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How to?

NC-Retired

I've had this fantasy floating around in my head for months and I want to see if I can make a story of it.

But I do not know the required writing technique of how to record the protagionist's thoughts as he goes about living everyday life.

How would you write that? From what perspective?

Please, suggestions are appreciated so that I can sleep at night again instead of laying half-awake with this fuckin' fantasy running through my thoughts.

Cheers!

oldegrump

I do not know if I am reading your request correctly, but thoughts in my stories are set aside by single quotes ' , but I have seen [{ and en dashes used also.

It is my opinion that all thoughts used should be in first person voice. Perhaps is you are using mind reading, you would use another voice, but to me if you show distinct separation it is not needed.

Oldgrump

Ross at Play

@NC-Retired

How would you write that? From what perspective?

There are various styles used for internal thoughts. All italics is the one which occurred to me. The important thing is to be consistent.

More basic, for your needs, is your choice of point of view and tense. It sounds like you may need first-person point of view, 1POV, and perhaps present rather than past tense.

I would probably recommend most authors use third-person omni and past tense for their first story. You can write almost any story in that. Both 1POV and present tense impose restrictions on what you can tell in your story. You should have a clear idea of where your story is headed before choosing either of those.

If your story is suitable for 1POV and/or present tense, then they tend to help readers identify more closely with the MC and feel more immediate. If you start with them for an unsuitable story you're likely to put in a lot of effort before you realise you have no way to complete it. :(

There are a few regular contributors on this forum who've written stories in all these variations and are willing to help any new author has made the effort to prepare a plan for their story. They'll identify their stories, or stories by others, written in the POV and tense best suited to your needs. Note that once you decide to be an author, one of your best tools for learning to write is to read others' stories with one eye always open to figuring out how the author has achieved the things they've done.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play

Ross's summation is excellent. Internal thoughts, when used, can be marked either with single quotes (ex: 'I can do this,' he thought) or with italics (ex: This is the perfect opportunity for me to impress her, he reflected.) But as Ross noted, they key is being consistent, not just throughout your story, but also across any further stories you write. If you decide you made a mistake you can change it, but it's best if you go back and correct the alternate uses in your already posted stories, just so your regular readers know what to expect when reading your stories.

@oldegrump

Perhaps is you are using mind reading, you would use another voice, but to me if you show distinct separation it is not needed.


What oldegrump is referring to, is a convention that many authors have chosen when invoking telepathy (the ability to communicate mind-to-mind with others) so their dialogue is conveyed as the other characters 'thoughts', but which is distinguished so readers know it's not their own internal thoughts. This convention is to combine to two alternative formatting techniques (ex: 'You are now my slave!' Tom projected into Betty's mind. 'The hell I am, motherfucker, she responded, telekinetically kicking him in his nuts.)

But, you'd only need such formatting in science-fiction, mind-control or superhero stories. Otherwise, I'd avoid it altogether.

Expansion on the ideas:
The reason why you don't use internal thoughts in 3rd person stories (a story from someone else's perspective), or for anyone other than the main character in 1st person stories, is because there is no way for the characters (which includes the narrator) to know the internal thoughts of other people.

This practice is known as "head hopping", where an author projects their own thoughts (the author's thoughts) into the mind of other characters. It's frowned upon because it typically takes the reader out of the story and into the author's thoughts about the character's motivations. Instead, it's best to show how a character is thinking by how they respond to events (i.e. revealing their motivations by their physical action, rather than TELLING the readers what he internal thoughts are).

If you Google "head hopping", it'll give me more details on why you don't want to venture into this territory, although many, many authors do it anyway.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@NC-Retired

In omniscient, the narrator has to tell you the character's thoughts. But if you write it in 1st-person or 3rd-limited you can write the thoughts as internal thoughts or part of the narrative.

Joe is the POV character in this 3rd-limited scene:


Joe shoved the door open. The house was dark and quiet.

Where is everyone? Joe thought.


In the above, you provide Joe's thoughts directly (Chicago Manual of Style says internal thoughts are in italics). But providing thoughts like that is usually limited to important thoughts that you want to stand out. Instead, you could write:


Joe shoved the door open. The house was dark and quiet. Where was everyone?


Who would be wondering where everyone was? The only thoughts that can be relayed are that of the POV character so the reader knows it's Joe wondering. The reader is actually living the scene through the POV character.

Notice the tense difference. The thought is always in present tense. The narrative is in the tense of the story, so past tense in this case.

