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Thread: Book recommendation for learning POV

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Book recommendation for learning POV

    Does anyone know of any great books on POV? I write in third person limited, but it seems I'm creating distance between the reader and the character. I'd like to improve my writing ability to reduce that distance.

    Can you recommend any...

    a.) Books on writing
    b.) Fantasy or science fiction novels that do third limited very well.

    Thanks!



  2. #2
    It's too hot to play. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    You might have some interest in Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card and the Characters, Emotions & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. These are both part of a reasonably good series of books by Writers Digest (although these are not my favorites of the series).
    Last edited by alleycat; 01-24-2013 at 03:45 AM.



  3. #3
    υπείκωphobe Wilde_at_heart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    You might have some interest in Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card and the Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. These are both part of a reasonably good series of books by Writers Digest (although these are not my favorites of the series).
    I haven't read the second one, OP (at least not recently, though the author's name rings a bell) but I highly recommend the first one as well.

    Grammar Girl also has a good summary: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com...t-of-view.aspx

    There's been a fair amount of dispute over 3rd POV Limited here, with some arguing it's merely a pronoun switch from 'I', while others disagree. What might help is in reading up as much as you can about 'deep penetration' vs 'light penetration'.
    Most would agree you can't jump right from thought-reading to describing what the POV character looks like or give backstory but that doesn't mean they are mutually exclusive either so long as you know what you're doing.

    You can also reduce 'distancing' by reducing or eliminating passive sentence construction or filtering, not that I *cough* ever do that at all

  4. #4
    Attack of the Hurricane Turtles! MagicWriter's Avatar
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    Martin's Song of Ice & Fire is done in 3rd limited. I never feel distanced in his stories, if anything, I feel like I'm right there in the story with the characters. I enjoy reading Martin, and I feel there is a lot to learn from reading his work.

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    I write in close third limited. I won't say I do it very well, but I've had more than one reviewer say they forgot it was even in third because it was so close.

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  6. #6
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    I hope the links and suggestions above are of help.

    Lessening that 'distance' is not as hard as it seems and sometimes reading technical books can complicate the issue more than simplify it.

    Writing well in third person limited is the creating and maintaining of the illusion that the reader is experiencing events unfolding through the senses of the POV character and thus enabling the reader to imagine himself as that character.

    For beginners, the main issue is usually our tendency as the narrator to put ourselves too far to the front of the picture and to overexplain and state what we see and how the reader should experience that.

    Instead, we should sit our POV camera on the chosen character's shoulder, climb inside that camera and relate the view seen through the lens - what the POV character sees depending upon whatever mood he happens to be in and how perceptive he is at that moment. Let the reader put two and two together.

    If we make our own presence as narrator too obvious we push the POV character's experiences into the background and therefore push the reader away from what is happening.

    It's not nearly as hard as it seems to keep ourselves out of the picture.

    Reading novels (see previous poster's link) will show how other authors use third person limited POV to pull us into their unfolding stories. Are you aware of the writer's presence, or just involved in the unfolding events as experienced by the chosen POV character - and therefore enjoying the story.

    Good luck
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    ...it's anything but. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    I rather liked Alicia Rasley's The Power of Point of View.
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    I don't think lessening distance really has much to do with POV. Each POV has it's own distance, and it's simply how intimate you get that brings readers "closer" to the character. I don't believe there is such a thing as "close" or "distant" third person limited. Third person limited is third person limited. There's only how intimately, or how well, the writer reveals character.

  10. #10
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    It seems to me you're saying exactly the same thing as others above despite your initial apparent dismissal of any distinction between writing what comes across as a close or distant execution of a third person limited POV .

    It's all a question of execution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    I don't think lessening distance really has much to do with POV. Each POV has it's own distance, and it's simply how intimate you get that brings readers "closer" to the character. I don't believe there is such a thing as "close" or "distant" third person limited. Third person limited is third person limited. There's only how intimately, or how well, the writer reveals character.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Thank you all for the info.

    Stacia, I'll check out your site after work today.



