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3rd person, switching in same chapter

PotomacBob

I'm not comfortable enough with all the types of 3rd person view to know which variation I'm reading, but probably unlimited know-it-all, if there is such a thing.
The story, in one paragraph, reported that Character A "imagined the worst" and in the next paragraph (same chapter) asserted that Character B was "mindful" of danger.
It slowed my reading while I tried to establish in my mind which characters were doing the thinking, but, all things considered, except for that brief pause, I thought the two paragraphs worked fine for me.
I'm hoping some brave soul will try to explain to me exactly what view that would be (it's in 3rd person), and whether it follows the conventions authors have discussed on this forum.

Ernest Bywater

Sounds like 3rd person omniscient - as the narrator knows all, sees all, and tells only what they want the reader to know. When changing the view of different characters they need a new paragraph for each one, kind of like you do for dialogue.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP
Updated:

@PotomacBob

Others may disagree but here is my opinion.

There are three types of narrators:

1st person – the narrator uses 'I' to tell the reader what the narrator is doing and thinking in the story.

2nd person – the narrator places the reader in the story by using 'you' to tell the reader what they are doing in the story.

3rd person – the narrator is not a story character, but tells the reader what the characters are doing in the story.

If you ask around people will list different Points of View. I think the following are the 3 basic POVs:

Omniscient (Omni) – the narrator knows everything about everything in the story. They can tell you what the different characters are doing, saying, and thinking.

Limited - the narrator knows everything about one character. In a story, the narrator can move from one character to another, but this should be done by starting a new scene.

Objective - the narrator is a detached observer. They only tell what can be inferred from the story's action and dialogue, and never discloses what the characters think or feel.


Some books make as many as twenty-six different points of view, however most of these as merely third person with a varying degrees of intensity. More simply there are: Omnipotent: the narrator sees and knows everything. Limited Omnipotent: the narrator's Omnipotence is limited to a few people.


www.answers.com/Q/How_may_point_of_views_are_there

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

I'm not comfortable either with what limitations authors think should be applied to various points of view.

I can tell you that there are considerations about how much the (current) narrator could know and how they tell what they know to readers.

EB is certainly correct in saying what you describe is 3POV Omni. It is not inherently a problem if what they did there is consistent with elsewhere in the story. It might be a problem if up until that point the narrator had been closely following and reporting on the thoughts of only one character, wanting to empathise with that character, and then occasionally reporting on the thoughts of other characters.

Then there is how the narrator shows a character's thought to readers. The same thought by character A could be shown in these different ways:
A. He imagined the worst.
B. He thought that her plans will turn out badly.
C. He thought, "What she's planning will turn out badly."
D. What she's planning will turn out badly.

I don't see a problem with the thoughts of different characters being reported with style A, if consistent with the story so far. I note EB's comment that those thoughts should at least be separated in different paragraphs, with each devoted to the actions be their own principle character - or as EB put it, 'like you do for dialogue'.

(Note this is the point my knowledge becomes fuzzy.) For styles C or D to be used, I would want the current chapter or scene to have been closely following only one character. That would make the section 3POV Limited. I'd probably find it disturbing if even style A was used for some other character in the same section.

I'll leave it to those with relevant experience to discuss the ways they restrict what they do in sections using any limited type of POV. I'm just trying to identify here what things they look for to assess whether something is 'head-hopping' in a way likely to throw off readers' concentration.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@REP

I think your distinction of three types of narrator and three basic points of view is helpful.

In practice, first-person narrators are almost always limited: the desire to get close to one character is the usual reason for choosing that narrator.

And second-person narrators are very rare in fiction. That should be left to experts, IMHO, and even they're risking falling on their face.

It is legitimate to swap between various narrator and point-of-view combinations in different scenes/chapters, but the author should ensure there is some consistency in how an entire novel "feels", a term I intentionally leave undefined.

Replies:   PotomacBob
PotomacBob

@Ross at Play

A story begins:
You know what they say, "man plans and the gods laugh."
Is that an example of 2nd POV, since the author is talking to "you" (presumably the reader)?
If not, what is an example of 2nd POV?

Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

The story, in one paragraph, reported that Character A "imagined the worst" and in the next paragraph (same chapter) asserted that Character B was "mindful" of danger.


Just from that, 3rd-omniscient.

It slowed my reading while I tried to establish in my mind which characters were doing the thinking,


Which is one reason head-hopping isn't good. Of course, if this is omni then it's not technically head-hopping. But omniscient is hard to do well.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@PotomacBob

A story begins:
You know what they say, "man plans and the gods laugh."
Is that an example of 2nd POV, since the author is talking to "you" (presumably the reader)?
If not, what is an example of 2nd POV?