1st-person is the same as the 3rd-limited example above except for "I" replacing "Joe."

Replies:   Uther_Pendragon
Uther_Pendragon

@Switch Blayde

In omniscient, the narrator has to tell you the character's thoughts. But if you write it in 1st-person or 3rd-limited you can write the thoughts as internal thoughts or part of the narrative.


Omniscient, the reader learns the thoughts of ANYBODY. in limited, the reader learns the thoughts of ONLY ONE person.

NC-Retired
Updated:

I do not know about anyone else, but I have complete conversations with myself. Been that way forever. So that's what the character does, have a long and involved conversation with himself. Taking the pro side and the con side, trying to decide on [whatever]. Essentially an extended conversation with oneself.

How to handle that?

I hope this clarifies my initial query.

Switch Blayde

@Uther_Pendragon

Omniscient, the reader learns the thoughts of ANYBODY.


Through the omni narrator

Switch Blayde

@NC-Retired

What POV are you writing it in? It makes a difference.

Remus2

@NC-Retired

Write the same few paragraphs in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd POV. You'll likely find one that feels more natural to you. Go with what feels natural so you're not fighting yourself in the writing.

richardshagrin

Head hopping can cause a concussion to the person whose head you hop on.

Head hoping is hoping someone will give you head.

Crumbly Writer

@Uther_Pendragon

Omniscient, the reader learns the thoughts of ANYBODY. in limited, the reader learns the thoughts of ONLY ONE person.

That approach is a virtual minefield, and it's a trap for inexperienced writers, who find it easier to say—using Switch's example—what's motivating Joe, rather than revealing it by how Joe responds to situations. In short, it's a shortcut rife with the potential for abuse by the inexperienced. I'm not saying the narrator in 3rd person story can't relate the mindset of a particular character, but it's best if you always treat the omniscient narrator as a character in your story. Even if you never reveal the information, it's best to identify who's telling the story, and how they know so many details. Is it simply someone who's been told the story repeatedly (so they're likely to repeat the details they were told, whether they're accurate or not), is it someone who lived through the experience, who was likely told what the protagonist was thinking long after the events in the story, or by someone who'd have no clue what the participant's were thinking. Just because omniscient means "all-knowing" doesn't mean you should treat the narrator as God relating the story from on-high during church. But having some clue of their background allows you to take their knowledge of events into account.

If the narrator would personally know what each character was thinking, then it's OK to include it in the story. If not, I'd personally leave it out. And if you're not sure, that's a sign that you're treading on thin ice, simply because you haven't laid enough groundwork for the story yet. :(

Crumbly Writer

@NC-Retired

I do not know about anyone else, but I have complete conversations with myself. Been that way forever. So that's what the character does, have a long and involved conversation with himself. Taking the pro side and the con side, trying to decide on [whatever]. Essentially an extended conversation with oneself.

That's fine, and I've used that technique in several (two) of my books. However, before you yank that trick out of your magical hat, you need to lay the proper groundwork.

In short, you first need to establish that the character has a long family history of speaking to himself in the 3rd person, it also helps if you provide some evidence that he's not simply bat-crap crazy, and you should show how those around him respond to that practice.

Those details allow the reader to process how they respond to the character. If this is something the character is embarrassed by, they they won't do it around others. If they did it because they grew up without friends, then they'll be shy around other people, often saying little when meeting new people beyond the necessities. Or, if they learned the habit from a trusted family member, you'll want to relate how the rest of the family thought of him (i.e. was it an undiagnosed symptom of schizophrenia).

Even with all of that preparation, one of those two stories was widely panned by readers who though the main-character was a "Schizo" for constantly talking to himself like he had multiple personalities at war with one another!

Replies:   NC-Retired
NC-Retired

@Crumbly Writer

In short, you first need to establish that the character has a long family history of speaking to himself in the 3rd person, it also helps if you provide some evidence that he's not simply bat-crap crazy, and you should show how those around him respond to that practice.

Those details allow the reader to process how they respond to the character.


Like this?

My mom's brother, Eli, told me once that he has a conversation with hisownself because there's nobody else out there with you but you. If you don't talk to yourself you'll be awfully lonely. Besides, Mom told me that all her side of the family talks under their breath, debating both sides of the argument, trying to decide what's the right way to go about doin' sumptin. Kinda of a yeah or nay debate, but with you taking both sides.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@NC-Retired

Like this?

Yeah, just like that. That establishes that it's an individual quirk, that's it based on the character's family history, and that he's NOT completely bonkers! Best of all, it allows you to avoid multiple sentences tagged ", he thought to himself."

