Friday, December 02, 2005

Third Person POV--Part 4 & Etc.

Well, it’s Friday. The day my segment shows on the 700 Club—and the day I die. That’s right, it’s dentist day. I report at 8 a.m., Pacific time. Already doped up on some pill I’m supposed to take at 7:00. I am so sensitive to that kind of stuff, the dentist gave me a “baby pill” to take. Then, at his office, I’ll get hit with more stuff. “Doc,” I told him when I saw him Monday, “I wannna be totally out, understand? I wanna be in a coma.”

“No coma.” He gave me apologetic look. “But you’ll be way out of it. You won’t remember much of it later.”

“I don’t care whether I remember it later! I don’t wanna know when I’m living it!”

He soothed me. Told me I’ll be fine. Said a man who’s scared to death of dentists had a similar procedure done, and when it was all over, commented, “It was pleasant.”

I bugged my eyes. “Pleasant? Doc, you are a great guy and all, but you will never hear me say anything like that about what you do. The most you can expect from me—if you put me in a coma—is, ‘hey, it wasn’t quite so bad.’”

He held up a hand. “If I heard that from you, I’d be . . .” he searched for the words. “Thrilled beyond measure.”

So that’s what we’re going for today, folks. Y’all pray that the Doc is thrilled, okay?

Also today is the 700 Club thingy. That show is on a lot of channels, a lot of different times during the day. I plan to watch it here at 6 p.m., thinking by then my dopiness will be worn off enough for me to distinguish between the TV and the microwave.

Now, besides the events of this auspicious day, we were discussing third person POV. Some comments to you commenters. Cara—don’t take me too seriously when I mention your profession. I’m one of those people who loves lawyer jokes. Stuart—waytago, man. Very cool excerpt. I felt sorry for the guy. Dragon. Creature. It. Whatever.

Bonnie—some comments to perhaps clear your confusion. A paragraph break often means the author is switching from one person talking to another, or from a person talking to the thoughts of the POV character. This is the case in that Eyes of Elisha excerpt you mentioned. You also asked this: I now understand that one scene should be one person's point of view, so is it mostly the editor's point of view on whether you've accomplished this (since there's close third person and removed third)?

The author sets the tone for the work. The author should do all he/she can to stay in one POV per scene, and not to switch too much from one kind of third person POV to the other, i.e., from the close to the removed, as the removed may then sound contrived, or out of place, or too “telling.” But the editor is there, with his/her fresh eyes, to help make sure this happens. By the time we poor authors finish a book, we’ve looked at the words so many times, we can’t see them anymore. A fresh read can see all sorts of things we’ve overlooked.

We still need to take a look at the third kind of third person POV—Omniscient. Here’s a thought to leave you with. True omniscient is not the same as “head hopping.” The problem with head hopping, at least as I see it, is that it flits from one character to another, boring into the brain of each with close third person POV, then flitting on. The result is that the reader never quite knows where to settle. True omniscient is a camera in the corner of the room, watching all, telling all. But it remains removed. It has that distant, more formal tone. This is the POV of the classics, and one that’s generally now fallen out of favor.

By the way, I think omniscient POV isn’t popular today because of the intimacy and pacing our culture has created through TV, movies, video games, etc. We’re used to close-ups of the camera. We’re also used to skipping from one quick scene to another.

Therefore, when aspiring authors point to the classics, or even fiction published a decade ago, and say, “They used that POV, so I want to also,” they’re not really thinking of writing in that classic, formal tone of omniscient. They’re thinking they want to be allowed to head-hop.

In other words, they’re comparing apples and oranges.

Do you agree?

More on Monday—if I survive.


Pammer said...

You'll survive. We're praying for your dentist to be thrilled, right?
The first ms I sent in, I head hopped awful. That is what I had read and so that is how I wrote. :0) I found out shortly after I sent that ms off to an editor and I wanted to break into the offices and steal the awful thing back.....but the point is now that I have found out about POV, I really like staying with one character and the challenge of making the other characters thoughts come through in his/, it's? actions.
You do a wonderful job of that in the Hidden Faces Series because although we are usually in Annie's head in first person, we are also aware of what the others are thinking and feeling, not sure how you did that. :0) Any tips in that area? How to be more effective in letting your character show you the other characters thoughts without head hopping?
Yeah I hope that made sense. I need to go to bed but I'm still doing LAUNDRY!!!

Cara Putman said...

No offense taken, Brandilyn. I just wanted to point out that as writers, a possible area of conflict, hurdles is for the client to not do what they're supposed to.

Know I prayed for you this morning as you went to the dentist.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yes, I also hope the dentist is not a headline story :-) I'll be watching the 700 Club.

I agree with Pammer. My first ms is with a publisher now. After all that I've learned here, I cringe to think about what I've already done. I don't want to look at the file and get depressed ahead of time.

I've tried each of the POV's we've discussed and I think the easiest for me is the close third person. I've been having good success with the WIP that I'm working. Like Pammer, I would also appreciate other tricks for expanding the close 3rd senses.

Stuart said...

Hmm... one would think you were going to see the dentist from The Little Shop of Horrors ;)

I'm sure you'll pull through just fine, I'm worried for the dentist and his crew though :D

Will be looking all evening for that 700 club. :)

Lynetta said...

Prayers going up for you in the dental drama today. You'll have us on the edge of our seats all weekend, just waiting to see if you survive! ;-)

Thank you so much for answering my question the other day and hosting such great discussions about our craft. I have learned so much already.


C.J. Darlington said...

Here's sending up another prayer that all goes extra well at the dentist. I'm picturing the elf Herbie in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I can picture him hunched over you with that little hammer. "Now open up wide ... this won't hurt a bit."

Becky said...

First, I saw the 700 Club piece this morning--the 6 AM showing. It was presented very well. I had to laugh a little that the big hold up to airing the piece was connecting with your doctor, then all they did was show a sheet from your file instead of actually having him say anything.

Very fun to see your view from vacation home. Beautiful!

I thought your comments were God-glorifying. Very nice.

Regarding omniscient POV, you said: "By the way, I think omniscient POV isn’t popular today because of the intimacy and pacing our culture has created through TV, movies, video games, etc." Interestingly, writing can always give more intimacy than any of the other media because of the writer's ability to enter the head of the character. I think some of the newer shows of acclaim--"Veronica Mars" comes to mind--attempt this with character monologues intro'ing scenes. But revealing the thoughts of a character is the One Biggest Advantage of the novel, in my opinion. In that regard, I find the close 3rd or 1st best suited to take advantage of the ... well, advantage.

The much shifting between POV characters, though--I think that's a novel killer. I've read some books written with shifts ever 3 or so pages and the result was that I was attached to no one, had only a mild awareness of who the real protag was and very little empathy for him. I don't think "nearly head-hopping" accomplishes anything--certainly nothing like establishing a strong omniscient voice did in the classics.


OK, I know this is random, but my word verification included pov. How weird is that?

Camy Tang said...

It's probably a bit late, but I pray that everything went well at your dentist today.

I'll have to catch the 700 club online, though. For some reason I couldn't Tivo it. I'm so technologically challenged!

I agree on the apples and oranges thing. I've been reading several old Regency romances and it's amazing how the switching from character to character doesn't jar me out of the story the way head-hopping in more intimate POV does.


Domino said...

Good job on the 700 Club.

Dentist: Are we smiling yet?