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Style differences based on PoV (1 Viewer)

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I was in the shower earlier tonight, and I once again thought about a recurring issue. My soap dish has a recently opened bar of soap resting among goodness knows how many soap dregs ... the last remaining slivers of bars past. I wonder if other people throw them out. I don't. I keep trying to use them up, primarily by washing my hands at the beginning and end of my shower. But ... I've never yet had a soap dreg disappear in my palms as I rub it for lather.

I considered writing this as a humorous aside in a project. I'm currently writing in two novels ... one close third and one first, and it struck me I would never write something like that for close third, but I can sell it in first, particularly if I break the 4th wall. I believe the difference is I wouldn't make fun of my MC as a third person narrator, but I don't have any problem with a first-person narrator exposing quirks amid self-deprecation. That's not to say, as a third-person narrator, I don't involve my MC in funny situations, I just don't make fun of them as I do it.

My experience here isn't broad. I've only completed one novel in first, but looking back on it, I handle humor in that novel very differently than I do in close third. My humor in close third is typically situational, and my humor in first is more often in monologue. I'll hit some in dialogue either way.

I thought it might be interesting to discuss choices we make for content and style based on PoV. It doesn't have to be humor per this post, but anything. Of course, other discussion of humor in PoV would be interesting, too.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I have the weirdest sense we've discussed this before. Can't remember when or where, though. So probably not.

I'm a fan of writing an event twice; once in third, eventually in first. There's a certain value in switching the location of the camera, I think - it's easier to get the broad strokes in third person, whereas first allows an immediacy that would otherwise fall flat. Plus, I like seeing the same thing from different angles. And aligning the facts of both and still ending up with two entirely different stories is a decent measure of how well I've grasped the scene itself.

But I'm a glutton for needless self-inflicted complexities. So there's that.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
I was rewriting a short excerpt of someone's work from past to present tense and I realized the author likely would have written something else completely if he had written in present tense. This might be true for 1st person or 3rd person too. It's probably a good idea to "try on" both POVs and tenses and see what becomes of it.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
the last remaining slivers of bars past. I wonder if other people throw them out. I don't. I keep trying to use them up, primarily by washing my hands at the beginning and end of my shower. But ... I've never yet had a soap dreg disappear in my palms as I rub it for lather.

I considered writing this as a humorous aside in a project. I'm currently writing in two novels ... one close third and one first, and it struck me I would never write something like that for close third, but I can sell it in first, particularly if I break the 4th wall. I believe the difference is I wouldn't make fun of my MC as a third person narrator, but I don't have any problem with a first-person narrator exposing quirks amid self-deprecation.

I feel the same way about making fun of the protagonist by the narrator vs. the protagonist themselves.

Another thought occurred to me: can those style differences have something to do with verb forms? Like, if one were to write: "He kept wondering if other people threw them out. He never did," etc., would one then run into danger of getting crazy among all those time forms, making sure the reader understands clearly what is past and what is present, and what is really happening and what is hypothetical? Or is it just me and for you it would be easy?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I feel the same way about making fun of the protagonist by the narrator vs. the protagonist themselves.

Another thought occurred to me: can those style differences have something to do with verb forms? Like, if one were to write: "He kept wondering if other people threw them out. He never did," etc., would one then run into danger of getting crazy among all those time forms, making sure the reader understands clearly what is past and what is present, and what is really happening and what is hypothetical? Or is it just me and for you it would be easy?
No, I think you have a point there. Plus, I think you've expressed the thought as directly as it could be, and it seems rather trivial in third. The narrator needs a reason to include it. If I were reading that in third, it would have me wondering if a piece of soap was apt to wind up dropping into the tub for a slip to come up.

I've been reading Sue Grafton lately in my quest to bone up on successful mystery authors, and she spoons in trivial like some people stir sugar into coffee. She's in first person. I'm in her second book now, and I frankly think she does it too much. Halfway through the second book, I don't think she's missed giving me a list of what the character ate for any mean on any day. LOL I should probably skip ahead ten novels and she if she cured herself of that. Some of her trivial asides are indeed amusing, informative, or character reveal, and that's what I think they should be.

In the first-person Lovejoy series, about the adventures of a shady antiques dealer, Jonathan Gash goes off into pages of education regarding specific classes of antiques. Generally, these have little to do with the story, and even when they do, the detail is more than what would be sufficient to support the plot. I find them interesting, anyway, and I think they underscore the character's tremendous knowledge in his field and his enthusiasm for antiques. If a third person narrator took off on those tangents, I think the reader would be left wondering why.
 
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