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Best of all, it allows you to avoid multiple sentences tagged ", he thought to himself."

That would get tedious quickly.

I can't think of any common convention for what the OP wants. He may need to create one of his own - but then he must establish his convention in the minds of readers early on.

SOL does not allow many options for formatting. It's not a problem with the site; it's more a consequence of the need to pre-process text to get it into a form that will display adequately on multiple platforms users have to access the site.

One possibility which might work for the OP is block quotes. Perhaps the first time you use them could be preceded by an exchange between the MC and another character when they cannot agree. Perhaps something like this:

(a discussion about a loan request is getting nowhere ...)
"No, Joe. I'm sorry. I just can't get my hands on that much money."
I shook my head. "I can see your problem but it doesn't work for me. Let me have a think about it." I stood up and walked out of the house, then sat down in the chair on the patio.

Hmm? Okay, he can't do what I want.
What is it that I really need?
I need the loan but it doesn't have to come from him.
I can pay it back, but not immediately, and a loan shark would crucify me.
I don't have any collateral a bank will accept, but I could sign over ownership of the house to him, and a bank would lend him the money.
Susie won't like that but he's family. We can trust him.
We have to ... there is no other way.

I stood up and walked back inside.

It's pretty clunky, but as you suggest, readers can cope with various styles - provided the author spells out explicitly what a formatting convention means early on and then sticks to it.

NC-Retired

Now that this has peculated for a bit, I seem to recall a story by 'somebody' that had a prominent character with an implanted AI and that was who he was talking... well, muttering to it... if the truth be known... much of the time. IIRC, that characteristic gave him a sort of cover to escape notice from the powers that be.

But then again, not having an implanted AI, I still talk to myself, just not out loud like the toothless guy at WalMart the other day.

As an aside, you know you're in 'Hicksville' when the best grocery store within 30 miles is in the Super WalMart.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@NC-Retired

As an aside, you know you're in 'Hicksville' when the best grocery store within 30 miles is in the Super WalMart.


The last I heard was that Walmart was closing most, if not all, of their Hicksville stores and only operating in Central Hicksville and bigger due to increased operating costs.

NC-Retired

Another reason to talk to yourself...

https://storiesonline.net/s/52948/hawk-the-stone-age-spirit-guide

richardshagrin

I can remember at least one story where the main character talking to herself had multiple personalities and each one "spoke" to her in a different color type. Interesting, unless the reader is colorblind.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

I can remember at least one story where the main character talking to herself had multiple personalities and each one "spoke" to her in a different color type. Interesting, unless the reader is colorblind.

That response is similar to those who get embarrassed any time they accidentally mention the word "see" to a blind person. Trust me, most color-blind people know that they're color blind. Plus, having been English speakers, they're used to color terms, and have a decent understanding of them—even if it's only on an intellectual basis—so trying to dance around the truth is largely pointless and, frankly, annoying to the color-blind/blind person.

PotomacBob

@Ernest Bywater

Hicksville


Is that the Hicksville in New York? The one named after the Hicks family, founders of the infamous Long Island Railroad?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
StarFleet Carl

@Ernest Bywater

The last I heard was that Walmart was closing most, if not all, of their Hicksville stores and only operating in Central Hicksville and bigger due to increased operating costs.


Some of their really small stores - 35,000 square feet - have been closed this year. So far they're at a net plus 20 for store totals, though - closing 70 but opening 90.

The key word that was missed in the comment above is not best, but ONLY. If the ONLY grocery store within 30 miles is the Super WalMart ...

Of course, you can also get into really rural situations like we have out here, where the local gas station has a cooler for milk and beer, and the very basic things, but if you want to make a grocery run, you put the ice chest in the back of the pickup and drive almost two hours, because it's 100 miles to town.

Ernest Bywater

@PotomacBob

Is that the Hicksville in New York?


No, it's the one in the middle of the Appalachian mountains.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

EB, I have a question for you which I think may help the OP. I assume they are a first-time author because there's nothing posted on the site under their pen name.

I'd be inclined to suggest new authors should stick to the past tense for their first story of significant length. While I can see potential benefits of present tense stories, if done properly, I imagine they make it more difficult to introduce events that happened in the past when those details are needed.

I'm sure you get that right, but if I recall correctly, you get hate mail from a few readers every time you write in the present tense.

Would you agree that using the past tense is the safe option for someone writing their first lengthy story?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

I'm sure you get that right, but if I recall correctly, you get hate mail from a few readers every time you write in the present tense.

