Point of View

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David J. Starr

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May 7, 2001, 1:03:56 AM5/7/01
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My current WIP, done in third person, has a number of characters and
the point of view shifts around from character to character. For
instance when a character isn't present in a scene, I adopt the point
of view of one of the characters who is in that scene.
In the clean up phase I have found and redone some undesired POV
shifts, those one or two lines where I slipped out of one character's
head into another character's head and back again. However, some scenes
with most of the characters present seem to lack a definate POV
character. Dialogue from all characters moves the story along and no
one character dominates the dialogue. These scenes lack the "he
thought, she thought" sort of inside information that only the POV
character can share with the reader.
Is this a problem? Should I rewrite some of those scenes to make the
POV character more obvious? The scenes read well enough, but the point
of view is more that of a movie camera filming the action than the "He
climbed the cliff face hand over hand, wiping the sweat from his brow
and feeling the texture of the granite under his fingertips." sort of
point of view which I use in other scenes.


David Starr

Lucy Kemnitzer

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May 7, 2001, 9:29:33 AM5/7/01
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I think you just have to decide how it's going to be, and make it
like that.

An example of a book with lots and lots of points of view, which
zooms in now and then but is mostly camera on the shoulder sort of
point of view, and which is very successful (but with which I
personally had some trouble because of this) is _Midnight's
Children_ by Salman Rushdie. And I think this is an illustration
of the kind of story this sort of pov is best suited to most of
the time (I think): the sweep and rush of history sort of story.
Um, did I just describe omniscient pov? And come to think of it,
is that what you have?

What sort of story are you telling? If it's a more intimate
story, then you probably don't want too many or too distant povs.
I can think of exceptions as soon as I say that though. A certain
sort of story might have a completely objective pov, and still be
entirely about one person and their experiences, and the distance
in the pov might be one of the tools for expressing something
about that person. Or it could be all about one person and be
almost an espitolary, having various people's experiences with
reference to that person. That Vargas Llosa one about the
revolutionary guy -- was that like that? Or did it just have the
pov of the reporter as he learned the different versions of the
story?

Aiiee. I'm trying to come up with parameters, but I'm just
failing.

Lucy Kemnitzer

Ian A. York

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May 7, 2001, 1:00:32 PM5/7/01
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In article <3AF62CBC...@analog.com>,

David J. Starr <david...@analog.com> wrote:
> My current WIP, done in third person, has a number of characters and
>the point of view shifts around from character to character. For
>instance when a character isn't present in a scene, I adopt the point

One thing that's perhaps obvious but worth mentioning is the need to make
it clear which POV is being used. Drawing clear section breaks between
view shifts, and quickly identifying the new POV when one arises (either
through some utterly distinct thought or observation, or through
explicitly giving that information) are very helpful. For me, anyway.

Ian

--
Ian York (iay...@panix.com) <http://www.panix.com/~iayork/>
"-but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a
very respectable Man." -Jane Austen, The History of England

Vlatko Juric-Kokic

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May 7, 2001, 3:03:12 PM5/7/01
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On 7 May 2001 17:00:32 GMT, iay...@panix.com (Ian A. York) wrote:

>In article <3AF62CBC...@analog.com>,
>David J. Starr <david...@analog.com> wrote:
>> My current WIP, done in third person, has a number of characters and
>>the point of view shifts around from character to character. For
>>instance when a character isn't present in a scene, I adopt the point
>
>One thing that's perhaps obvious but worth mentioning is the need to make
>it clear which POV is being used. Drawing clear section breaks between
>view shifts, and quickly identifying the new POV when one arises (either
>through some utterly distinct thought or observation, or through
>explicitly giving that information) are very helpful. For me, anyway.

(Not that I have something against your opinion -- which I also hold
-- but ...)

I just finished Mary Renault's _Fire From Heaven_. She wrote the book
in the tight third, but she's *jumping* around. One moment it's
Alexander, another Phillip, another Hephaestion. You have to be quite
concentrated to follow all that. At first. Later on, you adapt, at
least a little.

vlatko (although I think that _The Persian Boy_ is more effective.)
--
_Neither Fish Nor Fowl_
http://www.webart.hr/nrnm/eng/index.htm
vlatko.ju...@zg.hinet.hr

David J. Starr

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May 7, 2001, 3:12:57 PM5/7/01
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I'm not exactly clear on omniscient point of view. Is it a license
to
see the inner thoughts of every character in the scene or is it the
objective technique where the characters thoughts and emotions are only
made
known to the reader by the character's dialogue and action?

David Starr

David J. Starr

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May 7, 2001, 3:19:36 PM5/7/01
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I think I understand that principle (avoid stealth POV shifts 'cause
they
disorient the reader). I was going over the first draft improving it.
I am not too critical on a first draft, if it comes to mind I type it
out, on the theory that I can always cut it or rework it later. It's
later now and I'm seeing the places that need some improvement.

David Starr

Brooks Moses

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May 7, 2001, 5:15:57 PM5/7/01
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"David J. Starr" wrote:
> I'm not exactly clear on omniscient point of view. Is it a license
> to
> see the inner thoughts of every character in the scene or is it the
> objective technique where the characters thoughts and emotions are only
> made
> known to the reader by the character's dialogue and action?

"Omniscient" point of view means that the narrator sees everything,
including the inner thoughts of all the characters.

The third-person point of view wherein the narrator only sees the
exterior actions and dialogue and such is usually called "camera-eye" or
some variant on that.

Also, there's "tight third-person" where the narrator can see only the
thoughts of one of the characters.

And, of course, there's the point that these are pretty much just
reference points in a spectrum of possibilities; there are many
possibilities that fit in-between and around these three.

- Brooks

P.S. When you write followups, could you put your comments _below_ the
text that you're commenting on, as I've done here (and as all of the
other posts in the newsgroup do)? It's the standard way of doing
things, because it makes it much easier to read a post when one hasn't
just read what it's replying to a moment before.

r...@rosemarylake.com

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May 7, 2001, 9:14:53 PM5/7/01
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On Mon, 07 May 2001 01:03:56 -0400, "David J. Starr"
<david...@analog.com> wrote:

> My current WIP, done in third person, has a number of characters and
>the point of view shifts around from character to character. For
>instance when a character isn't present in a scene, I adopt the point
>of view of one of the characters who is in that scene.
> In the clean up phase I have found and redone some undesired POV
>shifts, those one or two lines where I slipped out of one character's
>head into another character's head and back again. However, some scenes
>with most of the characters present seem to lack a definate POV
>character. Dialogue from all characters moves the story along and no
>one character dominates the dialogue.

It seems to me as a reader that this is a distinct type of
scene, which deserves its own (onmiscient or camera) POV.


> These scenes lack the "he
>thought, she thought" sort of inside information that only the POV
>character can share with the reader.

My take is that if such inside information isn't important
to the scene or the plot, that POV should be reserved for
thoughts/experiences which are important -- ie, for other
scenes.


> Is this a problem? Should I rewrite some of those scenes to make the
>POV character more obvious? The scenes read well enough, but the point
>of view is more that of a movie camera filming the action than the "He
>climbed the cliff face hand over hand, wiping the sweat from his brow
>and feeling the texture of the granite under his fingertips." sort of
>point of view which I use in other scenes.


There are several advantages to "when in doubt, keep it
omniscient."

For the reader, suppose there are 3 characters you sometimes
use as POV. That means there are 4 kinds of scenes:
1. about Char 1
2. about Char 2
3. about Char 3
4. doesnt' matter

Keeping the omni (or the camera) POVas one of the choices
preserves information. It tells the reader that this scene
is not the sort of scene that needs a tight POV. Then when
you do use a tight POV, the reader knows there is going to
be a good reason for it. She can settle down to identifying
with that character, knowing something important is about to
happen to him.

Omni lets the reader choose who to identify with, or whether
to just stand way back and watch the group dynamics (which
perhaps none of the characters are watching). She can stay
with her favorite character, or focus on whatever in the
scene interests her most. If she is interested in the elven
music around the campfire, she doesn't have to attend to the
sweat of the cook.


Rosemary

Zeborah

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May 7, 2001, 9:34:36 PM5/7/01
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David J. Starr <david...@analog.com> wrote:

This will of course vary book to book; but I do think as a general
guideline it's frequently desirable to have a certain unity of style.
If some scenes are from the inside of a character's head, presenting
his/her thoughts and feelings in depth, and other scenes are only
skimming the surface a la movie camera, then there's a risk that the
styles will seem jarringly different.

[I personally prefer to write with a single POV, partly overcompensation
from when I was doing bad multi-POV with very random and poorly executed
POV-characters. For myself, I think it's helped to solidify POV in my
mind, and to give me a clearer idea of what things are really necessary
in my own writing; I've tightened the structure of the Darn Book a great
deal since rewriting as single-POV. But the number of POV characters
necessary to a story varies *greatly*, and in fact I'm anticipating a
battle with a short story I'm working on, which wants the POV to shift
part-way without the reader noticing.]

I wouldn't rewrite just to make the POV character more obvious, per se.
But it might (depending on how character-based a story it is) be worth
rewriting to bring out the thoughts/feelings/personality of the POV
character in each scene.

JMHO, YMMV, etc.

Zeborah
--
Semper ad eventum festinet. -- Horace
"Always party hard at social events." <eg>
http://www.crosswinds.net/~zeborahnz (Yes, it's finally been updated.)

jere7my tho?rpe

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May 8, 2001, 12:20:01 AM5/8/01
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In article <1et246i.11a9qwm4jqmmwN%zeb...@altavista.com>,
zeb...@altavista.com (Zeborah) wrote:

*This will of course vary book to book; but I do think as a general
*guideline it's frequently desirable to have a certain unity of style.
*If some scenes are from the inside of a character's head, presenting
*his/her thoughts and feelings in depth, and other scenes are only
*skimming the surface a la movie camera, then there's a risk that the
*styles will seem jarringly different.

True, but for a very well-handled counterexample see "The Stone
Canal" by Ken Macleod. Which boils down to my First Unhelpful Rule of
Writing: "If you can make it work, it'll work."

----j7y

--
*********************************** <*> ***********************************
jere7my tho?rpe / 734-769-0913 "Oh, yeah. Old guys becoming pandas --
c/o kesh...@umich.edu _that's_ the future." Mike Nelson, MST3K

Jo Walton

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May 8, 2001, 3:11:40 AM5/8/01
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In article <ltndft0h6aunpian2...@news.hinet.hr>
vlatko.ju...@zg.hinet.hr "Vlatko Juric-Kokic" writes:

> I just finished Mary Renault's _Fire From Heaven_. She wrote the book
> in the tight third, but she's *jumping* around. One moment it's
> Alexander, another Phillip, another Hephaestion. You have to be quite
> concentrated to follow all that. At first. Later on, you adapt, at
> least a little.

It's not tight third; it's multiple thirds. And POV does not jump within
paragraphs, it doesn't head-hop, she just uses a lot of POVs, though
some of them only briefly.

