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POV Question (1 Viewer)

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I've written mostly in third person limited with the occasional first person story, but on recently attempting to write a scene in third person limited, something I'd not really noticed before came into stark focus. I've probably dealt with this many times but not noticed it.

In this scene we're in Yarrod's head in third person limited. He's gone to the wigwam's door and peeked out. This enabled me to describe what was going on outside, the very reason I put him there. He watches a Timestalker creep around a rock and head towards the wigwam. A Timestalker is essentially a storm on electric legs. A thick limb reaches out crookedly towards the wigwam and Yarrod backs away from the door, asking Fiddlesticks if there's a place to hide.

Here's the problem and the question: Is it legitimate to still describe what the Timestalker is doing outside if Yarrod is now inside the wigwam and can't actually see himself what's going on outside? Is that shift from 'limited' to 'omniscient' acceptable if it's only for a small section of a scene? Or do you need lengthier scenes to justify such a POV?

I realise I can get Yarrod to watch longer but this is a question I'm likely going to face many times in many different situations.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Can the crow report it to him?

Otherwise, I'd try and figure a way to have Yarrod observe directly. Another possibility would be having him mentally picture the thing approaching. Presumably he's dealt with one before, so if it's got a particular way of moving or something outwardly ominous (like...y'know...being a miniature self-propelled weather nightmare) you could get in some description without breaking POV.

Maybe.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Can the crow report it to him?

Otherwise, I'd try and figure a way to have Yarrod observe directly. Another possibility would be having him mentally picture the thing approaching. Presumably he's dealt with one before, so if it's got a particular way of moving or something outwardly ominous (like...y'know...being a miniature self-propelled weather nightmare) you could get in some description without breaking POV.

Maybe.
Coming up with ways of dealing with the situation isn't the reason for the question. That's just an example and the reason I'm asking the question. Is it ok to shift into an omniscient POV for a short while and then shift back to the limited POV shortly after? Or would it be too jarring?
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Ah.

I'd be against it. Doesn't meant it couldn't work if executed well, but the few times I've seen it seriously attempted usually left a bad taste. Strikes me as a writer excusing themselves from their own rules.

There are a handful of exceptions, but those are either prologues, exceedingly short chapters sandwiched in among the main story bits, or something like an epilogue.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Ah.

I'd be against it. Doesn't meant it couldn't work if executed well, but the few times I've seen it seriously attempted usually left a bad taste. Strikes me as a writer excusing themselves from their own rules.

There are a handful of exceptions, but those are either prologues, exceedingly short chapters sandwiched in among the main story bits, or something like an epilogue.
Mmm ... I sort of figured it would likely not be advisable, but ... I wonder, are there any examples of it working well? Surely there must be some writers out there that shift between omniscient and limited quite often. Perhaps my particular example will NEVER work well no matter how I approach it, but like I said, I'd really like to know if it is possible and if it is, how best to approach it.

I've not really taken much notice of it before, hence the question.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Here's the problem and the question: Is it legitimate to still describe what the Timestalker is doing outside if Yarrod is now inside the wigwam and can't actually see himself what's going on outside? Is that shift from 'limited' to 'omniscient' acceptable if it's only for a small section of a scene? Or do you need lengthier scenes to justify such a POV?

I realise I can get Yarrod to watch longer but this is a question I'm likely going to face many times in many different situations.
In the first instance I'd try and present the scene as Yarrod perceives it. So, if you want to depict the timestalker, maybe do so through his own personal lens: "Yarrod could imagine the creature outside, kicking over crates of supplies. It would be lurching towards towards the door now - his door. ".

By all means, though, try a small leap into the omni. Just be mindful that there might be a bit of a 'visible join' that wants smoothing over. The challenge is to bust a few heuristics of storytelling on the sly, all the while making it look like you're in control of the events and the immersion. Use some tricks. Maybe Fiddlesticks could step in here? Or maybe slip into a different style - all italics and narrative telling.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Switching in that manner can weaken the prose unless handled well. Well-known authors have found various devices to work around it: JK Rowling - an invisibility cloak, Douglas Adams - an all-knowing (electronic?) guide book.