Would you agree that using the past tense is the safe option for someone writing their first lengthy story?


I do get hate mail from a few readers who think past tense is the only tense to use in story writing. Oddly enough it's mostly the same small group who also hate first person stories as well. To them third person past tense is the only way to write a story.

One of the things I like about using present tense is the tense you use in writing the story is the same for the dialogue and the narrative, while past tense stories are supposed to use past tense for the narrative and present tense in the dialogue. In both you write about events in the story's past in the same way, so it shouldn't make a difference there.

The biggest problem for new authors when writing present tense is much of what was written in the 20th century were past tense, and thus that is what they're used to reading.

While I prefer to use the present tense because I find it easier to write that way and I think it gives the story a higher sense of immediacy of happening now, I always advise people to write in the way they feel most comfortable using.

BTW I've written stories as past tense first person, past tense third person, present tense first person, and present tense third person and I find present tense third person to give me the most freedom as an author. In both I tend to use omni third person, but don't always tell all as the narrator.

Replies:   Ross at Play  Remus2
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

In both you write about events in the story's past in the same way, so it shouldn't make a difference there.

Thank you. That's good to know.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Actually, the best thing about present tense is the flashbacks are in simple past tense, not past perfect tense.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Remus2

@Ernest Bywater

write in the way they feel most comfortable using.

Agreed, no use fighting yourself.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Actually, the best thing about present tense is the flashbacks are in simple past tense, not past perfect tense.

Good point. I've read about techniques for flashbacks when writing in the past tense. They don't sound elementary. I can see how present tense may be simpler.

While I have your attention ... It sounds like this OP wants to focus on one character and should probably use either 1POV or 3POV close.

I am a little concerned that new writers might get unintentionally misled by some of the older hands here, that experienced writers may describe what works best for experienced writers but first-time writers may not be ready for yet.

In particular, I fear that new authors may read that 1POV helps readers identify with an MC and choose it for that reason. My theory is that it is the nature of the story that dictates the POV that should be chosen. How does an author using 1POV cope with scenes when the MC is not present. I know that POV changes are possible, but does that introduce a complication new authors may be better avoiding? The rule is stated that POV changes require a scene break. I think they should ideally be in different chapters. Actually, I think it's safer for first-time authors to stick with one POV and understand whatever disciplines their choice imposes.

What really scares me is that a new author might choose 1POV before they have a clear idea of where their story is headed. They may then find there story takes them to places which 1POV doesn't allow them to go, and they become discouraged.

My questions to you are:
* Is it true 3POV omni is always a safe choice to make?
* Are there any things that 3POV close will allow that cannot be done in 1POV?
* What any the different requirements of 1POV and 3POV close?

Sorry if this drops you in it but it seems like something you pay attention to and enjoy discussing here.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play

* Is it true 3POV omni is always a safe choice to make?


Absolutely not. From what I've read, omni is the hardest one to write well. The narrator has the tendency to tell too much (that is, give out too much info). The reader wants to be intimate with the characters. That's also hard to do in omni. And it's harder to have an unreliable narrator.

* Are there any things that 3POV close will allow that cannot be done in 1POV?


Changing POV characters. Some authors are able to have multiple 1st-person POV characters. That's very hard. Each must have their own voice. In fact, you should be able to know whose POV the scene is in simply by reading the narrative voice. I also believe you can show more in 3rd-limited than in 1st-person.

* What any the different requirements of 1POV and 3POV close?


1st-person POV has more intimacy between the reader and character. In 1st, the narrator's voice is more important. Think of Huck Finn's voice. Or Scout's in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

BlacKnight

I've read one book - I'm not going to name it or the author because doing so would constitute a spoiler - where 1st POV is used to make the fact that the protagonist/narrator is genderless, literally asexual, a creeping realization rather than something that has to be put out there from the start.

I write in 1st more often than not anyway, but my current WIP is almost necessarily 1st because the protagonist's senses have been altered, and it's really difficult to describe how she sees the world from outside her head.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Thanks, Switch. I will be less free with my advice to newcomers in the future.

Ernest Bywater

The biggest problem with first person point of view is you have to stay with the one character and not have anything in the narrative that isn't known to that person from what has already happened. The second biggest problem is if you have a need to show action away from the main character who's also the narrator you have to show a clear and obvious change of character for the point of view in a way that it's clearly a different character and it's now their point of view so a simple scene change often isn't enough, although it can be done that way it's best to do it as a separate chapter to make it very clear.