How lovely it must be to do that.

--
Jo J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk
I kissed a kif at Kefk
Locus Recommended First Novel: *THE KING'S PEACE* out now from Tor.
Sample Chapters, Map, Poems, & stuff at http://www.bluejo.demon.co.uk

Jo Walton

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May 8, 2001, 8:17:01 AM5/8/01
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> On Mon, 07 May 2001 01:03:56 -0400, "David J. Starr"
> <david...@analog.com> wrote:
>
> > My current WIP, done in third person, has a number of characters and
> >the point of view shifts around from character to character. For
> >instance when a character isn't present in a scene, I adopt the point
> >of view of one of the characters who is in that scene.
> > In the clean up phase I have found and redone some undesired POV
> >shifts, those one or two lines where I slipped out of one character's
> >head into another character's head and back again. However, some scenes
> >with most of the characters present seem to lack a definate POV
> >character. Dialogue from all characters moves the story along and no
> >one character dominates the dialogue.
>
> It seems to me as a reader that this is a distinct type of
> scene, which deserves its own (onmiscient or camera) POV.

I find this very hard to picture.

Can you give me an example of this working, either by pointing me at
something published or by demonstration?

Everything I have seen that does that, which has all been beginning
writer stuff, has been incredibly clumsy. This isn't to say it can't
be done, just that it isn't often done well.

<snip expansion of description of this>

> Omni lets the reader choose who to identify with, or whether
> to just stand way back and watch the group dynamics (which
> perhaps none of the characters are watching). She can stay
> with her favorite character, or focus on whatever in the
> scene interests her most. If she is interested in the elven
> music around the campfire, she doesn't have to attend to the
> sweat of the cook.

You're not talking about omniscient, you're talking about camera
eye.

TLambs1138

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May 8, 2001, 9:16:33 AM5/8/01
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There's a perfectly wonderful article about varieties of POV at
www.paintedrock.com, in the May 11, 1999 issue thereof (you have to dig in
the archives a bit). But it has good classifications, I think, and examples for
them all. I've downloaded a copy for my own personal use, and it's laid out
quite clearly.

There's also a good article by Alicia Rasley in the November 13, 1999 issue at
the same location.


Jean Lamb, tlamb...@cs.com
"Fun will now commence!" - Seven of Nine

David J. Starr

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May 8, 2001, 10:13:31 AM5/8/01
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Jo Walton wrote:
>
[snip some good stuff]


> You're not talking about omniscient, you're talking about camera
> eye.
>
> --
> Jo J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk
> I kissed a kif at Kefk
> Locus Recommended First Novel: *THE KING'S PEACE* out now from Tor.
> Sample Chapters, Map, Poems, & stuff at http://www.bluejo.demon.co.uk

"Camera eye" point of view is what I was concerned with. I have several
scenes which as I reread them could best be described as "camera eye"
point of view. I gather that you feel a third person point of view is
generally better than a camera eye point of view? Third person POV
making it easier for the reader to imagine himself, "there", inside the
story?

David Starr

Vlatko Juric-Kokic

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May 8, 2001, 12:43:16 PM5/8/01
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On Tue, 08 May 2001 07:11:40 GMT, J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk (Jo Walton)
wrote:

>In article <ltndft0h6aunpian2...@news.hinet.hr>
> vlatko.ju...@zg.hinet.hr "Vlatko Juric-Kokic" writes:
>
>> I just finished Mary Renault's _Fire From Heaven_. She wrote the book
>> in the tight third, but she's *jumping* around. One moment it's
>> Alexander, another Phillip, another Hephaestion. You have to be quite
>> concentrated to follow all that. At first. Later on, you adapt, at
>> least a little.
>
>It's not tight third; it's multiple thirds.

Ah. Yes. I just scanned through and saw that she doesn't have the
inner solf of the characters.

>And POV does not jump within
>paragraphs, it doesn't head-hop, she just uses a lot of POVs, though
>some of them only briefly.

I didn't say that she's jumping within paragraphs. But when you have a
paragraph two lines long where Hephaistion is the center, and then
immediately after that a paragraph where you have Antipatros in the
central position, it *is* jarring, at least to me.

>How lovely it must be to do that.

Depends. :-)

vlatko

Lucy Kemnitzer

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May 8, 2001, 11:55:28 AM5/8/01
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Camera eye is third person. It's short for "imagine a camera
sitting on the shoulder of the person whose point of view it is."
It's describing a less intimate sort of third-person than what
we've been calling "tight third" in which you're really right
inside the head of the pov person. In camera eye, you get
emotional information by seeing what the person does. In tight
third you get emotional information by hearing what the person
thinks: and just that person.

In omniscient, the author's voice relates what everybody does and
thinks, you don't have to see things from one person's vantage.

Currently, most people write camera eye or tight third. It's I
think a cultural thing, having to do with our feelings about the
roles of individuals and consciousness and stuff. For a writer,
it's also clearer. With that many fewer choices to make at any
time, it's easier to be coherent.

But the choice between camera-eye and tight third is a choice that
has to do with just what you're doing in the story at hand. Also,
it's not a completely dichotomous choice: there's a bit of a
continuum, and in a novel you can slide some on the continuum. I
find it useful to slide in either direction at emotional crisis
points: either to pull back a little, as if the character is too
involved to know what they're thinking, or to pull in a little, as
if suddenly the character has this new access to their feelings.

But I wouldn't veer wildly and capriciously from one end of the
continuum to the other. I would know where I was, and really be
there, to the best of my ability.

Also, if I were to have multiple points of view, I would know why
I'm moving from one person to the other at the times that I do it,
and I would be willing to rewrite scenes from different points of
view until it came out right, and be willing to drop juicy bits if
the point of view is not right (I am thinking of a particular
scene I wrote I don't know how many times, changing points of view
for it each time, and losing all the best lines in the final
version because to keep them would have entailed much too quick a
shift in point of view).

Oh, and something I tried which I have enjoyed once in a while in
other people's writing, and I do not recommend: writing the whole
scene from different points of view, so the poor reader has to
experience the same events over and over. I don't know why it
worked the couple-few times I enjoyed it in other people's
writing.

Lucy Kemnitzer

David J. Starr

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May 8, 2001, 2:34:09 PM5/8/01
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Lucy Kemnitzer wrote:
>
[snip some good stuff]

> Camera eye is third person. It's short for "imagine a camera


> sitting on the shoulder of the person whose point of view it is."
> It's describing a less intimate sort of third-person than what
> we've been calling "tight third" in which you're really right
> inside the head of the pov person. In camera eye, you get
> emotional information by seeing what the person does. In tight
> third you get emotional information by hearing what the person
> thinks: and just that person.

[snip some more good stuff]


> Lucy Kemnitzer

I got the camera part, but I don't have the "sitting on the shoulder
of the person whose point of view it is" part. My conceptual camera is
more like a movie camera mounted on a tripod taking in the whole scene
from a good camera angle. It would permit me mention things a POV
character could not see, like state of his/her hair. Perhaps I should
drop the tripod and hump the camera up on my POV character's shoulder?


David Starr

Brooks Moses

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May 8, 2001, 3:50:58 PM5/8/01
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"David J. Starr" wrote:

> Lucy Kemnitzer wrote:
> > Camera eye is third person. It's short for "imagine a camera
> > sitting on the shoulder of the person whose point of view it is."
> > It's describing a less intimate sort of third-person than what
> > we've been calling "tight third" in which you're really right
> > inside the head of the pov person. In camera eye, you get
> > emotional information by seeing what the person does. In tight
> > third you get emotional information by hearing what the person
> > thinks: and just that person.
>
> I got the camera part, but I don't have the "sitting on the shoulder
> of the person whose point of view it is" part. My conceptual camera is
> more like a movie camera mounted on a tripod taking in the whole scene
> from a good camera angle. It would permit me mention things a POV
> character could not see, like state of his/her hair. Perhaps I should
> drop the tripod and hump the camera up on my POV character's shoulder?

"A good technique should never be dropped because it doesn't fit the
terminology."

Beyond that, Lucy's post is the first time that I've seen this idea of
the camera being on the shoulder of the POV character. You can of
course do it that way, and you'd get a fairly tight-third version of
camera-eye viewpoint. It's just as valid to have the camera following
along behind them to include them in the view (like some computer games
do), or to have it in a more removed viewpoint where it's not even
clearly following any one character at all.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there's a wide range of ways to do
viewpoints. The terms that are used for them are just signposts in the
middle of a continuum; there's no need at all to limit yourself to the
points where someone stuck a signpost.

- Brooks

Edward John Schoenfeld

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May 8, 2001, 3:58:25 PM5/8/01
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> From: rit...@cruzio.com (Lucy Kemnitzer)

> Oh, and something I tried which I have enjoyed once in a while in
> other people's writing, and I do not recommend: writing the whole
> scene from different points of view, so the poor reader has to
> experience the same events over and over. I don't know why it
> worked the couple-few times I enjoyed it in other people's
> writing.
>

One time I saw this done really well was in John Morrissey's books, IIRC
Under a Calculating Star, Starbrat, and Nail Down the Stars (otherwise
unexceptional but fun space opera). The same scene was told via three
different characters in the three different books. It was kind of fun
seeing how the scene differed between the characters, each of which had had
their unique viewpoints developed in the 99% of each book that wasn't that
particular scene (the scene itself was not crucial to any of the character's
stories except one, for whom it proved 'the end').

Ed

John Kensmark

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May 8, 2001, 9:46:54 PM5/8/01
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On Tue, 08 May 2001 07:11:40 GMT, J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk (Jo Walton)
wrote:

> In article <ltndft0h6aunpian2...@news.hinet.hr>


> vlatko.ju...@zg.hinet.hr "Vlatko Juric-Kokic" writes:
>
>> I just finished Mary Renault's _Fire From Heaven_. She wrote the book
>> in the tight third, but she's *jumping* around. One moment it's
>> Alexander, another Phillip, another Hephaestion. You have to be quite
>> concentrated to follow all that. At first. Later on, you adapt, at
>> least a little.
>
> It's not tight third; it's multiple thirds. And POV does not jump
> within paragraphs, it doesn't head-hop, she just uses a lot of POVs,
> though some of them only briefly.
>
> How lovely it must be to do that.

I suppose, although it's not something I particularly yearn to do.
Maybe I just don't have the right project for it.

As a reader, too many POV characters is a real annoyance. Disaster
novels do this all the time--probably because the authors need to kill
off a bunch of characters, many of whose lives are unconnected.

But what *really* annoys me, as a reader, is when an author introduces
a new POV character, sticks with them for a page or so just to try to
make the reader sympathetic, and then kills them off to show how nasty
the Bad Things are. Not only is it rarely a successful ploy, but,
like many readers I know, I resent the attempted manipulation.

