much more description than others. Some 3rd omniscient approaches will be more or less objective, have frequent head hopping or little to no head hopping. Some 3rd limited approaches will have a large cast of POV characters, switching views between chapters, but some will have only one. Any approach which dips into the heads of characters may do so to a greater degree or a very limited degree, i.e., go full-on heavy filtering through that POV or do so in a much more limited fashion. (Within-the-head vs over-the-shoulder.)
     
  15. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    I'd prefer "over the shoulder" because I am untethered from having the description being filtered through and limited by pov character perception. Limited omniscient is seeming more and more like the proper term for what I want to do.

    Netflix show Daredevil has the best example of what I'm trying to figure out how to do. While the show is third person objective, there are moments when it will zoom in on how Matt Murdock perceives the world.
     
  16. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    What a single POV character perceives through his senses can be delivered without offering up what he thinks or feels about what he has perceived.

    Davis noticed a movement to his right. A rat had darted under the trash bin; now, only the tip of its tail remained visible.

    vs

    Davis noticed a movement to his right. A rat had darted under the trash bin, and only the tip of its tail remained visible. It must have paused to inspect some bit of garbage that had been kicked there after falling from the overfull bin. Or maybe it had found something dead.

    or

    Davis noticed a movement to his right. A rat had darted under the trash bin. He knew this because its ugly tail remained visible, just the tip, entirely still. Was it watching him from the shadow below? Something like nausea laced with terror formed in the pit of his stomach, a reminder of his past. Damn rats, he thought, as if conscious condemnation could quell that sensation in his gut. But it didn't.

    So you can always choose how much filtering through a character's mind you want to include, the type of filtering, etc.

    I do wonder to what degree having that zoom-in to a character's sensory impressions automatically elicits curiosity about the character's thinking and emotional reactions to things. For instance, "Davis noticed." Do we automatically find ourselves in his head by using the word "noticed"? Davis felt the heat; Davis smelled the fresh baked bread; Davis heard the strangled cry. We are automatically "in the head" in those cases, I think, even we we are trying to remain objective about it. ("Davis felt the heat" can be an objective statement, insofar as anyone near a flame will feel heat, for instance.) The sense of being in that character's POV would be strengthened if we are writing an extended section in which the only POV is Davis'.

    I'd say write it however you like and see if the result is to your liking.

    Edit:

    I suppose the pure objective 3rd approach would be something like this:

    Davis stopped and looked toward his right and down. From below the dumpster, the tip of a rat's tail was illuminated by the moonlight. A frown creased Davis' face. A moment passed, then he continued down the alley.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2016
  17. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    The second example to me is the best out of the three. It conveys information without being bogged down in character perspective.
     
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