The biggest problem with third person point of view is you have to be careful how much of whatever is shown in the narrative is enough for what you need the reader to know, but it's not too much as you don't want to tell them in the narrative what you can show them in the action and dialogue. However, the biggest advantage of the third person point of view is when you want to show something happening away from the main character you just switch scenes and do it.

Ernest Bywater

@NC-Retired

But I do not know the required writing technique of how to record the protagionist's thoughts as he goes about living everyday life.


I usually do that by using italics in dialogue style without apostrophes. Example:

While watching Joe move onto the next task Fred thinks, I like the way he just gets in and does the work.

BTW: I've done a book on writing that's free from Lulu, Amazon, Apple, etc.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/ernest-bywater/fiction-writing-style-guide/ebook/product-23723415.html

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

The biggest problem with first person point of view is you have to stay with the one character and not have anything in the narrative that isn't known to that person from what has already happened.

Got it. I'll probably go on advising newbies that they should not write their first novel in 1POV unless they have prepared a detailed synopsis of their story before starting to write. They'll probably go on ignoring me.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

and not have anything in the narrative that isn't known to that person


Stephen King used a technique to do that in "The Green Mile." The 1st-person narrator is telling a story that happened in the past. He said something like, "Later, after reading the report, I learned that…"

So at the time in the story, he didn't know that it happened. But he's telling the story with much more information than he had at the time.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Here's an interesting article on POV. https://thewritepractice.com/point-of-view-guide/

I actually don't agree with everything he says, but there's good information in it for thought.

For example, his Harry Potter example of 3rd-limited is, to me, omniscient. Whose POV is that written in? Surely not Harry's. He doesn't know that people are meeting in secret all over the country. He's sleeping.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

"Later, after reading the report, I learned that…"


That's OK in one or two places, but after that it becomes very old very quick. I try to leave that sort of thing to author's notes if the info needs to provided to close it out but doesn't affect the plot.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

example of 3rd-limited is, to me, omniscient.


That's an area where a lot of people get confused in that they think because the narrator his omniscient they think he has to tell you everything right away, but the narrator has no requirement to do so. Thus an omniescent narrator has the opportunity to give you the most flexibility, but that doesn't mean the narrator has to be babbling everything out right away.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Good point. I've read about techniques for flashbacks when writing in the past tense. They don't sound elementary. I can see how present tense may be simpler.

The current trend among established authors (when writing in past-tense 3rd Omni stories) is to minimize the use of past perfect tenses and to instead either use normal past tense, or if necessary, use past-perfect to set that the details are in the distant past before switching to normal past tense, so readers at least have the proper context.

Once again, the feeling in the industry is that the use of past perfect tense takes the reader out of the story, informing them that 'these are details which really aren't vital to the story, so feel free to skip over them'.

It's not a HUGE trend at the moment, but more established best-sellers are adopting the practice.

But, to your point (about newbie authors getting into trouble to imitating the more experienced SOL authors), you have a point. I'd suggest that new authors start out with a limited (limited set of chapters with a 'starter' story, rather than trying to write their Magnum Opus on their first attempt at writing), written in 1st person present tense. Even though it's more limiting, they'll at least quickly learn why it's so limiting so they'll be advised as to which they before when they attempt their next book.

Note: I did that with my first book, and after writing two complete books (writing one, which I later split in two because it worked better as two books), and I've always regretted it! I tend to have so many characters acting at cross purposes, that it's foolish for me to even attempt writing in either 1st or 3rd Limited POV. Been there, did that, threw the box away!

However, until an author runs headlong into the problems a 1st person story entails, they'll never appreciate its limitations, OR learn how to avoid them!

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

And it's harder to have an unreliable narrator.

That's true if they approach the narrator in a 3rd Omni story to be God lecturing atop Mt. Olympus (mixing my metaphors), but if they learn to treat their narrator as another character, rather than an all-knowing deity, it's not as difficult.


* Are there any things that 3POV close will allow that cannot be done in 1POV?

Changing POV characters. Some authors are able to have multiple 1st-person POV characters. That's very hard. Each must have their own voice. In fact, you should be able to know whose POV the scene is in simply by reading the narrative voice. I also believe you can show more in 3rd-limited than in 1st-person.

Of course, the biggest difference is that normally 3rd Limited allows you to write a first-person POV story in the past tense, which is what Ross was suggesting new authors stick with.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

The biggest problem with first person point of view is you have to stay with the one character and not have anything in the narrative that isn't known to that person from what has already happened.