If the attempt is less clumsy, I resent it less, of course. Too often
it's on par with the movie cop who's two weeks from retirement and
just about to buy that boat he and his wife want to spend their golden
years on.

--
John Kensmark kensmark#hotmail.com

Last time a Bush ran for office, the outcome was explained by a
simple slogan--"It's the economy, stupid!" This time around,
we're left with just "It's the stupid!"

Karen Lofstrom

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May 9, 2001, 1:14:22 AM5/9/01
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David J. Starr <david...@analog.com> wrote:


: "Camera eye" point of view is what I was concerned with. I have several


: scenes which as I reread them could best be described as "camera eye"
: point of view. I gather that you feel a third person point of view is
: generally better than a camera eye point of view? Third person POV
: making it easier for the reader to imagine himself, "there", inside the
: story?

IMveryHO, putting every single scene into a 3rd person POV can be a
straitjacket. A month or so ago I read an otherwise competent romance
novel where the author did *every single scene* from somebody's POV. There
must have been about fifteen characters selected for the honor, some of
them otherwise peripheral. I found it distracting.

--
Karen Lofstrom lofs...@lava.net
----------------------------------------------------------------------
If Usenet had a coat of arms, the
motto on the banner would be "SO THERE". -- Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Brooks Moses

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May 9, 2001, 1:59:35 AM5/9/01
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Karen Lofstrom wrote:
> David J. Starr <david...@analog.com> wrote:
> : "Camera eye" point of view is what I was concerned with. I have several
> : scenes which as I reread them could best be described as "camera eye"
> : point of view. I gather that you feel a third person point of view is
> : generally better than a camera eye point of view? Third person POV
> : making it easier for the reader to imagine himself, "there", inside the
> : story?
>
> IMveryHO, putting every single scene into a 3rd person POV can be a
> straitjacket. A month or so ago I read an otherwise competent romance
> novel where the author did *every single scene* from somebody's POV. There
> must have been about fifteen characters selected for the honor, some of
> them otherwise peripheral. I found it distracting.

Wait, wait, wait. I think there's a terminology glitch going on here.

To me, the term "third person" just means that the bit is written
without the narrator (the "person" that would be referred to as "I") or
the listener ("you") being someone in the story. That is, there's
nobody in the story saying "and then I activated the warp drive" or
suchlike; all of that would be "and then she activated the warp drives."
[1]

Thus, omniscent viewpoints, camera-eye viewpoints, etc., and so forth
are all subspecies of "third-person". _Anything_ that's not
first-person or the occasional second-person (which works best in
"choose-your-own-adventure" stories) is third-person. Practically all
fiction is third-person in "every single scene".

What you two seem to be talking about is what I'd call "tight
third-person" point of view, where the point of view is very close to
that of one of the characters -- to the point that it's essentially
first-person except not being written as "I did this" and not using the
character's speech patterns and such. It's a very specific case of
third-person viewpoints.

I point this out because I _think_ that my usage of the terms is the way
they're commonly used, and not my own personal idiom -- and thus your
usage is likely to result in bafflement and misunderstandings in many
circles, beyond just mildly confusing me.

- Brooks

[1] On the technicality of the narrator making editorial comments; this
would still be a third-person viewpoint, I think, even if the narrator
says "I think". The narrator still isn't in the story.

Ide Cyan

unread,
May 9, 2001, 2:03:40 AM5/9/01
to
Brooks Moses wrote:
> Wait, wait, wait. I think there's a terminology glitch going on here.
>
> To me, the term "third person" just means that the bit is written
> without the narrator (the "person" that would be referred to as "I") or
> the listener ("you") being someone in the story. That is, there's
> nobody in the story saying "and then I activated the warp drive" or
> suchlike; all of that would be "and then she activated the warp drives."
> [1]
<snip>

> [1] On the technicality of the narrator making editorial comments; this
> would still be a third-person viewpoint, I think, even if the narrator
> says "I think". The narrator still isn't in the story.

(Intra-)diegetic vs. extra-diegetic narrators, to use fancy terminology.

Julian Flood

unread,
May 10, 2001, 12:31:22 AM5/10/01
to
Ide Cyan wrote:
> (Intra-)diegetic vs. extra-diegetic narrators, to use fancy terminology.

Don't hurry me, I'm from Suffolk. Please expand.

--
Julian Flood
Life, the Universe and Climbing Plants at www.argonet.co.uk/users/julesf.

Jo Walton

unread,
May 10, 2001, 6:50:09 AM5/10/01
to
In article <3AF7FF0B...@analog.com>

david...@analog.com "David J. Starr" writes:

> "Camera eye" point of view is what I was concerned with. I have several
> scenes which as I reread them could best be described as "camera eye"
> point of view. I gather that you feel a third person point of view is
> generally better than a camera eye point of view? Third person POV
> making it easier for the reader to imagine himself, "there", inside the
> story?

It's not a case of "better", it's a case of what the story requires.

Only you can say what your story requires.

My personal preference as a reader is for something involved rather than
detached. As a writer I find first person seductively easy, but what I'm
presently writing is in third -- four tight third POVs. It's surprising
how different the four POVs are in terms of distance though. Essentially,
two of them are very close and very easy to write, and the other two are
more detached from themselves and much harder. I don't know why this is.

David J. Starr

unread,
May 10, 2001, 11:20:14 AM5/10/01
to

Jo Walton wrote:
>
[some snippage]


>
> My personal preference as a reader is for something involved rather than
> detached. As a writer I find first person seductively easy, but what I'm
> presently writing is in third -- four tight third POVs. It's surprising
> how different the four POVs are in terms of distance though. Essentially,
> two of them are very close and very easy to write, and the other two are
> more detached from themselves and much harder. I don't know why this is.
>
> --
> Jo J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk
> I kissed a kif at Kefk
> Locus Recommended First Novel: *THE KING'S PEACE* out now from Tor.
> Sample Chapters, Map, Poems, & stuff at http://www.bluejo.demon.co.uk

Thanks for most useful feedback. The story, can be done either way,
and I'm finding the "camera eye" scenes read as well or better (at least
to me) rewritten into a "tight 3rd person" POV while taking care to keep
the POV character constant.
Interesting that you should mention first person. It is easy, and I
might have used it except for all the "how to write" books I've read
recommend 3rd person. As a younger reader, I did like Burrough's
"Princess of Mars" and Mary Renault's "The King must Die" both in first
person.

David Starr

Jo Walton

unread,
May 10, 2001, 1:40:16 PM5/10/01
to
In article <3AFAB1AE...@analog.com>

david...@analog.com "David J. Starr" writes:

(Please snip sigs BTW.)

> Thanks for most useful feedback. The story, can be done either way,
> and I'm finding the "camera eye" scenes read as well or better (at least
> to me) rewritten into a "tight 3rd person" POV while taking care to keep
> the POV character constant.

I think mixing tight third and camera eye is generally a mistake.

> Interesting that you should mention first person. It is easy, and I
> might have used it except for all the "how to write" books I've read
> recommend 3rd person. As a younger reader, I did like Burrough's
> "Princess of Mars" and Mary Renault's "The King must Die" both in first
> person.

"How to write" books contain a lot of twaddle. A plague on them.

Anything that says "must" or "must not" with actual writing is generally
nonsense, or something generalised away from the context in which it was
originally making sense.

First person is very good for some things and very bad for others, it's
a tool which can be used well or badly.

I really do think that there is a tremendous amount to be learned from
the exercise of writing the same scene from different POVs and in first,
third and omni. Le Guin's _Steering the Craft_ has some very good examples
of this, incidentally, and may be useful for you in other ways.

Lucy Kemnitzer

unread,
May 10, 2001, 2:31:50 PM5/10/01
to
On Thu, 10 May 2001 11:20:14 -0400, "David J. Starr"
<david...@analog.com> wrote:

>
>
>Jo Walton wrote:
>>
>[some snippage]
>>
>> My personal preference as a reader is for something involved rather than
>> detached. As a writer I find first person seductively easy, but what I'm
>> presently writing is in third -- four tight third POVs. It's surprising
>> how different the four POVs are in terms of distance though. Essentially,
>> two of them are very close and very easy to write, and the other two are
>> more detached from themselves and much harder. I don't know why this is.
>>
>> --
>

>Thanks for most useful feedback. The story, can be done either way,
>and I'm finding the "camera eye" scenes read as well or better (at least
>to me) rewritten into a "tight 3rd person" POV while taking care to keep
>the POV character constant.
> Interesting that you should mention first person. It is easy, and I
>might have used it except for all the "how to write" books I've read
>recommend 3rd person. As a younger reader, I did like Burrough's
>"Princess of Mars" and Mary Renault's "The King must Die" both in first
>person.


The how to write books recommend 3rd person because it's easier to
be consistent in it. Ist person is narrower than even the tightest
3rd, and doesn't allow _any_ observations beyond the pov
character's. So you have to be really clever in figuring out how
to tell the reader things that the pov character doesn't think
about.

But if a given story wants to be 1st, write it in 1st.

Lucy Kemnitzer

Jo Walton

unread,
May 10, 2001, 4:21:31 PM5/10/01
to
In article <3afade13...@cnews.newsguy.com>
rit...@cruzio.com "Lucy Kemnitzer" writes:

> The how to write books recommend 3rd person because it's easier to
> be consistent in it. Ist person is narrower than even the tightest
> 3rd, and doesn't allow _any_ observations beyond the pov
> character's. So you have to be really clever in figuring out how
> to tell the reader things that the pov character doesn't think
> about.

Yes. But OTOH you can out and out _tell_ the reader things that the
POV character does know and would want to explain, you don't have to
wait for it to cross their minds, you can have them say "Of course,
this was before the war of the Austrian Succession" right flat out
like that.

There are advantages and disadvantages either way.



> But if a given story wants to be 1st, write it in 1st.

Always. This isn't something I get to decide. It decides.

Graham Woodland

unread,
May 10, 2001, 5:53:28 PM5/10/01
to
Lucy Kemnitzer wrote

>On Thu, 10 May 2001 11:20:14 -0400, "David J. Starr"
><david...@analog.com> wrote:

<snippage>


>> Interesting that you should mention first person. It is easy, and I
>>might have used it except for all the "how to write" books I've read
>>recommend 3rd person. As a younger reader, I did like Burrough's
>>"Princess of Mars" and Mary Renault's "The King must Die" both in first
>>person.
>
>
>The how to write books recommend 3rd person because it's easier to
>be consistent in it. Ist person is narrower than even the tightest
>3rd, and doesn't allow _any_ observations beyond the pov
>character's. So you have to be really clever in figuring out how
>to tell the reader things that the pov character doesn't think
>about.

I actually find 1st more flexible than truly tight 3rd in this way,
since there is then a presumption that the viewpoint character is
telling this all later, thus allowing for things that are found out
later to be conveniently mentioned in a relatively natural way. It's
also good for foreshadowing, for the same reason.

