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Thread: Can a story with a limited point of view ever describe something the character cannot see?

  1. #1
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    Can a story with a limited point of view ever describe something the character cannot see?

    For example, say a guy falls of a cliff face first. Can the author say everyone was looking over the cliff, maybe someone has their hand on their mouth, others are pointing, etc.

    But the MC can't see it. I guess you could have him tumble and perhaps he could see, but the question is still almost the same.

    Thanks for helping.

  2. #2
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    Not really. You could say "He heard shrieks, and one woman call out "Oh my god". God had nothing to do with it, lady, he thought . . ." (don't know why I went all film noir on you there)

    But no, if it's a limited POV then it's limited. The only time I could see it working is if you were writing something unconventional, playing with literary form etc. But it seems like you are writing a straightforward story. So again. I'd say no.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW amschilling's Avatar
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    Nope. Not if it's a single narrator, limited POV. Unless he's, like, psychic and can see it via telepathy or something.

    Jumping out of his head so you can show something he can't possibly see will jerk your readers out of the story. With limited, you have to find a creative way around it (like toothpaste's example. I personally like the noir, lol).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste View Post
    Not really. You could say "He heard shrieks, and one woman call out "Oh my god". God had nothing to do with it, lady, he thought . . ." (don't know why I went all film noir on you there)

    But no, if it's a limited POV then it's limited. The only time I could see it working is if you were writing something unconventional, playing with literary form etc. But it seems like you are writing a straightforward story. So again. I'd say no.
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    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    The whole point of limited POV is that it's...limited. To what that POV knows/sees etc. So, no, not really.

    You're going to have to be more inventive. Bonus - this may well make the scene better than taking the easy way




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    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    What others said, but hell, you can break POV however you wish. The reader isn't watching everything from within the narrator, but around him; they won't care so much.

    I'd try to make the scene better, show the crowd before he falls, then the shrieks and such. But their individual reactions are a bit much.

    You can also make it hypothetical, linked with the narrator's thoughts of what the crowd was doing.

    Or you can just do a intrusion of omni, switching off to another narrator after he falls. But research omni transition and read books that work with omni to nail this down.

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    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    a side argument: assuming the pov is "dude falling from rock" I doubt he's noticing shrieks, gasps, hands held to mouths, bulging eyes, etc....he's got his own problems. It would be sort of like having the spy thriller "kitchen chase" scene and mentioning the MC noting the smell of shallots (really, guys are shooting at him, and he's ruminating on shallots?). So, other than that you want to do it, what does your story gain from a head-hop?
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  8. #8
    That hairy-handed gent
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    quicklime pretty much nailed it. That was my first reaction, too. I can't see what you gain for the story in describing stuff that must be implicitly obvious in such a situation, and from the character's viewpoint, I guarantee he ain't thinking about the reactions of spectators.

    Rule of thumb: If it takes longer for a reader to read the description of sudden scary action than it takes for the action to take place, chances are the action is overdescribed.

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    Last edited by blacbird; 12-05-2012 at 12:28 PM.
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    Aye, ye scurvy dog! Sydneyd's Avatar
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    I'd also like to add, apart from agreeing with most everyone, that in picking your POV it is important to think about the events that are crucial in your story and how best to convey them. If it is crucial that we see an overall reaction to this man falling, you may want to consider dual or switching.

  10. #10
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    Agree with what quicklime and blacbird said, but also I don't have a problem with Will's suggestion of changing perspective. "Zooming out" as it were. Things like the narrative viewpoint staying put after a character leaves a room, that sort of thing. That doesn't bother me.
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  11. #11
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    I was reading this page:

    http://www.fiction-writers-mentor.co...t-of-view.html

    and it says at the bottom:

    The advantages of third person limited point of view include:
    Its nearly as immediate and intimate as first person, without the constraint of only being able to relate what the first person narrator sees/experiences. You can describe events even when your view-point character isn't present.

    In my OP, am I asking about 3rd person limited? I thought I was but maybe I don't understand.

  12. #12
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    they are talking about the ability to shift to another POV following a scene break....


    Alan fell.

    ##

    Rachel was just getting ready to take a photo of the canyon when she heard a scream.


    that sort fo thing...but again, I see no real advantage or gain in your scene; it sounds like something that would (should) get the editing knife anyway, from what I've heard so far.
    Three words that convey the meaning of six will always look better than twelve...


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  13. #13
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    Having followed the link, I'd say find a better resource.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by onesecondglance View Post
    Agree with what quicklime and blacbird said, but also I don't have a problem with Will's suggestion of changing perspective. "Zooming out" as it were. Things like the narrative viewpoint staying put after a character leaves a room, that sort of thing. That doesn't bother me.
    If you do that, you're not using a 3rd limited viewpoint. You're in omniscient. Simple as that.

    caw
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  15. #15
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    I'm trying to figure out my pov. I don't know what it is. I have it so there is one character per section, book, etc. I haven't decided for sure yet. I don't know how I can limit it to one character. Anyway, I have the scene and it is obviously limited to one character, but then I have stuff in there (it's a fantasy) that is "lore."

    The MC might see people laughing at him or have some inability. Then the narrator will say, "never such a thing has ever been passed down in any ancient writings..." that's not the MC. That's the narrator pointing something out for supposed depth.

    I don't know what you call that.

  16. #16
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    Sounds like omni.

  17. #17
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    Just "regular" omniscient? Even if I keep it on one character? Maybe it's all a messed up pov?

    edit: I think I'm getting myself in a mess. I found one of my old threads saying that omni was a very hard thing for beginners. Now I have to rethink everything.
    Last edited by LearningTwoWrite; 12-11-2012 at 02:45 AM.

  18. #18
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    =LearningTwoWrite;7799511]Just "regular" omniscient? Even if I keep it on one character? Maybe it's all a messed up pov?


    What are you talking about?

    Writing in Omniscient is using the single POV of an omniscient all-seeing and all-knowing narrator who knows everything about everybody and what everyone is thinking about everything else and who can explain as much as he wants to at any time, and (if he chooses) focus in and out on different characters to let us know their perspectives on what's happening as the story unfolds.

    Omni is difficult because the temptation is to rabbit on about every single thing about what everybody is doing and thinking about everybody else instead of focussing on the story and what's relevant to the story.

    OR

    You use Third person Limited and write the story from the POV of
    one or more characters but simply limited to one at any given time, be it per scene, per chapter or whatever. That's all the 'limited' means.

    The narrator in Third person Limited is obviously you - the writer- but in order to maintain the illusion that the events are being experienced by the reader through the senses of the POV character, you try and keep your narrator presence as low as possible. That means not constantly making the type of explanatory comments you mentioned earlier - let the reader find these things out through the characters' actions and interactions with other characters.
    That doesn't mean you can't make an explanatory comment, but it can be distracting if it becomes a habit.


    edit: I think I'm getting myself in a mess. I found one of my old threads saying that omni was a very hard thing for beginners. Now I have to rethink everything. You are covering the same ground you were covering months ago.
    Last edited by Bufty; 12-11-2012 at 03:48 PM.
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  19. #19
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    If you do that, you're not using a 3rd limited viewpoint. You're in omniscient. Simple as that.

    caw
    Sure. But like I said, I don't have a problem with a writer switching up their narrative mode, if it's done well and serves the story.
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