I'm not sure what the technical term for your example is.

It could be an example of the second meaning of 'you' as defined in dictionaries, e.g. from OxD:

you
PRONOUN

2. [second person singular or plural Used to refer to any person in general.

'after a while, you get used to it'
'It's a more general thing, where you just get gradually drawn in to the centre of the whirlpool.'
'Please note that our general policy is go by the way you sign yourself in the body of the email.'
'Here is a simple calculator to show you some terms of a General Fibonacci Series.'
'Because of you, we go into the next General Election as the only party able to unite Britain.'
'Remember when the Internet was full of expensively generated content that cost you not a bean?'
'Generally in society you have the break up of the community and the rise of individualism.'
'As most of you will know, carp generally move around a lot less in winter than they do in summer.'

It doesn't feel like that to me. I think it's a rhetorical question addressed to unknown others. I'd write that like this, BTW:

You know what they say, 'man plans and the gods laugh'?

The most common use of second-person POV is instruction manuals. Imperative sentences, e.g. 'Do it this way', intrinsically use the second person.

I've only ever read one example of fiction which used 2POV. I edited drafts for the opening chapters of a sci-fi novel. The premise was that the consciousness of beings from one world could be implanted into the body and consciousness of a suitably matched individual in another world. The visitor was aware of every sensation and thought of the host. Their ability to influence the host was limited. The author used you to describe the actions and thoughts of both the visitor and the host, in much the same way as most stories do for the MC when using 1POV.

What can I say about that? How about I say I considered the author's effort both heroic and "heroic"? I did my best, and I applauded the author's willingness to experiment, but it wasn't really working for me and the author hasn't asked me to look at any more chapters.

Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

A story begins:
You know what they say, "man plans and the gods laugh."
Is that an example of 2nd POV, since the author is talking to "you" (presumably the reader)?
If not, what is an example of 2nd POV?


That is not 2nd-POV.

2nd-POV is not the author talking to "you" (the reader). The "you" in 2nd-POV is making the reader a character in the story. For example:

You enter the house and look around. It's dark so you're scared and feel so alone.

Replies:   PotomacBob
Ross at Play

@PotomacBob

Is that an example of 2nd POV?

What Switch just said is correct.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

Thanks, I appreciate the clarification. But Egads! I suspect a bookful of that would be very difficult to read, much less the effort needed to write it that way.
Thanks again

Replies:   REP  Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@PotomacBob

I'm reading, but probably unlimited know-it-all, if there is such a thing.

That would be 3rd Omni (or Third-Person Omniscient).

However your example sounds more like a common problem among all authors, of not properly identifying characters. My editors constantly flag paragraphs which I think are fine, saying "I'm not sure who this "he" is referencing.

When encountering those problematic passages, it's generally better to rewrite the entire passage, just to eliminate the awkward phrasing for something simpler to follow.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Sounds like 3rd person omniscient - as the narrator knows all, sees all, and tells only what they want the reader to know. When changing the view of different characters they need a new paragraph for each one, kind of like you do for dialogue.

Or, to be more precise, when referencing each character (i.e. observing what they're doing), you give each their own paragraph), just as you do in dialogue. But if you change the POV character (essentially who the narrator is following around), you generally need to switch chapters (or books!).

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It slowed my reading while I tried to establish in my mind which characters were doing the thinking,

Which is one reason head-hopping isn't good. Of course, if this is omni then it's not technically head-hopping. But omniscient is hard to do well.

What's more, head-hopping isn't considered 'bad' because it isn't technically allowed, but because it's SO problematic. You can do it well within certain contexts, but each time you jump into someone else's head, you're likely a lose a few readers. So if your story is constantly head-hopping, eventually you'll end up losing most of your readers.

Thus you can reflect on what both character A and B are both thinking, but it's often more trouble than it's worth trying to do so. The advice not to do it is more cautionary than prohibitive.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Is that an example of 2nd POV?

What Switch just said is correct.

You enter a Forum thread and feel ill at ease. You think These idiots are discussing something they don't really understand, and which no one ever cares about! But you continue, the hairs on the back of your neck and arms rising.

Soon enough, two authors go off, ranting about their own pet peeves, and you duck for cover, rushing for the exit before you too become involved in their never-ending fight over definitions (like 'does "is" really mean "iS", or is it just figurative?), thanking you lucky stars you made it out of another useless thread in one piece, and promise yourself you'll be more careful of which ones you walk into in the future.

REP
Updated:

@PotomacBob


Thanks, I appreciate the clarification.