I also tend to have a couple of significant breaks from 1st in longer
stories - either in the form of yarns told to/ documents found by the
viewpoint character, or in the form of scenes which are frankly
confected by a narrator who was not actually present. Such scenes can
represent good-faith reconstructions, conscious dramatisations, satire,
self-serving propaganda, or whatever else suits the character and
context. They can also show rather a lot about the (fictional)
teller...

Tight 3rd, on the other hand, I find one has to play with a pretty
straight bat.

>
>But if a given story wants to be 1st, write it in 1st.
>

Hear, hear!

>Lucy Kemnitzer


Cheers,

--
Gray

http://www.quilpole.demon.co.uk

"She does not get eaten by the sharks at this time."
- William Goldman, _The Princess Bride_.

r...@rosemarylake.com

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May 11, 2001, 4:23:45 AM5/11/01
to
On Tue, 08 May 2001 12:17:01 GMT, J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk (Jo
Walton) wrote:

>In article <3af7453...@news.sonic.net> r...@rosemarylake.com writes:
>
>> On Mon, 07 May 2001 01:03:56 -0400, "David J. Starr"
>> <david...@analog.com> wrote:
>>
>> > My current WIP, done in third person, has a number of characters and
>> >the point of view shifts around from character to character. For
>> >instance when a character isn't present in a scene, I adopt the point
>> >of view of one of the characters who is in that scene.
>> > In the clean up phase I have found and redone some undesired POV
>> >shifts, those one or two lines where I slipped out of one character's
>> >head into another character's head and back again. However, some scenes
>> >with most of the characters present seem to lack a definate POV
>> >character. Dialogue from all characters moves the story along and no
>> >one character dominates the dialogue.
>>
>> It seems to me as a reader that this is a distinct type of
>> scene, which deserves its own (onmiscient or camera) POV.
>
>I find this very hard to picture.
>
>Can you give me an example of this working, either by pointing me at
>something published or by demonstration?

Most of my reading is classics or children's books.

There may have been some in Eddison's /A Fish Dinner in
Memison/ series. Maybe the scenes in England between
Lessingham and his wife, when they first met? Or the cricket
match?

Bits of Lewis' /That Hideous Strength/ are done in what I
suppose is omnipotent, dipping into different characters in
each sentence or paragraph, depending on who is feeling or
perceiving or thinking someting noteworthy. See Chapter 13,
pp 278-281.

So are bits of Williams' /The Greater Trumps/. Chapter 11
has a group dialog scene (reads rather like a play).
Camera/light-omnipoent: pp 147-149, then a long paragraph
summing each person's feelings and baldly telling us who did
not know what. See also 155-158.

I dont' have a copy now, but I wonder if Lieber's /The Big
Time/ might be similar. It has always reminded me of a play.

Hm. Novelizations of screenplays might be a good place to
look for this. Star Wars novels may have might have
some....


Anyway, here is the sort of thing I was thinking of, for
childrens books:

My demo: {{ While Susan roasted the fish over the campfire,
John bailed out the boat and Roger and Titty gathered wood
under the giant oak. }}

I just opened Arthur Ransome's /Secret Water/ at random.
Chap XII ends with the party of children deciding to return
to camp for supplies. Chap XIII begins "There was a hurried
rush to the camp and back...." It continues in camera for
about a page: dialog, decisions, action. Then:
{{ "Karabadang baraka!" shouted the Mastodon joyfully.
"Akarabgnadabarak," shouted seven explorers from teh top
of the dyke, as they watched teh Mastodon ... run across the
... mud .... They watched him struggle up the bank on the
further side ... and race off over the marshes. }}
Then almost 2 pages of dialog, decision, no particular POV.
Then:
{{ "John and Titty were very much relieved. They had been
rather bothered by ..... They had been a little afraid
afriad that ...." This recap/reaction takes about half a
page.
Then a page of camera. Then:
{{ John and Nancy comparfed the ... maps they had made....
Daddy's map began ot look more and more like a real map
instead of like a lot of lilnes.... ]]
Paragraph of camera. Then:
{{ It was a very cheerful dinner, though John was in rather
a hurry to get it over.... }}
Page of camera, then end of chapter.

There's a long camera scene with group discussion, decision,
action in Lewis' /Prince Caspian/ Chapter VIII. It goes 3
pages before it gets to this hint of subjectivity:(which
still applies to the whole group): {{ ...they all ... went
down the steps again into the dark coldness and dusky
splendor of the treasure house.... }}
A long paragraph of description, then: {{ Trumpkin had never
seen, much less carried, so much wealth in all his life. }}
A few sentences later as the group is coming up the stairs,
the PV is unclear for a moment: {{ As they came back up the
stairway, jingling in their mail, and already looking and
feeling more like Narnians and less like school-children,
the two boys were behind, apparently making soem plan. Lucy
heard Edmund say, "No...." }} Everyone is wearing mail, so
presumablly they are all feeling more like Narnians.
Page of camera, then:an exebition sword fight that dips a
bit deeper into varius people's reactions.
Page of camera, discussion, decision, then:
{{ They tossed up for the first shot (greatly to the
intgerest of [the dwarf], who had never seen a coin tossed
before)..... Everyone could see from the way the dwarf
took its position and handled the bow that it knew what it
was about. .... Then Susan went to the top of the steps and
strung her bow. She was not enjoying her match half so much
as Edmund had enjoyed his .. because Susan was so
tender-heareted that she almost hated to beat someome... }}
Page of camera, discusison, decision, action. Then:
{{ But however [the dwarf] tuirned his head ... he coultn't
quite see his own shoulder. Then he felt it as well as he
could ... }}
2 pages discussion, decision, then {{ (And after that they
often called him the DLF, till they'd almost fortoggen what
it meant. }}
1 page camera discussion, decision, action, then {{ The
children were sorry to leave Cair Paravel which, even in
ruins, ahd begun to feel like home again. }}
1 page camera travel, then: {{ It was delightful for Llucy
and Susan in the [boat].... }} Then more talk, then:
{{ They passed the isalnd now and stood closer i to teh
shore -- all wooded and deserted. Theou would have thought
it very pretty, if they had nto remembered the time when it
was open and breezy and full of merry friends. ... ...said
Peter shortly, not because he was cross but because he had
no strength to spare for talking. ]] That is teh end of the
chapter,
This summary covers pages 96-108.


>Everything I have seen that does that, which has all been beginning
>writer stuff, has been incredibly clumsy. This isn't to say it can't
>be done, just that it isn't often done well.

I didn't say it was easy, just that it had advantages for
the reader.


><snip expansion of description of this>
>
>> Omni lets the reader choose who to identify with, or whether
>> to just stand way back and watch the group dynamics (which
>> perhaps none of the characters are watching). She can stay
>> with her favorite character, or focus on whatever in the
>> scene interests her most. If she is interested in the elven
>> music around the campfire, she doesn't have to attend to the
>> sweat of the cook.
>
>You're not talking about omniscient, you're talking about camera
>eye.

You're probably right. Unless the dips into different
people's feelings are very short and well-distributed among
the characters.


Rosemary

Zeborah

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May 11, 2001, 10:25:51 AM5/11/01
to
Graham Woodland <gr...@quilpole.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> Lucy Kemnitzer wrote


> >The how to write books recommend 3rd person because it's easier to
> >be consistent in it. Ist person is narrower than even the tightest
> >3rd, and doesn't allow _any_ observations beyond the pov
> >character's. So you have to be really clever in figuring out how
> >to tell the reader things that the pov character doesn't think
> >about.
>
> I actually find 1st more flexible than truly tight 3rd in this way,
> since there is then a presumption that the viewpoint character is
> telling this all later, thus allowing for things that are found out
> later to be conveniently mentioned in a relatively natural way. It's
> also good for foreshadowing, for the same reason.

My 1st person project (the Darn Book[1]), is written in 1st person
*present*, which means I don't have any presumption that she's telling
it later; in fact if she ever told it later it'd be in quite a different
form than this.

But putting it into 1st person made me focus on her thoughts and
feelings, which I desperately needed to do. In all the previous
versions she kept coming off as a close-mouthed robot, which frustrated
all my crit group. This works much better, and has given me practice in
the description/interdialogue thoughts/etc that'll be vital for any 3rd
person I do in the future.

Zeborah
[1] Yesterday I chopped out 4K words from the first bunch of chapters,
and it's *so* much tighter now. I'm proud. Now back to writing *new*
stuff.

Neile Graham

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May 11, 2001, 12:23:12 PM5/11/01
to
In article <989526...@bluejo.demon.co.uk>,

Jo Walton <J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <3afade13...@cnews.newsguy.com>
> rit...@cruzio.com "Lucy Kemnitzer" writes:
>
>> But if a given story wants to be 1st, write it in 1st.
>
>Always. This isn't something I get to decide. It decides.

And then if you're like me, you waste a lot of time trying to second-guess
it.

You'd think since I'd already written two-thirds of a novel in first
person and it had flowed quite naturally that way and the story hadn't
tried to jerk itself out of that mode in any way I wouldn't decide then to
mess with it. But I did and wasted several months mucking about with it.

Luckily, I hadn't deleted my previous version.

Sigh.

--Neile
--
......................................................................
............................ Neile Graham ............................
br...@serv.net / ne...@sff.net.........http://www.sff.net/people/neile
The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music .... http://www.smoe.org/ectoguide

Randy Money

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May 11, 2001, 3:10:34 PM5/11/01
to
"David J. Starr" wrote:
>
> [...] However, some scenes

> with most of the characters present seem to lack a definate POV
> character. Dialogue from all characters moves the story along and no
> one character dominates the dialogue. These scenes lack the "he
> thought, she thought" sort of inside information that only the POV
> character can share with the reader.

Hi, David.

I don't see this as a problem as long as your dialog is strong enough to
carry the reader along, and get across the emotions and personality of
the speaker. There are writers whose stories are almost exclusively
writen in dialog. I've heard George V. Higgins was a master of that
approach.

Randy Money

Beth Bernobich

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May 11, 2001, 11:16:36 PM5/11/01
to
Neile Graham wrote:
>
> And then if you're like me, you waste a lot of time trying to second-guess
> it.
>
> You'd think since I'd already written two-thirds of a novel in first
> person and it had flowed quite naturally that way and the story hadn't
> tried to jerk itself out of that mode in any way I wouldn't decide then to
> mess with it. But I did and wasted several months mucking about with it.
>
> Luckily, I hadn't deleted my previous version.

Ow! That would have been painful if you hadn't saved a version. Still,
all that work...

I had started a novella in tight 3rd, but within 20K I realized
something wasn't flowing right. Now I'm rewriting it into omniscient.
(And expanding it into a novel.) The change feels right, but even so,
I've kept the previous version around.