That applies to either 1st or 3rd omni, and it isn't that they can't use anything that's happens differently with another character, but that a 1st/3rd-Limited narrator can't know what ANYONE else is thinking, their motivations or their desires. That's all a dark wellstone, unless the other characters opens up and admits everything to the 1st person narrator.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

So at the time in the story, he didn't know that it happened. But he's telling the story with much more information than he had at the time.

Again, that' an example of treating your narrator as a character, rather than someone dictating the actual TRUTH in all matters. Instead, you need to identify the narrator (in King's book, it was the character set well into the future once he was released from prison) in order to do a decent job of understanding what they know!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

For example, his Harry Potter example of 3rd-limited is, to me, omniscient. Whose POV is that written in? Surely not Harry's. He doesn't know that people are meeting in secret all over the country. He's sleeping.

There's 3rd-limited, and then there's ineptly executed 3rd-limited. For as phenomenal as the Harry Potter series was, nearly everyone contents that she really mungled many of her techniques, and wasn't particularly good at character development (i.e. they develop, but not often within scenes through self-awareness, but instead she has the plot drive those changes so they're forced to become more complex characters).

Frankly, that's the reason why her stories were rejected by so many publishers, because she didn't know the basics about writing, though her story more than made up for her many technical faults!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

That's OK in one or two places, but after that it becomes very old very quick. I try to leave that sort of thing to author's notes if the info needs to provided to close it out but doesn't affect the plot.

The ONLY time I've ever used it is in a epilogue, which reflects details which aren't a part of the story (which is exactly how Steven King did it in his final chapter). It's a handy way of tying up loose ends in a story.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

but if they learn to treat their narrator as another character, rather than an all-knowing deity


But then technically, wouldn't it be 3rd limited rather than 3rd omni?

How can' it be 3rd person omnisient if the narrator isn't all-knowing?

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I'd suggest that new authors start out with a limited (limited set of chapters) ... written in 1st person present tense ... until an author runs headlong into the problems a 1st person story entails, they'll never appreciate its limitations, OR learn how to avoid them!

Good point! Test the water first is a better suggestion than my "Don't get wet when you start learning how to swim". :-)

The current trend among established authors (when writing in past-tense 3rd Omni stories) is to minimize the use of past perfect tenses and to instead either use normal past tense, or if necessary, use past-perfect to set that the details are in the distant past before switching to normal past tense, so readers at least have the proper context.

Thanks for that. I understand the point you're making and why established authors would favour that. I hope others here get your point too.

newbie authors getting into trouble to imitating the more experienced SOL authors

A problem with that is the best authors work hard to get the details right without being noticeable to most readers. :(

The most obvious example is writing in the vernacular. When done well, the words flow and seem to be exactly how people usually speak. But they aren't that! A careful author will use an extra word or two, or restructure a sentence, so that they do use the precise tense required for their meaning or to ensure the antecedent of a pronoun is unambiguous.

It's easy for newbies to write something how they would say it. They can overlook the fact that - unlike when speaking with someone - you only get one shot to convey your meaning when you write it down instead. In conversation, people can get away with being extremely imprecise in how they express their ideas. They are getting feedback from listeners and clarify if they see the listener does not get their drift.

It is very hard work to write sentences which literally mean what the author wants the read to understand. I work as an editor with a lot of newbie authors. It's actually very rare that I find sentences which could not express the idea they are intended to convey better.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

is to minimize the use of past perfect tenses and to instead either use normal past tense, or if necessary, use past-perfect to set that the details are in the distant past before switching to normal past tense, so readers at least have the proper context.


That's not just for omniscient. The purpose is simply because it's painful to read all those "had"s. You write the first part (how many paragraphs is variable) in past perfect to let the reader know it's happening prior to the current point in the story, switch to simple past, AND THEN switch back to past perfect towards the end of the flashback to let the reader know it's ending and they will be returning to the current time in the story. So you frame the flashback with past perfect.

But you don't have that problem if you write the story in present tense.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Instead, you need to identify the narrator (in King's book, it was the character set well into the future once he was released from prison)


In 1st-person, the narrator is always a character in the story. In "The Green Mile," it was the supervisor of death row. In "Moby Dick," it was Ishmael.

You wouldn't have an all-knowing narrator in 1st-person, unless it's 1st-person omniscient. I only know of one of those — "The Book Thief" — where the omni narrator is all-knowing Death.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

that's the reason why her stories were rejected by so many publishers, because she didn't know the basics about writing,


But this editor, who is writing about POV, shouldn't have used that example as 3rd-limited.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

But then technically, wouldn't it be 3rd limited rather than 3rd omni?


