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Narrator adding personal thoughts in third person/omniscient novel? Is it acceptable? (1 Viewer)

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MandyInk

Member
By this I mean, in a novel where it's generally 'he said/she said' and 'he/she/they did this or that' essentially recalling events, is it acceptable to have the speaker interject with their own opinions of topics raised, instead of views simply remaining expressed through the characters in their thought or speech? I'm not suggesting it would be in the way whereas it's meant to be bias and a means of imposing the author's views on the reader, but instead to encourage the reader to think outside of the box. Or would this be too transparent and not subtle enough? Can it tastefully be done without the novel coming across as having an apparent agenda for one idea or belief system? Another thing I felt I should add was it wouldn't be presented as being 'absolute' (i.e. this way is completely right and all others are false) but more of a 'what if' and let the reader decide for them self whether they agree with it or not. I've heard of some novels being filled up with pages of just political/religious/etc views, and not necessarily expressed from any of the characters, so I'm assuming it may have been done in this manner, but I am not completely sure of this, hence why I'm asking. Is it considered acceptable in the literary community or is it a bit too risky and should be avoided if not done skillfully? What are your thoughts on this?
 

MandyInk

Member
As a reader, I'll accept anything that's done skillfully. Anything not done skillfully results in the book going into the box where I keep presents for people I don't like.

Thanks for the feedback! =)

I had in mind doing it somewhat like how Chuck Palahniuk does it, though in his books it's usually his characters presenting it since it's all in first person. However, I'm concerned if I did that as the narrator, it might interrupt the flow of the novel.
 

powerskris

Senior Member
For the narrator to step out of the story and tell the reader what the "moral of the story" is, seems a little preachy to me. I'm not saying that you can't pack plenty of philosophy and opinion into your novel, it should just come about in a subtle way. Coming out of the narration and trying to drive home your opinion should be unnecessary. I've made this mistake in the past. Have faith that your reader will get it. Is that what you meant, or did I get it completely wrong?
 

MandyInk

Member
For the narrator to step out of the story and tell the reader what the "moral of the story" is, seems a little preachy to me. I'm not saying that you can't pack plenty of philosophy and opinion into your novel, it should just come about in a subtle way. Coming out of the narration and trying to drive home your opinion should be unnecessary. I've made this mistake in the past. Have faith that your reader will get it. Is that what you meant, or did I get it completely wrong?

I meant is as there would be various philosophical perspectives in it on different topics, presented by the narrator and not by characters, so that it's understood that it's obviously the author's perspective and not simply a view said by a character to offer a contrast or as an obstacle/whatnot towards the main character. What I've noticed is sometimes authors are quoted through what is said in the book, even by characters, and I don't want somebody to misunderstand the purpose of a character and I end up being quoted for something which I don't necessarily believe in or agree with. A bit like how it's done with Chuck Palahniuk, though his novels are usually in first person perspective and offered by the characters. And it's not just that, I want readers to get something out of the novel, beyond entertainment. Something they can take away and maybe alter their outlook on life, or to help shape their own opinions. Offering a new perspective on things. Beyond just the general theme of the novel since those, in my opinion, can sometimes be a bit too vague and someone may not grasp what the book was trying to say if that's the case. Something that's beyond just a flat-out philosophical book, to keep the reader thoroughly interested. I'm speaking from experience, because I generally enjoy books that offer various perspectives and ideas beyond just a frank story line, and I feel like I get something out of the book more so than just a regular novel. Expressing things that perhaps the reader can relate to as well, but I suppose that would fall more under characterization and is irrelevant to what I'm trying to state now.

"The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That's the only lasting thing you can create." - Chuck Palahniuk

or something along the lines of as I said, 'what-if's' or 'maybes'. "[Maybe] What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized yet." - Chuck Palahniuk as well. I really enjoy how he does it, except he does it through his characters which is precisely what I'm trying to avoid. Plus, I don't want my characters to simply be miniature versions of myself. I'm hoping that there can be a variety of different personalities, even some I may not agree with, without the reader confusing them with what I might personally believe or misinterpreting it.