B.
--
newsgroup sff.people.beth-bernobich
http://www.sff.net/people/beth-bernobich

r...@rosemarylake.com

unread,
May 12, 2001, 2:55:18 AM5/12/01
to
On Tue, 08 May 2001 14:34:09 -0400, "David J. Starr"
<david...@analog.com> wrote:

>
>
>Lucy Kemnitzer wrote:
>>
>[snip some good stuff]
>
>> Camera eye is third person. It's short for "imagine a camera
>> sitting on the shoulder of the person whose point of view it is."
>> It's describing a less intimate sort of third-person than what
>> we've been calling "tight third" in which you're really right
>> inside the head of the pov person. In camera eye, you get
>> emotional information by seeing what the person does. In tight
>> third you get emotional information by hearing what the person
>> thinks: and just that person.
>

/snip/


>
> I got the camera part, but I don't have the "sitting on the shoulder
>of the person whose point of view it is" part. My conceptual camera is
>more like a movie camera mounted on a tripod taking in the whole scene
>from a good camera angle. It would permit me mention things a POV
>character could not see, like state of his/her hair.

I supposed it meant like a ceiling camera that looked down
on the whole group at once. It would tell everyone's actions
and expressions, but could not read anyone's mind or
feelings. Each member who is doing anything gets equal
attention, kind of like in melee.

I thought 'omniscient' was when the author did dip into more
than one person's thoughts/feelings in the same scene.

I used 'camera' and 'omni' like this in some examples I
posted last night. I like to read scenes like these because
I can focus on whatever elements I choose.


> Perhaps I should
>drop the tripod and hump the camera up on my POV character's shoulder?

Only if you really want to. You'd have to cut anything the
character could not see or hear.

It would be simpler to make a new term. :-) Well, I guess
you have -- 'tripod'. I suppose it rolls around.


Rosemary

Beth Bernobich

unread,
May 12, 2001, 8:10:50 AM5/12/01
to
r...@rosemarylake.com wrote:
>
> I thought 'omniscient' was when the author did dip into more
> than one person's thoughts/feelings in the same scene.

Yes, that's one feature, but omni means more -- that there's an external
narrator which (who?) can comment on things that might be unknown to any
of the characters in the scene. That's the key difference, IIRC. Also,
you can also handle the "group POV."

Beth

r...@rosemarylake.com

unread,
May 12, 2001, 4:23:01 PM5/12/01
to
On Sat, 12 May 2001 08:10:50 -0400, Beth Bernobich
<beth-be...@snet.net> wrote:

>r...@rosemarylake.com wrote:
>>
>> I thought 'omniscient' was when the author did dip into more
>> than one person's thoughts/feelings in the same scene.
>
>Yes, that's one feature, but omni means more -- that there's an external
>narrator which (who?) can comment on things that might be unknown to any
>of the characters in the scene. That's the key difference, IIRC.

What about the sort of thing in my examples from Ransome?
They're at <3b00841a...@news.sonic.net>


>Also, you can also handle the "group POV."

You mean, in omniscient? That might describe what Ransome
does.

Has anyone done a sort of outline listing of all these types
and sub-types of POV?


Rosemary

Beth Bernobich

unread,
May 12, 2001, 5:01:40 PM5/12/01
to
r...@rosemarylake.com wrote:
>
> ><snip> omni means more -- that there's an external

> >narrator which (who?) can comment on things that might be unknown to any
> >of the characters in the scene. That's the key difference, IIRC.
>
> What about the sort of thing in my examples from Ransome?
> They're at <3b00841a...@news.sonic.net>

Sorry, I can't locate the examples from that reference. Is it in the
lineage of messages here? If so, I'll search through them.

> >Also, you can also handle the "group POV."
>
> You mean, in omniscient? That might describe what Ransome
> does.

Yes, that's what I meant. A summary of how a particular group of
characters feels or thinks.

r...@rosemarylake.com

unread,
May 12, 2001, 8:52:52 PM5/12/01
to
On Sat, 12 May 2001 17:01:40 -0400, Beth Bernobich
<beth-be...@snet.net> wrote:

>r...@rosemarylake.com wrote:
>>
>> ><snip> omni means more -- that there's an external
>> >narrator which (who?) can comment on things that might be unknown to any
>> >of the characters in the scene. That's the key difference, IIRC.
>>
>> What about the sort of thing in my examples from Ransome?
>> They're at <3b00841a...@news.sonic.net>
>
>Sorry, I can't locate the examples from that reference. Is it in the
>lineage of messages here? If so, I'll search through them.

Never mind, I'll paste them at the bottom of this post.


>> >Also, you can also handle the "group POV."
>>
>> You mean, in omniscient? That might describe what Ransome
>> does.
>
>Yes, that's what I meant. A summary of how a particular group of
>characters feels or thinks.


Here are the examples. When I said 'camera' or 'camera-eye',
I meant the camera looking down on the whole group sort of
equally, reporting only their actions and expressions. I
have changed that to 'ceiling-camera'. I typed in the
exceptions: bits that seemed to dip down into varioius
characters.


From Arthur Ransome's /Secret Water/:


Chap XII ends with the party of children deciding to return
to camp for supplies. Chap XIII begins "There was a hurried
rush to the camp and back...." It continues in

ceiling-camera for about a page: dialog, decisions, action.


Then:
{{ "Karabadang baraka!" shouted the Mastodon joyfully.
"Akarabgnadabarak," shouted seven explorers from teh top
of the dyke, as they watched teh Mastodon ... run across the
... mud .... They watched him struggle up the bank on the
further side ... and race off over the marshes. }}
Then almost 2 pages of dialog, decision, no particular POV.
Then:
{{ "John and Titty were very much relieved. They had been
rather bothered by ..... They had been a little afraid
afriad that ...." This recap/reaction takes about half a
page.

Then a page of ceiling-camera. Then:


{{ John and Nancy comparfed the ... maps they had made....
Daddy's map began ot look more and more like a real map
instead of like a lot of lilnes.... ]]

Paragraph of ceiling-camera. Then:

{{ It was a very cheerful dinner, though John was in rather
a hurry to get it over.... }}

Page of ceiling-camera, then end of chapter.

There's a long ceiling-camera scene with group discussion,


decision, action in Lewis' /Prince Caspian/ Chapter VIII.
It goes 3 pages before it gets to this hint of
subjectivity:(which still applies to the whole group): {{
...they all ... went down the steps again into the dark
coldness and dusky splendor of the treasure house.... }}
A long paragraph of description, then: {{ Trumpkin had never
seen, much less carried, so much wealth in all his life. }}
A few sentences later as the group is coming up the stairs,
the PV is unclear for a moment: {{ As they came back up the
stairway, jingling in their mail, and already looking and
feeling more like Narnians and less like school-children,
the two boys were behind, apparently making soem plan. Lucy
heard Edmund say, "No...." }} Everyone is wearing mail, so
presumablly they are all feeling more like Narnians.

Page of ceiling-camera, then:an exebition sword fight that


dips a bit deeper into varius people's reactions.

Page of ceiling-camera, discussion, decision, then:


{{ They tossed up for the first shot (greatly to the
intgerest of [the dwarf], who had never seen a coin tossed
before)..... Everyone could see from the way the dwarf
took its position and handled the bow that it knew what it
was about. .... Then Susan went to the top of the steps and
strung her bow. She was not enjoying her match half so much
as Edmund had enjoyed his .. because Susan was so
tender-heareted that she almost hated to beat someome... }}

Page of ceiling-camera, discusison, decision, action. Then:

{{ But however [the dwarf] tuirned his head ... he coultn't
quite see his own shoulder. Then he felt it as well as he
could ... }}
2 pages discussion, decision, then {{ (And after that they
often called him the DLF, till they'd almost fortoggen what
it meant. }}

1 page ceiling-camera discussion, decision, action, then

{{ The children were sorry to leave Cair Paravel which, even
in ruins, ahd begun to feel like home again. }}

1 page ceiling-camera travel, then: {{ It was delightful for


Llucy and Susan in the [boat].... }} Then more talk, then:

{{ They passed the isalnd now and stood closer in to teh
shore -- all wooded and deserted. They would have thought it
very pretty, if they had not remembered the time when it was


open and breezy and full of merry friends. ... ...said Peter
shortly, not because he was cross but because he had no
strength to spare for talking. ]] That is teh end of the
chapter,
This summary covers pages 96-108.

I had written:


>> Omni lets the reader choose who to identify with, or whether
>> to just stand way back and watch the group dynamics (which
>> perhaps none of the characters are watching). She can stay
>> with her favorite character, or focus on whatever in the
>> scene interests her most. If she is interested in the elven
>> music around the campfire, she doesn't have to attend to the
>> sweat of the cook.
>

Jo replied:


>You're not talking about omniscient, you're talking about camera
>eye.


Some scenes in Lewis' /That Hideous Strength/ dip into


different characters in each sentence or paragraph,
depending on who is feeling or perceiving or thinking
someting noteworthy. See Chapter 13, pp 278-281.

Williams' /The Greater Trumps/ Chapter 11 has a group


dialog scene (reads rather like a play).

Ceiling-camera/light-omnipoent: pp 147-149, then a long
paragraph summing each person's feelings and Williams baldly


telling us who did not know what. See also 155-158.


Rosemary

michael paine

unread,
May 13, 2001, 6:43:21 AM5/13/01
to

"Randy Money" <rbm...@library.syr.edu> wrote in message
news:3AFC392A...@library.syr.edu...

There's a wonderful novel by William Gaddis that is almost nothing but
dialogue - and the vast majority of it is unattributed. I'd recommend it for
anyone interested in honing their dialogue skills - particularly for
balancing character revelation with plot development in an entirely
naturalistic style. Conversely it's very interesting to observe how the few
descriptive passages work with great economy and effect. A very fine comfort
book for those 2 am moments when the old Internal Editor is ripping one's
own dialogue apart.

Nearly forgot - it's called JR.


Beth Bernobich

unread,
May 14, 2001, 7:35:17 AM5/14/01
to
r...@rosemarylake.com wrote:
>
> Here are the examples. When I said 'camera' or 'camera-eye',
> I meant the camera looking down on the whole group sort of
> equally, reporting only their actions and expressions. I
> have changed that to 'ceiling-camera'. I typed in the
> exceptions: bits that seemed to dip down into varioius
> characters.

Sorry for the delay. The local ISP has been wonky the past few days.

I will say that it's hard to judge POV from very short snippets and
summary sentences, but I've just read Prince Caspian, so I'll give it a
try.

Camera POV, from what I've read, is purely external. No dipping into
POVs, except the barest slip into the thoughts of the protagonist. The
private eye novels of the thirties and forties used this frequently. The
angle of the camera was from the protagonist -- we see what he saw --
but we don't know anyone's thoughts but his, and those only on the
surface.

What you're calling the ceiling camera does show the scene with a
broader view, and I can see some of that in the Ransome snippet (hard to
tell with just short snips), but since I've just read the Narnia books,
I can say that they are clearly omni POV. They do slide from one POV to
another, and they do show the group as a whole. But they also have a
clearly defined external narrator, who is like another character but
outside the story. The narrator has a voice, and it can make
observations about Aslan that no one else knows, frex. Or it can talk
about how Peter and Susan will feel before they feel it themselves.