Yes. The omni narrator is not a character in a 3rd-person omni story.

When you talk about distance from the reader, omni is the most distant. 1st-person is the closest. 3rd-limited is in between. The reason omni is the farthest is because the narrator is not part of the story — none of the characters.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

But then technically, wouldn't it be 3rd limited rather than 3rd omni?

Not at all, as it's still 3rd Omni, but now you, the author, have a better conception of what the 3rd Omni narrator would say. However, that doesn't change the Omni narrator into the main character (although in the Steven King novel raised, it was a 3rd Limited story, as best I can recall the actual book).

I suggest that as a step authors take before writing, so they know how to approach the narration, but the adage 'treat your narrator as another character' has nothing to do with making the main character the narrator.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I'd suggest that new authors start out with a limited (limited set of chapters) ... written in 1st person present tense ... until an author runs headlong into the problems a 1st person story entails, they'll never appreciate its limitations, OR learn how to avoid them!

Good point! Test the water first is a better suggestion than my "Don't get wet when you start learning how to swim". :-)

Case in point: I've already restricted that first 6-book series on SOL and I'm getting ready to 'unpublish' the books because I've never been satisfied with how I handled those first two books in the series (despite revising them twice already).

If I'd only followed my own advice, I'd be in much better shape now!

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

that's the reason why her stories were rejected by so many publishers, because she didn't know the basics about writing,

But this editor, who is writing about POV, shouldn't have used that example as 3rd-limited.

That just shows that the editor in question is as ignorant as basic writing techniques as the author he's quoting. 'D It's akin the 'the blind leading the blind, using someone else who's blind as their tour guide'.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Yes. The omni narrator is not a character in a 3rd-person omni story.

I suspect that D.S. was confusing the example (the Steven Kind novel written in 3rd limited) with my comment (about identifying who the narrator is ahead of time).

The major difference between 3rd limited and 3rd Omni is you're limiting yourself to a past-tense single POV story.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

but the adage 'treat your narrator as another character' has nothing to do with making the main character the narrator.


That's why I specifically referenced Ismael in "Moby Dick" because he was not the MC. Same for "The Great Gatsby" and I believe Watson was the narrator in "Sherlock Holmes."

But an omni narrator is not a character in the story. I don't know why you keep saying that.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Not at all, as it's still 3rd Omni


3rd omni is third person omniscient. Omniscient literally means "all knowing".

Whether the narrator is a defined character or not, if the narrator is not "all knowing" it can't be third person omniscient.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

The major difference between 3rd limited and 3rd Omni is you're limiting yourself to a past-tense single POV story.


Just checked. "The Green Mile" is 1st-person.

Both limited and omni can be past tense or present tense.

The major difference is the POV (a character in the story or an omniscient narrator not in the story).

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

suspect that D.S. was confusing the example (the Steven Kind novel written in 3rd limited) with my comment (about identifying who the narrator is ahead of time).


No, I wasn't confusing either of those things. I was objecting to your apparent suggestion that you could have a story in the third person omniscient point of view told by a narrator who is not omniscient(all-knowing).

NC-Retired

Well... as in most threads, this went far beyond my initial question, perhaps inarticulately stated, on your thoughts on how to present the pro and con arguments one has with ones self as we work our way through the decision making process.

What I've got from this discussion is that it is probably best to not hash out the pluses and minuses, but just state 'after a great deal of thought I made the decision to …'

Thanks to one and all for a very enlightening thread.

Cheers!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@NC-Retired

I don't know if it will help, but I had a character have an argument with herself inside her head. So she wasn't talking out loud, but I don't see why it would be different (except it would be punctuated as dialogue rather than thoughts). This is it:

Elizabeth Hathaway's head shot up as the taxi came to a screeching halt. Her eyes bored into the back of the driver's head before she turned to gaze out the side window. The sudden jolt brought her out of her deep, disturbed thoughts about going to hell.

She stared out the car window at the all too familiar building and, with teeth clenched, once again tried to will herself to return home. A recurring argument ensued within her.

Why are you here?

You know why.

Go home. There's still time.

No way. I waited all week.

It's wrong. It's a sin.

Who says?


Elizabeth sensed she was being watched. …

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

But an omni narrator is not a character in the story. I don't know why you keep saying that.