I apologize since they're not the best examples, especially as far as philosophy goes, but it's a vague idea. Of course it'd be worded differently to fit the third person perspective. It wouldn't necessarily be in a way that it's 'Well, in contrast, I think differently on the matter.... (insert remark about said topic here)' but "Perhaps, one could disagree and say .........." or "Perhaps the reason why...." Also very horrible examples, but I hope you get the jist of what I'm trying to convey.
 

Rustgold

Senior Member
The trouble with expressing any type of opinion in anything, is that a vast majority of people will accept it; providing that it's exactly in tune with their own. If you have three opinions in your book that have a randomised 80% support, you've lost half of your potential reading audience.

Yes, it may be a sad state of affairs that makes a mockery of 'right to an opinion' claims, but people hate anybody else having one, full stop. The result is sterilized & dull books, but that's what's wanted. So if you wish to have a narrator having his own thoughts, then go ahead; but it'll cut down on your potential readership base.
 
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Vertigo

Senior Member
Okay, this is me here so take what I say with a grain of salt because I'm still rather new to this whole writing thing.

Personally, I would say this is a bad idea at least as far as paradigms go. Your different characters are all entitled to their own views on the way the world works; you the author are really not. Your job in writing the story down is to explain the story and the world and the people to the reader- not to judge them or comment what you think of what your characters (or your readers) think.

This isn't such a bad thing to use if you're writing humor or such though, as you can snipe at characters and situations all day long for laughs with no problem.

But I'd stay away from the serious stuff. The last thing anyone wants to read is a preachy novel, unless of course they actually want to read a preachy novel.
 

Robert_S

Senior Member
or something along the lines of as I said, 'what-if's' or 'maybes'. "[Maybe] What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized yet." - Chuck Palahniuk as well. I really enjoy how he does it, except he does it through his characters which is precisely what I'm trying to avoid. Plus, I don't want my characters to simply be miniature versions of myself. I'm hoping that there can be a variety of different personalities, even some I may not agree with, without the reader confusing them with what I might personally believe or misinterpreting it.

The problem I see in this is that I tend to see characters as part of a story and either not real or indisposed in some way. The narrator is there, in real-time, telling the story. If the narrator offers an opinion I don't agree with or don't see the reason for, I can't debate him/her for clarity.

Also, if a character has an opinion I don't like, it adds to the personality that makes that character dislikable, but the story may still shine. If I dislike the narrator, that's affecting a much greater part of the story.

I'm left with two choices: plod along unsatisfied or throw the book away. Pretty much what I would do with a story I don't like anyway, but that comes down to poor writing, not poor opinion.
 

powerskris

Senior Member
I wish I could give you an opinion more to your liking, but I agree with Robert_S. It seems like your trying to step outside of the story to offer your insights. To me, it would seem like a jarring experience for a reader.
 

JosephB

Senior Member
What exactly do you have in mind? There are all kinds of novels with political or social or even religious themes that support a particular point of view or offer insight. The Jungle, 1984, Atlas Shrugged, To Kill a Mockingbird -- the list goes on and on. They don't necessarily break from the narrative and go off into lectures or sermons. It can just be part of story. And there's no reason that different characters or story elements couldn't represent opposing views. That might be the conflict. It all depends on the execution. If your goal is to present a particular theme or idea, even an agenda of some kind, then there are ways to do it without clobbering people over the head with it. You may do it at the expense of turning away some readers, but that might be the price you pay, if it really means something to you. Or -- you may attract a more niche audience. Who knows?
 