The slippery thing about omni is that it can slide into third person at
times, sometimes deep into one character's POV, and then glide up high
for the overall view. I'm experimenting with omni for the first time
with the latest WIP, and finding that it's all too easy to let the story
get unmoored. Too much camera view, without the external narrator's
voice, and the story moves too far away from the reader.

Hmmmm. I'm repeating myself, alas, so I shall stop here.

B.

Sherwood Smith

unread,
May 14, 2001, 11:01:18 AM5/14/01
to
On Mon, 14 May 2001 07:35:17 -0400, Beth Bernobich
>
>Camera POV, from what I've read, is purely external. No dipping into
>POVs, except the barest slip into the thoughts of the protagonist. The
>private eye novels of the thirties and forties used this frequently. The
>angle of the camera was from the protagonist -- we see what he saw --
>but we don't know anyone's thoughts but his, and those only on the
>surface.
>


Beth's right about camera POV.

For a really clear example, here's the opening of chapter two of
Dashiel Hammett's THE MALTESE FALCON--one of the works that made
camera eye POV popular:


A telephone-bell rang in darkness. When it had rung three times bed
springs creaked, fingers fumbled on wood, something small and hard
thudded on a carpeted floor, the springs creaked again, and a man's
voice said:

"Hello...Yes, speaking...Dead?...Yes...Fifteen minutes. Thanks."

A switch clicked and a white bowl hung on three gilded chains from the
ceiling's center filled the room with light. Spade, barefoot in green
and white checked pajamas, sat on the side of his bed. He scowled at
the telephone on the table while his hands took from beside it a
packet of brown papers and a sack of Bull Durham tobacco.

End quote:

note, we see and hear everything as it would be revealed in a movie,
but we do not see inside the character's head.

Patricia C. Wrede

unread,
May 14, 2001, 2:24:21 PM5/14/01
to
In article <3AFFC2F5...@snet.net>, Beth Bernobich
<beth-be...@snet.net> writes:

>The slippery thing about omni is that it can slide into third person at
>times, sometimes deep into one character's POV, and then glide up high
>for the overall view. I'm experimenting with omni for the first time
>with the latest WIP, and finding that it's all too easy to let the story
>get unmoored. Too much camera view, without the external narrator's
>voice, and the story moves too far away from the reader.

Omniscient *IS* third-person -- at least, I've never seen any other kind of
omniscient. I suppose it would be *possible* to do a first-person-omniscient,
but it would be rather tricky, to say the least.

I'm kind of responding to the whole thread (or at least, to as much of it as
I've managed to skim) off of this one message, because I'm coming in late.

In my brief look-back over this thread, it seems to me that at least some folks
have been confusing point of view (as in, which character's point of view is
the story seen from) with point of view (as in is this first, second, or
third-person point of view). For instance, the "viewpoint examples" in the
Painted Rock article that somebody gave the URL for earlier -- all three
examples in the article are first-person viewpoint. They are quite good
examples of different *characters'* viewpoints, but they aren't examples of
different *types* of viewpoints.

I've got a long post on point of view, which I can repost if people are
interested; this thread seems to be dying down, so it may not be worth it.

The real problems you all seem to be struggling with are the facts that a) the
terminology for point-of-view types isn't entirely consistent once you get past
first-second-third, and this confuses everyone, b) there aren't many good,
clear, easily comprehensible definitions for the parts that *are* standardized,
and c) "point of view" can mean two completely different things (see above).

Patricia C. Wrede

Mary K. Kuhner

unread,
May 14, 2001, 2:40:55 PM5/14/01
to
In article <20010514142421...@nso-ma.aol.com>,

Patricia C. Wrede <pwred...@aol.com> wrote:

>Omniscient *IS* third-person -- at least, I've never seen any other kind of
>omniscient. I suppose it would be *possible* to do a first-person-omniscient,
>but it would be rather tricky, to say the least.

In the text adventure game "Being Andrew Plotkin", which is in second
person throughout (standard for its genre) the player has been Peter and
Valerie alternately. Then, late in the game, there is a scene where the
player is Peter-and-Valerie simultaneously. It's still "you" but clearly
plural.

I suggest that this is second person omniscient, or at least partly
omniscient. I think it's the only one I've ever seen.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@eskimo.com

Patricia C. Wrede

unread,
May 14, 2001, 6:07:13 PM5/14/01
to
In article <9dp8rn$qqq$1...@nntp3.u.washington.edu>,

>I suggest that this is second person omniscient, or at least partly
>omniscient. I think it's the only one I've ever seen.

Good grief, what *will* people think of next.

Patricia C. Wrede

Beth Bernobich

unread,
May 14, 2001, 6:49:48 PM5/14/01
to
"Patricia C. Wrede" wrote:
>
> In article <3AFFC2F5...@snet.net>, Beth Bernobich
> <beth-be...@snet.net> writes:
>
> >The slippery thing about omni is that it can slide into third person at
> >times, sometimes deep into one character's POV, and then glide up high
> >for the overall view. I'm experimenting with omni for the first time
> >with the latest WIP, and finding that it's all too easy to let the story
> >get unmoored. Too much camera view, without the external narrator's
> >voice, and the story moves too far away from the reader.
>
> Omniscient *IS* third-person -- at least, I've never seen any other kind of
> omniscient. I suppose it would be *possible* to do a first-person-omniscient,
> but it would be rather tricky, to say the least.

My bad. I was using shorthand terms and that led to apparent muddling
between the two meanings of point of view. I didn't mean to suggest that
omniscient was anything other than from third POV, but it is different
from the plain vanilla third, where we see only from character
viewpoints, never from the group as a whole and never an external
narrator.

Beth

Patricia C. Wrede

unread,
May 14, 2001, 8:22:17 PM5/14/01
to
In article <3B00610C...@snet.net>, Beth Bernobich
<beth-be...@snet.net> writes:

> didn't mean to suggest that
>omniscient was anything other than from third POV, but it is different
>from the plain vanilla third, where we see only from character
>viewpoints, never from the group as a whole and never an external
>narrator.

You mean the viewpoint that is variously referred to as subjective third
person, tight third person, third person intimate, limited third person,
close-up third person, and a couple of other things I can't recall at the
moment. It happens currently to be a more commonly used viewpoint type than
omniscient or camera-eye, but I wouldn't refer to it as "plain vanilla."

Because the trouble with referring to tight-third as simply "third person" or
"normal third person" or things like that is that among beginning writers (and
even some who are thoroughly experienced!), there is already a huge amount of
confusion about third-person viewpoints. Talking about "third person
viewpoint" as if it means *only* tight/limited/intimate/close-up/etc.
third-person, or about one variety of third person as if it were somehow the
norm or standard, just adds to the confusion. Because you don't get other
varieties of third-person by adding things to one "basic" or "plain"
rock-bottom type of third person; you get them by changing things. Camera-eye,
tight-third, and omniscient are all sub-varieties of third-person -- and if any
of them is the rock-bottom, all-inclusive one, it's omniscient (but that's a
different rant). I was pretty sure, reading your message, that *you* knew all
this, but on the Internet you never know who's listening...

Patricia C. Wrede

Beth Bernobich

unread,
May 14, 2001, 8:42:58 PM5/14/01
to
"Patricia C. Wrede" wrote:
>
> You mean the viewpoint that is variously referred to as subjective third
> person, tight third person, third person intimate, limited third person,
> close-up third person, and a couple of other things I can't recall at the
> moment. It happens currently to be a more commonly used viewpoint type than
> omniscient or camera-eye, but I wouldn't refer to it as "plain vanilla."

Again, you're absolutely right. Very bad choice of phrasing. I can only
plead a hurried posting with family members calling for my attention.
That and I've been staring so close at omni (current experiment with my
WIP) that it's beginning to look different and alien from all the other
third person POVs, the way some words start to look bizarre when mulled
over for too long. It's not.

> I was pretty sure, reading your message, that *you* knew all
> this, but on the Internet you never know who's listening...

I think I do. I meant to add some of these qualifiers, but rashly went
for the post button instead of saving for later revision. I apologize.

Ah well. At least my son's biography report got done. Now to go off and
read Narnia with him.

B.

Karen Lofstrom

unread,
May 14, 2001, 10:27:08 PM5/14/01
to
Patricia C. Wrede <pwred...@aol.com> wrote:

: You mean the viewpoint that is variously referred to as subjective third


: person, tight third person, third person intimate, limited third person,
: close-up third person, and a couple of other things I can't recall at the
: moment.

Hey! Welcome back!

--
Karen Lofstrom lofs...@lava.net
----------------------------------------------------------------------
CLIP-ON NOSE RINGS ARE HERE!

David J. Starr

unread,
May 14, 2001, 11:09:20 PM5/14/01
to

"Patricia C. Wrede" wrote:
>
[some snippage]


>
> I've got a long post on point of view, which I can repost if people are
> interested; this thread seems to be dying down, so it may not be worth it.
>

> Patricia C. Wrede

I'd certainly read it if you would be so kind as to post it.

David Starr

Patricia C. Wrede

unread,
May 15, 2001, 12:19:34 AM5/15/01
to
In article <9dq45s$f18$1...@mochi.lava.net>, Karen Lofstrom <lofs...@lava.net>
writes:

>Hey! Welcome back!

Thanks. It's only temporary, until the next wave of craziness hits in June,
but I thought I might as well take advantage of the lull.

Patricia C. Wrede

David J. Starr

unread,
May 14, 2001, 11:51:41 PM5/14/01
to
After a good deal of angst about shifting point of view with a scene,
I reread this passage from C.S. Forester's first Captain Hornblower
story, "Beat to Quarters", from 1937 or 38. The story is tight third
person told from Captain Hornblower's POV, except to now and then. I
quote the following. Hornblower has just engaged a larger enemy vessel
in a ship-to-ship duel. The enemy has nearly blown Hornblower's frigate
Lydia out of the water. We just have seen the battle and the after
action damage control from Hornblower's POV. We start in Hornblower's
POV and slide over into Lady Barbara's POV.
Quoting from the book:

And now there was something else to plague him. Picking her way
across the main deck below him came Lady Barbara, the little Negress
clinging to her skirts.
"My orders were for you to stay below, ma'am," he shouted to her.
"this deck is no place for you."
Lady Barbara looked around at the seething deck and then tilted her
chin to answer him.
"I can see that without it pointed out to me," she said, and then
softening her manner, "I have no intention of obstructing, Captain. I
was going to shut myself in my cabin."
"Your cabin?"
Hornblower laughed. Four broadsides from Natividad had blasted their
way through that cabin. The idea of Lady Barbara shutting hereself up
there struck him as being intensely funny. He laughed again and then
again before checking himself in a hurried mistrust as an abyss of
hysteria opened itself before him. He controlled himself.
"There is no cabin left for you ma'am. I regret that the only course
open to you is to go back whence you have come. There is no other place
in the ship that can accomodate you at present."
Lady Barbara, looking up at him, thought of the cable tier she had
just left. Pitch dark, with only room to sit hunched up on slimy cable,
rats squeaking and scampering over her legs; the ship pitching and
rolling madly, and Hebe howling with fright beside her; the tremendous
din of the guns, and the thunderous rumble of the gun trucks immediately
over her head as the guns were run in and out; the tearing crash which
had echoed through the ship as the mizzenmast fell; the ignorance of how
the battle was progressing -- at this very moment she was still unaware
whether it have been lost or won or merely suspended; the stench of the
bilge, the hunger and the thirst.
The thought of going back there appalled her. But she saw the
captain's face, white with fatigue and strain under its tan, and she had
noted that laugh with it's hysterical pitch, abruptly cut off, and the
grim effort that had been made to speak to her reasonably. The
captain's coat was torn across the breast and his white trousers were
stained -- with blood, she suddenly realized. She felt pity for him
then.

end quote. This worked for C.S. Forester. So maybe I can change POV
now and then without losing my reader?