In the absence of such contraptions, maybe you could attribute certain noises to the Timestalker and use them to good effect in order to build up tension. As it has what look like electric legs, it's probably okay to introduce some fizzy electrical type of noise that grows louder with closer proximity. That might work better than with relying purely on the visual. Maybe the smell of the wigwam being singed too?
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
When I have your doubts.
I rewrite the scene in other ways as well.
I later evaluate by reading what I like best as a result.
Thus I discovered that a story written in the third person was more "readable" and more "Beautiful" Written in the first person
 

piperofyork

Friends of WF
Mmm ... I sort of figured it would likely not be advisable, but ... I wonder, are there any examples of it working well? Surely there must be some writers out there that shift between omniscient and limited quite often. Perhaps my particular example will NEVER work well no matter how I approach it, but like I said, I'd really like to know if it is possible and if it is, how best to approach it.

I've not really taken much notice of it before, hence the question.
I think Tolkien is a great example of a writer who shifts between omniscient and limited skillfully. He mostly sticks to limited, but when he throws in a bit of omniscient it doesn't feel out of place at all (to my ears, at any rate!).

E.g.

"We have watched too long," said Merry. "There's Ugluk! I don't want to meet him again." The hobbits turned and fled deep into the shadows of the wood.

So it was that they did not see the last stand, when Ugluk was overtaken and brought to bay at the very edge of Fangorn...
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Switching in that manner can weaken the prose unless handled well. Well-known authors have found various devices to work around it: JK Rowling - an invisibility cloak, Douglas Adams - an all-knowing (electronic?) guide book.

In the absence of such contraptions, maybe you could attribute certain noises to the Timestalker and use them to good effect in order to build up tension. As it has what look like electric legs, it's probably okay to introduce some fizzy electrical type of noise that grows louder with closer proximity. That might work better than with relying purely on the visual. Maybe the smell of the wigwam being singed too?
Those are going to feature anyway. It's just a general question about shifting POV. It's the scene I described that made me realise the problem.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
In the first instance I'd try and present the scene as Yarrod perceives it. So, if you want to depict the timestalker, maybe do so through his own personal lens: "Yarrod could imagine the creature outside, kicking over crates of supplies. It would be lurching towards towards the door now - his door. ".

By all means, though, try a small leap into the omni. Just be mindful that there might be a bit of a 'visible join' that wants smoothing over. The challenge is to bust a few heuristics of storytelling on the sly, all the while making it look like you're in control of the events and the immersion. Use some tricks. Maybe Fiddlesticks could step in here? Or maybe slip into a different style - all italics and narrative telling.
In this particular case, I've had the limb shoot of to the right of the wigwam and attack a mule. That's given Yarrod longer to watch and given me an opportunity to show what's at stake. I'll definitely experiment with ways of shifting POV quickly though. It seems an important tool to have. Something else to practice! Yeeeee!
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
OK, I think I've got a handle on something POV related that (I know this sounds stupid) I've not noticed before but now it's clear. It couldn't be applied to this particular section of my story but it can be applied in many places to come. As I've said before, Yarrod has no memories so the usual info you can impart about the world can't be imparted through him. Not until he gets his memory back at least.

I listened to a story by Patric Rothfus called 'The Name of The Wind' and in that he introduces a protagonist in a tavern. Because I've been talking about this, I noticed something immediately. He spoke of the inn and the people in the inn before he focused on the protag. That gave him the opportunity to say things about the inn and the people there that the protag may not have known. It was scene setting but written as if part of the story. It sounds simple but it's not something I'd considered for my story. Now I'm reworking scenes in my head to accommodate possibly using that technique. It's a good way around my 'amnesia' problem.

I always lead in with the character, when perhaps I should sometimes lead in with the setting and then enter the characters POV. You know I keep saying 'something still isn't quite right'? I think this is it. As daft and as simple as it sounds.
 
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