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Robert_S

Senior Member
or something along the lines of as I said, 'what-if's' or 'maybes'. "[Maybe] What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized yet." - Chuck Palahniuk as well. I really enjoy how he does it, except he does it through his characters which is precisely what I'm trying to avoid. Plus, I don't want my characters to simply be miniature versions of myself. I'm hoping that there can be a variety of different personalities, even some I may not agree with, without the reader confusing them with what I might personally believe or misinterpreting it.

I wanted to address this earlier since it stood out for me, but got caught up in research. This is very important, because it requires you understand and appreciate views other than your own. Now, when I say appreciate, I don't mean you to like them. It does mean that you have to respect it enough to present it believably.

I'm currently researching consciousness and humanism, to include existentialism and objectistism for the novel I'm working on. I also need to research causation and phenomonology. I'm not planning to break ground, but I need to understand these concepts if my book is to not be a complete joke. The characters will have personalities shaped by these ideas, even if they don't spout theory.

It's important to educate yourself so you have a pool of ideas that shape behavior and motivations. Emotions are only part of the human condition. Ideals are higher order and require a greater understanding.
 
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Robdemanc

Senior Member
I think I have trouble understanding what narrative is. I am writing a single POV third person story. My character doesn't give out his opinions so much. I as the author wouldn't dream of giving my opinions. I think the reader would not appreciate it.
 

Robert_S

Senior Member
I think I have trouble understanding what narrative is.

The narrative is the telling of the story. It should be consistant in some degree.

The narration in "Moby Dick" was first person all the way through from Ishmael's POV.

Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" changed the style of narration from part to part, but kept it consistant with in the singular part. Part 1 was from Benjy's POV (first person).

Part two focused on Quentin, the narrator not part of the story, but you could see inside Quentin's mind (third person, omnicient). No other character was brought into that part of the story except as part of Quentin's memory.

I am writing a single POV third person story. My character doesn't give out his opinions so much.

Does the reader get to see inside his mind at all? That would add an omniciennt factor to it and there is a term: third person, omnicient.

The degree of omnicience is defined by the writer. Complete omnicience allows the reader to know what any character is thinking. If only one or two (maybe more, but certainly less than everyone) can speak their mind in the narrative, that is limited omnicience. However, I think the writer should take some freedom with the concept of limited, as long as it's consistant and the writer can make it understood how that limitation works.
 

Robdemanc

Senior Member
The narrative is the telling of the story. It should be consistant in some degree.

The narration in "Moby Dick" was first person all the way through from Ishmael's POV.

Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" changed the style of narration from part to part, but kept it consistant with in the singular part. Part 1 was from Benjy's POV (first person).

Part two focused on Quentin, the narrator not part of the story, but you could see inside Quentin's mind (third person, omnicient). No other character was brought into that part of the story except as part of Quentin's memory.



Does the reader get to see inside his mind at all? That would add an omniciennt factor to it and there is a term: third person, omnicient.

The degree of omnicience is defined by the writer. Complete omnicience allows the reader to know what any character is thinking. If only one or two (maybe more, but certainly less than everyone) can speak their mind in the narrative, that is limited omnicience. However, I think the writer should take some freedom with the concept of limited, as long as it's consistant and the writer can make it understood how that limitation works.


Hi. Thanks. Yes the reader can see into my characters mind. What I mean is he is not so opinionated because he has had a sheltered life. I understand what you mean by narrative. I think my narrative is just telling the reader what is happening, what the character is feeling or thinking etc. But I am not putting lots of opinion in it. I think at the moment my story is mostly action. I think I need to slow the pace a little so I am trying to add some narrative now. But I don't want to give opinions.
 

Robert_S

Senior Member
But I don't want to give opinions.

People have opinions. Opinions are part of a characters personality and if a character doesn't have a personality they won't be believable people.

However, you do as you feel you should.

PS: There is one story I feel rendered opinion from a third person, omnicient perspective that wasn't preachy. If you can get your hands on it, read "The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien. This story is exceptional and moving. I found myself starting to breakdown reading it.
 
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