David Starr

jere7my tho?rpe

unread,
May 15, 2001, 1:23:28 AM5/15/01
to
In article <20010514142421...@nso-ma.aol.com>,
pwred...@aol.com (Patricia C. Wrede) wrote:

*Omniscient *IS* third-person -- at least, I've never seen any other kind
*of omniscient. I suppose it would be *possible* to do a
*first-person-omniscient, but it would be rather tricky, to say the least.

I think Delany's _Empire Star_ fits the bill, though I haven't read
it in a while.

----j7y

--
*********************************** <*> ***********************************
jere7my tho?rpe / 734-769-0913 "Oh, yeah. Old guys becoming pandas --
c/o kesh...@umich.edu _that's_ the future." Mike Nelson, MST3K

r...@rosemarylake.com

unread,
May 15, 2001, 2:18:50 AM5/15/01
to
On 14 May 2001 18:24:21 GMT, pwred...@aol.com (Patricia C.
Wrede) wrote:

>I've got a long post on point of view, which I can repost if people are
>interested; this thread seems to be dying down, so it may not be worth it.


I'd be interested. I came in late too.


Rosemary

Jo Walton

unread,
May 15, 2001, 2:48:00 AM5/15/01
to
In article <keshlema-06AD89...@news.itd.umich.edu>
kesh...@umich.edu "jere7my tho?rpe" writes:

> In article <20010514142421...@nso-ma.aol.com>,
> pwred...@aol.com (Patricia C. Wrede) wrote:
>
> *Omniscient *IS* third-person -- at least, I've never seen any other kind
> *of omniscient. I suppose it would be *possible* to do a
> *first-person-omniscient, but it would be rather tricky, to say the least.
>
> I think Delany's _Empire Star_ fits the bill, though I haven't read
> it in a while.

Definitely.

I think Jane Austen qualifies as first omniscient as well -- when you
have a narrator who knows everything and directly addresses the reader,
like at the end of _Mansfield Park_, it becomes like a first person
character.

--
Jo J...@bluejo.demon.co.uk
I kissed a kif at Kefk
Locus Recommended First Novel: *THE KING'S PEACE* out now from Tor.
Sample Chapters, Map, Poems, & stuff at http://www.bluejo.demon.co.uk

Patricia C. Wrede

unread,
May 15, 2001, 7:42:31 AM5/15/01
to
In article <3B00A7CD...@analog.com>, "David J. Starr"
<david...@analog.com> writes:

>This worked for C.S. Forester. So maybe I can change POV
>now and then without losing my reader

This is omniscient. If you are doing omniscient, and doing it well, then you
can go ahead and do it. If you are doing omniscient and *not* doing it well,
then you need to try a different viewpoint. If you are doing tight-third, then
you can't do this without annoying or jarring quite a few of your readers.

Patricia C. Wrede

Patricia C. Wrede

unread,
May 15, 2001, 7:42:40 AM5/15/01
to
In article <3B009DE0...@analog.com>, "David J. Starr"
<david...@analog.com> writes:

>I'd certainly read it if you would be so kind as to post it.

The following is the shortened-up-for-online-posting version of the viewpoint
handout I use in my writing classes. It is copyright 1998 by Patricia C.
Wrede, and may not be reposted or reproduced elsewhere without asking me first.
--------
The types of viewpoint correlate roughly with the pronouns used in conjugating
verbs: I did, you do, he does. There are, however, a number of variations on
the most common types of viewpoint.

First person: "I did."

First person viewpoint is narrated by the central viewpoint figure, who can
describe his own actions, thoughts, and reactions, but can only tell what he
thinks other people are thinking. Because the narrator is presumed to be
telling the story after-the-fact, and because the whole story is his voice and
his narration, he can judge other characters and give his opinions more freely
than is possible in most of the third person viewpoints.
Example:
#
I hate the prince's birthday. I've always hated it. Prince Conrad is a
brat; he changes his mind twenty times and always has a batch of last-minute
"requests" that make things hell for servants like me.
At least that year all he wanted was cream cakes. The year before it had
been fresh peaches -- in the middle of winter! -- and the year before that it
was some delicacy from the Far East that he'd read about in a book. Turned out
to be a special kind of raw fish, and after all the trouble we went to to get
hold of it, he took one bite and decided he didn't like it and pitched a
tantrum. Brat is the only word for it.
Cook had the cream cakes waiting on the big silver tray. Normally it
takes two people to carry that tray, but we were short handed, what with Roger
being sick, so I took it in myself. That was my first mistake; my second was
stopping right in front of the door to steady the thing. And then Duke Gregory
cannoned into me from behind. Cream cakes all over everything, and him cursing
and glaring and trying to pretend it hadn't been his fault.
"Damn it, watch where you're going!" he shouted. I, of course, was
properly dignified despite the green icing in my hair, as a good footman should
be -- though I confess that the Duke made it hard to keep my temper. But
"Sorry, sir," and "Very good, my lord," was all I replied. It's professional
touches like that that are important when you work in a palace.
The butler told me later that that was when she got in, that Jililt woman
who made all the trouble. I think I even remember seeing her on the far side
of the hall -- tall and blonde and not half amused, if you know what I mean. I
can't say for certain that it was her I noticed, though, because I was too busy
mopping up cream cakes.
#
Comments: In a good first-person viewpoint, every sentence is in the "voice"
of the narrator -- you want to use his particular turns of phrase in the
narration, as well as the dialog, because he's the one telling the story.
Everything comes through his personal filter; if he dislikes dogs intensely,
for instance, you can't ever describe a toy poodle as "cute," because your
narrator wouldn't ever do that -- the most he'd ever do is concede that maybe
this little dog isn't quite as bad as most of them. The author can't provide
information the viewpoint character doesn't know or show scenes the viewpoint
character doesn't experience.

First person has a couple of minor variations, including epistolary novels (the
book is presented as a collection of letters written by one or more characters)
and journals or diary entries. Both of these can be very natural-feeling forms
for some authors who are having a hard time getting "into character," but they
don't suit everybody.

Second person: "You did."

Second person also assumes a single central narrator, but the narrator is being
described by someone else, as "you." The author is still stuck with what the
viewpoint character sees, hears, knows, and feels.
Example:

You enter the kitchen. Everything is laid out ready for the prince's
birthday. The cook hands you a heavy tray of iced cream cakes, and you stagger
out into the main room.
As you pause outside the kitchen door to get a better grip on the tray,
someone bumps into you from behind, hard. You stagger, trying desperately to
keep control of the tray, but it is no use. Cream cakes fly everywhere,
smearing you and the bystanders and the floor with sticky green icing. You
turn and see Duke Gregory wiping frosting from his face.
"Damn it, man, watch where you're going!" shouts the Duke.

Comments: Second-person fiction is uncommon and somewhat "gimmicky." It is
difficult to pull off, because it requires the reader to identify closely with
the viewpoint "you" character, and unless the reader does identify very
strongly, there is a good chance that at some point the author will say "You
swallow your anger..." and the reader will respond internally, "The hell I do!
I pick up a cream cake and shove it in the jerk's face!" and close the book in
disgust. Second-person viewpoint is nearly always told in present tense.

Third person: "He/she/it did."

Third person, taken as a whole is probably the most commonly used viewpoint.
There are a number of different ways of writing a third person viewpoint,
including:

Intimate third-person:

Also known as "tight third person," "limited third person," "close-up third
person," and "third person subjective." Like first and second person,
third-person-intimate sticks to a single viewpoint character and tells the
story as he/she would experience it. The narrative doesn't have to be in the
character's "voice" the way it should be for a first-person viewpoint, but it
often is.

Example:

*Gods, but I hate the prince's birthday,* Jon thought as he hurried toward
the kitchen. *If the little twerp isn't adding forty more people to the guest
list at the last minute, he's demanding fresh peaches out of season. I wonder
what it is this year?*
"Cream cakes," the cook informed him when he arrived. "This year, he
wants cream cakes. They're all ready, on the tray by the door. Careful, it's
heavy."
"Right." Even forewarned, lifting the tray was more of an effort than he
expected. "I hope he eats himself sick."
The cook's laugh followed him out into the hall. He paused for a moment,
getting the tray balanced just so, and someone bumped him heavily from behind.
Desperately, Jon tried to recover, but despite his efforts the tray
teetered, showering cream cakes in all directions. There was an angry roar
behind him, and he turned to find the portly Duke Gregory brushing green icing
from his cloak and glaring daggers at him.
"Damn it, man! Look where you're going," the Duke said.
The injustice of it held Jon speechless just long enough for him to
remember his duties. *Pompous braggart!* he thought angrily. *It was your
fault, not mine!* But all he said aloud was, "Sorry, my lord." Then, as he
began to clean up the mess, he noticed that the Duke was avoiding his eyes. He
knows, Jon realized, but he can't admit it without looking foolish. Jon's
stomach clenched, and he felt his lips twist in a bitter smile. When a Duke
didn't want to look foolish, it usually meant that a servant got fired. It
wasn't fair, but that was how things worked.
As he straightened, he saw an unfamiliar blonde woman on the far side of
the room watching them. Their eyes met, and her lip curled disdainfully before
she turned away. Wonderful. Everyone in the kingdom is going to think I'm a
klutz.

Comments: Intimate third person sticks, obviously, with the inside of one
person's head and nobody else's. Other people's reactions must be given as
observations or intuitions of the viewpoint character, some of which may be
correct ("He knows ...but he can't admit it without looking foolish...") and
some of which may not be ("Everyone...is going to think I'm a klutz.")
Background has to be filled in through dialog or action, for the most part.
You can't give information the viewpoint character doesn't know or show a scene
where he's not present. Advantages are that it gives the reader an immediate
strong identification, and allows the author to get deeply into the thoughts
and feelings of the viewpoint character. Third-person-intimate is the most
common form of the third-person viewpoints. You can give the character's
direct thoughts either as italics ("Pompous braggart!"), as normal text with a
"speech tag" labeling it as a thought ("He knows, Jon realized..."), or as
plain text that isn't labeled, but that is clearly the thoughts of the
viewpoint character ("It wasn't fair, but that was how things worked."). You
can also give the viewpoint character's internal physical sensations ("Jon's
stomach clenched"), but it's harder to show external cues ("he felt his lips
twist...").