Sigh! No, the narrator is not a character in the story, but it's beneficial to authors for them to consider the narrator as a character, so they have a better feel for what the narrator would or wouldn't know.

It's the same with doing basic research on your characters. You wouldn't write a story about a Vietnam bomber pilot without doing some basic research on what their job entailed, so why wouldn't you put the same kind of information into figuring out whether your narrator has a clue about what they're spouting?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Whether the narrator is a defined character or not, if the narrator is not "all knowing" it can't be third person omniscient.

I give up, and I can explain how I choose to write my own story, but if your merely going to quote 3rd grade dictionary definitions back at me, I give up.

Do whatever the FUCK you want with your narrator, but for ME, I prefer understanding WHO my narrator is, so I can refine him as a character in my stories.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

but for ME, I prefer understanding WHO my narrator is, so I can refine him as a character in my stories.


I didn't say that there is anything wrong with doing that. But why pretend you are writing in third person omniscient rather than third person limited if your "refined" narrator isn't omniscient?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

so why wouldn't you put the same kind of information into figuring out whether your narrator has a clue about what they're spouting?


Because, as DS said, omniscient means all-knowing. The narrator knows everything.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I prefer understanding WHO my narrator is, so I can refine him as a character in my stories.


Then write it in 1st-person omniscient like "The Book Thief." Death (the narrator) is a character in the story. He meets the girl on the train because her brother is dying. Then he tells her story and the story around her (because he's all-knowing). It's rather clever.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Because, as DS said, omniscient means all-knowing.


Well, technically, there is no particular reason why he couldn't create a refined character with a defined personality that is still a genuinely omniscient narrator, something along the lines of the Greek or Norse gods.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Do whatever the FUCK you want with your narrator, but for ME, I prefer understanding WHO my narrator is


Personally, I'm not fond of stories with omniscient God-like narrators. I get a bit irritated by all of the begats, thines, and thou shalts. :-)

robberhands

@Ross at Play

Personally, I'm not fond of stories with omniscient God-like narrators. I get a bit irritated by all of the begats, thines, and thou shalts. :-)

An omniscient narrator also knows how to annoy you.

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

Personally, I'm not fond of stories with omniscient God-like narrators. I get a bit irritated by all of the begats, thines, and thou shalts. :-)


and the swag of the senators who think they're gods and issue dozens of thou shalt nots each month are much worse.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

I've seen that technique used many times. IMO it's easy to follow and effective.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I've seen that technique used many times. IMO it's easy to follow and effective.

In that case, I suggest the OP disregards an idea I floated above that block quotes might work.

That was only an idea. My first choice was what AJ now says is "effective". My first words in the third post of this thread were:

There are various styles used for internal thoughts. All italics is the one which occurred to me.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dominions Son


I didn't say that there is anything wrong with doing that. But why pretend you are writing in third person omniscient rather than third person limited if your "refined" narrator isn't omniscient?


There's a hell of a lot MORE to 3rd Person Omni than simply having God sitting by your shoulder and whispering in your ear.

True, by the 'classical' definition of "Omnicient", that's the literal meaning, but the term is a metaphorical term, rather than a precise clinical definition.

3rd limited, on the other hand, is clearly not what I'm writing.

I'm not changing my writing styles, I'm simply getting a better feel for a narrator character, just as I would if I treated the weather in my story as a character. That doesn't mean that they have spoken dialogue, all it means is that I factor in their wants, desires, background and actions when I write the story!

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Then write it in 1st-person omniscient like "The Book Thief." Death (the narrator) is a character in the story. He meets the girl on the train because her brother is dying. Then he tells her story and the story around her (because he's all-knowing). It's rather clever.


However 'clever' the one book is, I'm NOT writing a fuckin' 1st-person or 3rd-limited story, as I reflect the perspectives of multiple people. The story IS 'Omniscient' because the narrator, whoever the hell they are, knows everything that happens. That doesn't mean they're literally God, after all, God doesn't write many stories, last I checked at my local bookstore. It simply means that, having lived though the story, they know what happened, and what everyone's perspective were based on subsequent conversations.

Geez! What's this with the sudden word Gestapo? It's no longer enough that I use the proper word, but I'm now ONLY allowed to use it if I remain true to the literal 1st definition listed in the friggin' dictionary!

I'm SORRY I ever broached an opinion! Rather than offering an alternate technique, I get raked over the coals for a figurative term, which is about an imprecise as you can get!

This is like discussing writing techniques with a 3 year old, except the 3 year old is more forgiving!

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