Switch explain 2nd POV to me over a year ago. It took me a long time to understand what he meant by putting the reader in the story. Thanks Switch.

I did a Category search on 2POV and came up with 152 stories that are coded as 2POV. I randomly sampled the stories of over ten authors and all of the stories were written in 1st or 3rd person. The word 'you' was used in those stories, but not in the sense of the narrator telling the reader what the reader is doing in the story (e.g. He asked, "What do you want to do?").

Conclusion: Most SOL authors who code their stories as 2nd POV don't understand 2nd POV.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@REP

The word 'you' was used in those stories, but not in the sense of the narrator telling the reader what the reader is doing in the story

Genuine 2POV fiction is very rare. It's unnatural. I don't object to others telling me "I think ..." or "They think ...", but "You think ..." really irritates me. I mean ... If I can't figure that out much of the time, I don't see how anyone else could possibly know. :-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

Thanks, I appreciate the clarification. But Egads! I suspect a bookful of that would be very difficult to read, much less the effort needed to write it that way.


There are few novels written in 2nd-person. It's mostly used for short stories and is in present tense.

I never looked into 2nd-person. Can you imagine writing "You put on your pink polka-dot dress" when the reader is a straight male? You wouldn't do that unless you were writing to a very specific reader.

2nd-person pulls the reader into the story. That's why it's used with games like Dungeons and Dragons.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Genuine 2POV fiction is very rare. It's unnatural. I don't object to others telling me "I think ..." or "They think ...", but "You think ..." really irritates me. I mean ... If I can't figure that out much of the time, I don't see how anyone else could possibly know. :-)

I use the generic "you" (or "they") fairly commonly, but I like to think that, when I do, the context is fairly clear as to who I'm referencing. But once again, the generic "you" seems to be a regional usage, so many are simply unfamiliar with it (which adds an additional concern when employing it in a story).

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

2nd-person pulls the reader into the story. That's why it's used with games like Dungeons and Dragons.

More often, it's used in those old 'Choose your own adventure' or 'How to books'. Thus is translates as "You chose of open the locked door to the treasure room" or "You take part 36a, and screw it into part 42b, forming a tight seal." If the reader is the one actually directing the action, it's appropriate, but if the author is writing the story, it's best to gently pull the reader along rather than lying and telling them their in charge of the story!

Ross at Play
Updated:

I just had a weird experience.

I started to read what appeared to be someone's first story. It wasn't. Later on I found an explanation on the author's profile that they'd written under other pen names but wanted a new one for a different genre of story.

I had read literally (or should I say numerically?) 250 words convinced I was reading a note by the author introducing themselves to SOL readers. I had decided I would contact the author to tell them that SOL has a feature to separate authors' notes from stories, and to suggest their comments were more suitably made in a blog post or on their profile.

It was only when things stopped making sense that I realised I'd been reading the start of the story! The first-person narrator of the story was introducing themselves to the readers.

I would classify what I read as "breaking the fourth wall". The term originates from stage performances where the action is almost always confined within the three walls of the set. The actors do not address the audience directly across the absent fourth wall.

I've seen experts do this successfully, Woody Allen in films and Kevin Spacey on stage, but it's something that I strongly recommend authors here do not attempt. The reason against that given on these forums is usually "it draws readers out of the story". In this instance, I didn't even know I was in a story!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
awnlee jawking

@PotomacBob

A story begins:
You know what they say, "man plans and the gods laugh."
Is that an example of 2nd POV, since the author is talking to "you" (presumably the reader)?


Further to SB's reply, I tried to find a synonym for "you" in that context. The most natural fit I could think of, denied to us poor, unfortunate Brits, was the American English "y'all".

Lesser alternatives included "people", "folks", "everyone".

AJ

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

the American English "y'all".


Personally, I wouldn't consider "y'all" to be a synonym. "You" references a single person while "Y'all" refers to people in general.

Ross at Play

@REP

"You" references a single person while "Y'all" refers to people in general.

Both OxD and dictionary.com use those exact words, 'people in general', in one of their definitions of 'you'.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

"You" references a single person


No, "you" can be singular or plural.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

people in general


A female general made airtight - that's three people in general ;)

AJ

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

The TV show Modern Family breaks the 4th wall. It adds humor.

Jane Austen talks directly to the reader, as in something like, "Dear Reader, if only so-and-so knew that it would be…"

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

The TV show Modern Family breaks the 4th wall. It adds humor.

I didn't say it can't be done successfully. In fact, the two examples I cited, Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey, were both for humour too.

I would still recommend authors on SOL do not attempt it. It risks confusing and/or alienating readers.

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