Multiple viewpoint

Third-person-intimate is usually the viewpoint that is used for individual
scenes in a multiple-viewpoint story or novel, though sometimes authors will
use first-person, or alternate between first and third. In a
multiple-viewpoint book, each scene or each chapter is from a single viewpoint,
but the viewpoint character and viewpoint type can change from scene to scene
or chapter to chapter. Again, terminology is not standard; if a writer is
mixing viewpoint types (i.e., some scenes are tight-third, some are camera eye,
and some are omniscient), this is sometimes referred to as a "mixed format"
book.

Example:

Gods, but I hate the prince's birthday, Jon thought as he hurried toward
the kitchen. If the little twerp isn't adding forty more people to the guest
list at the last minute, he's demanding fresh peaches out of season. I wonder
what it is this year?
"Cream cakes," the cook informed him when he arrived. "This year, he wants
cream cakes. They're all ready, on the tray by the door. Careful, it's
heavy."
"Right." Even forewarned, lifting the tray was more of an effort than he
expected. "I hope he eats himself sick."
The cook's laugh followed him out into the hall. He paused for a moment,
getting the tray balanced just so, and someone bumped him heavily from behind.

Duke Gregory saw Lady Dorington before she saw him. Instantly, he ducked
behind a pillar. The last thing he wanted was to spend half an hour hearing
about the woman's latest imaginary illness. Of all the bores at court, she's
the greatest. Cautiously, he peered around the pillar to see where she was
now.
She was coming in his direction. The Duke backed away, keeping his eyes
on her, and bumped into someone. He turned to apologize, and found himself
facing a wide silver tray half full of little cakes with green frosting.
Looking down, he realized what had happened to the other half of the cakes; his
ermine cloak was streaked with green frosting, and when he took an involuntary
step backward, something squished unpleasantly under his boot.
The apology died on his lips. "Damn it, man! Look where you're going,"
he burst out, knowing even as he spoke that it was unjust. The accident had
been his fault, not the servant's, but it was too late to admit it now.
The footman who had been carrying the tray looked at the Duke and his lips
thinned, but all he said was, "Yes, your grace."
The servant's reaction made the Duke feel even guiltier about his
unfortunate outburst. He'd have to see that the man got some compensation
later; in fact, he'd speak to the steward at once...well, right after he got
someone to take his cloak away to be cleaned.

Comments: The first half of the scene is third-person-intimate from Jon's
viewpoint; the second is third-person-intimate from the Duke's viewpoint.
Normally, one would not switch viewpoints quite so quickly (the scenes would be
longer) and the viewpoint characters would be central to the story being told.
If this were the opening of a story about the development of an unlikely
friendship between the Duke and the footman, both viewpoints would be very
appropriate; if it were the opening of a story about the Duke's dealings with
the prince, in which Jon plays no part, I would cut or rewrite the section
that's told from Jon's viewpoint; if it were about a servants-eye view of
palace intrigue, I would probably rewrite or cut the Duke's viewpoint.

Multiple viewpoint is sometimes confused with omniscient viewpoint, because in
the course of the story the reader sees into the thoughts and feelings of a
number of different viewpoint characters. In both multiple viewpoint and
omniscient viewpoint, the reader knows more about what is going on than any of
the individual characters do. The difference is that in omniscient viewpoint,
there is a single invisible narrator who knows what everyone is thinking and
feeling, while in multiple viewpoint, there are a number of different
narrators, each of whom knows only what he himself is thinking and feeling.
Again, it is perfectly possible to use multiple first-person viewpoints, or to
use first person in some scenes and third in others, so long as it is not
confusing for the reader and so long as each type of viewpoint is maintained
consistently within its scene. This is, however, not terribly easy to pull
off.

Camera eye:

Also known as "third person objective," "fly-on-the-wall," or
"observer-in-the-corner." Everything is told from outside the characters'
heads; only their actions and appearance may be reported, not their thoughts or
feelings.
Example:

"Got the cream cakes ready yet, Mrs. Fuster?" Jon asked. "Prince Conrad
has been asking."
"I bet he has, the little pest," Mrs. Fuster said, her arm moving
constantly as she stirred the contents of a large iron pot that hung over the
kitchen fire. "It's a wonder he hasn't changed his mind again about what he
wants for his birthday party. Watch that roast!" she called to a kitchen maid.
"You'll have it burned in another minute, and you know what the prince will
say about that! Yes, Jon, they're on the tray by the door."
Jon looked, and groaned. "Why that one? It weighs twenty pounds if it
weighs an ounce, even without anything on it!"
"It's all we had left. Get on with you."
Picking up the tray, Jon staggered out into the great hall. He was barely
two steps in when a large, portly man in an ermine cloak backed into him. The
tray teetered, sending cream cakes showering over the ermine cloak and skidding
across the floor. "Duke Gregory!" Jon gasped.
"Damn it, man, watch where you're going!" Duke Gregory said. He brushed
ineffectually at the green icing covering his cloak, his eyes carefully
avoiding Jon's.
Jon's lips tightened to a thin line. After the briefest of hesitations, he
said in a wooden tone, "Sorry, sir," and began cleaning up the mess.
Around them, the courtiers snickered and went back to their conversations.
On the far side of the hall, a tall blonde woman eyed them a moment longer.
Then her lip curled slightly and she turned away, scanning the crowd as if in
search of something...or someone.

Comments: Because it's camera eye third person (i.e. we don't get to know
anyone's thoughts or see or hear about anything that isn't actually happening
in the scene) the backfill about the party being "hell on servants" has to be
done by implication through a new dialog section at the beginning. No thoughts
are shown, just actions and dialog, and no interpretations or judgments are
given, only action, physical description, and dialog. In a longer piece,
"physical description" could easily include more description of the place (the
hall, the kitchen), including sensory details like the smell of the stew (OK,
so it's a spiffy futuristic camera that does more than sight-and-sound, all
right?) Camera eye is more distancing than intimate-third, because you don't
get to see individual characters' thoughts and feelings, but in compensation,
the scope is greater -- the author can show anything that is happening in the
area, whether the main character notices it or not, and can point out that the
main character isn't noticing it (like the details of the blonde woman's
reaction on the far side of the hall). The invisible camera can be placed
anywhere: on a particular character's shoulder, in a fixed spot in the corner
or ceiling, on an imaginary moving boom or camera-man. It's still camera eye.

Omniscient:

In omniscient, the narrator is an invisible character who knows everything that
is happening and everything that anyone is thinking and feeling, and who can
report any of this as seems appropriate.
Example:

Every year, the castle servants spent weeks preparing for Prince Conrad's
birthday party. They cleaned, they decorated, and they prepared hundreds of
special treats -- only to have the prince change his mind at the last minute
(sometimes three or four times) and call for some new and different delicacy.
The sushi he'd demanded three years earlier had been a particularly memorable
disaster, and the tale was still used by the senior servants to terrify
newcomers to the palace staff.
This year, the last-minute addition to the menu was a tray of cream cakes
with fluffy green frosting that had taken the cook two hours to get just right.
Jon, the footman, took the heavy tray with a combination of appreciation and
irritation, then staggered directly out to the great hall. Unfortunately, he
didn't see Duke Gregory backing away from Lady Dorington. The Duke didn't
notice Jon, either; he was too busy trying to avoid hearing about Lady
Dorington's latest illnesses, and in his haste and inattention, he collided
with the overburdened footman.
Cream cakes slid and squashed, leaving green trails of icing behind them
as they glided down the Duke's ermine cloak to the floor. "Damn it, man, look
where you're going!" the Duke roared, trying to cover his embarrassment with a
show of anger -- he knew the accident had been his fault, but how could he
admit it to a servant, and in front of so many other nobles? Jon, though
internally seething with annoyance and frustration, responded with the bland,
self-effacing control of the perfect servant, and set about cleaning up the
mess at once.
The minor accident had one further effect: while the crowd watched the
two principles with varying degrees of amusement, a tall blonde woman slipped
unnoticed into the hall. The woman, Jililt, glanced briefly at the disorder
and turned away in disdain to pursue her own dark purposes.

Comments: Omniscient viewpoint doesn't always give the reader a clear
character to identify with. It is thus more distancing than
intimate-third-person or camera eye third, and partly for these reasons is
uncommon in modern fiction. Omniscient allows even more details (like the blond
woman's name) than camera-eye, and allows everybody's thoughts and feelings
(Jon's annoyance, the Duke's guilt, Jililt's disdain) to be given. Omniscient
viewpoint is, generally speaking, the easiest viewpoint to do badly and the
most difficult to do well for most authors. It's easy to do badly because it's
easy to do accidentally -- the minute a sentence like "Meanwhile, back at the
ranch..." or "If he had only known..." or "She didn't realize that her sister
was a crook..." goes into a third-person-intimate or camera-eye scene, the
viewpoint becomes omniscient.

What Not to do: Really Bad Omniscient:

Prince Conrad's birthday is always hell on servants, Jon thought as he
hefted a tray of cream-cakes. Of course, Jon had never liked being a servant.
If he had had more resolution, he would have been a revolutionary, but he
didn't. He was a footman. Mrs. Fuster agreed with him, though of course
neither of them said anything aloud. They were right, though. The prince was
a real brat. He always demanded something special at the last minute. This
year, it was the very tray of cream-cakes that Jon was staggering through the
crowd with. If Jon had only realized that, he'd have been more careful, though
it still wouldn't have helped. Duke Gregory would have cannoned into him just
the same, but Jon would have felt better about it afterward. The Duke was
avoiding Lady Dorington, the biggest bore at court, and he didn't notice Jon
until he had upset the cream-cakes all over both of them.
"Damn it!" the Duke roared as cream cakes slid from the polished silver
and smeared green icing softly across the back of his ermine cape. Everyone
nearby laughed at him. They thought he was a pompous windbag and deserved to
be covered in green icing. Jon thought so, too. "Watch where you're going!"
Damned careless servants these days, not like when I was a boy. He should have
avoided me. It was his fault, not mine! Jon had never liked the Duke. What a
stuck up, pompous braggart.
"Sorry sir," he said aloud, brushing ineffectively at the Duke's cloak.
Buffoons, the pair of them. Jililt glided through the doorway on the other
side of the room. This may be easier than I thought. She was disgusted with
the whole business. Had she only known it, the little accident and the
widening circles of attention it had attracted were the sole reason she had
been able to slip into the hall unnotice