  12. #12
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post
    Lessening that 'distance' is not as hard as it seems and sometimes reading technical books can complicate the issue more than simplify it.

    Writing well in third person limited is the creating and maintaining of the illusion that the reader is experiencing events unfolding through the senses of the POV character and thus enabling the reader to imagine himself as that character.

    For beginners, the main issue is usually our tendency as the narrator to put ourselves too far to the front of the picture and to overexplain and state what we see and how the reader should experience that.

    Instead, we should sit our POV camera on the chosen character's shoulder, climb inside that camera and relate the view seen through the lens - what the POV character sees depending upon whatever mood he happens to be in and how perceptive he is at that moment. Let the reader put two and two together.

    If we make our own presence as narrator too obvious we push the POV character's experiences into the background and therefore push the reader away from what is happening.

    It's not nearly as hard as it seems to keep ourselves out of the picture.

    Reading novels (see previous poster's link) will show how other authors use third person limited POV to pull us into their unfolding stories. Are you aware of the writer's presence, or just involved in the unfolding events as experienced by the chosen POV character - and therefore enjoying the story.
    This.^

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW bonitakale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    I don't think lessening distance really has much to do with POV. Each POV has it's own distance, and it's simply how intimate you get that brings readers "closer" to the character. I don't believe there is such a thing as "close" or "distant" third person limited. Third person limited is third person limited. There's only how intimately, or how well, the writer reveals character.

    I think there's a difference. You can do a third-person limited that's pretty cool or distant--in which the character is described, his actions told, and some of his thoughts quoted or described.

    Then you can do a hot or close third-person in which the narrator is well-nigh invisible.

    The close one is a little more showing and less telling. I've seen books in which some chapters are from the main character's POV, and very close, while some are from another character's POV, and a bit more distant.


    Oh, gosh, these are pretty bad, but the first is more distant and the second, closer.

    1. As he walked along, thinking about Jim, he got angrier and angrier. Would a real friend have acted that way? "No!" he said aloud, and received a startled look from a woman entering a supermarket. He concentrated on his anger, pushing other thoughts aside. What a lousy friend Jim had proved to be. What a betrayal!

    2. He walked along, faster and faster. How could Jim have betrayed him so? I thought you were a friend, Jim, but you weren't, were you? "No!" he said aloud, and received a startled look from a woman entering a supermarket. But remember when-- his mind started, and he shut it up. He's just no good. He never was any good, only now, I can see it.

  14. #14
    Bananas are my favorite animal A S Abrams's Avatar
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    Ursula K. Le Guin has an older book called Steering the Craft. It has exercises in it and she has a lot to say about POV.

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    Resident Alien Reziac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    I don't think lessening distance really has much to do with POV. Each POV has it's own distance, and it's simply how intimate you get that brings readers "closer" to the character. I don't believe there is such a thing as "close" or "distant" third person limited. Third person limited is third person limited. There's only how intimately, or how well, the writer reveals character.
    Allowing that, one might say that "close" reveals a lot of character since you get it straight from the POV-character's own head, and "distant" makes you draw your own conclusions about character by observing his behavior.
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  16. #16
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    I think we are veering off-track here.

    The phrase 'distant' as used in this thread is not the same as the objective approach to which you seem to be referring when using the word 'distant'.

    To my mind, 'distant' is not generally a complimentary term in relation to reader enjoyment of the unfolding tale.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reziac View Post
    Allowing that, one might say that "close" reveals a lot of character since you get it straight from the POV-character's own head, and "distant" makes you draw your own conclusions about character by observing his behavior.
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  17. #17
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    Others have said great things, such as reading what other people write and paying attention to what works and what doesn't to make you feel close to a character.

    In my own writing, the words "he could [sensory verb: hear, see, taste]" are red flags. "He could see a blue curtain hanging over the doorway" becomes "A blue curtain hung over the doorway." Another red flag is "there": "There were eight people on the dance floor while . . ." becomes "Eight people danced while . . ."

    I also have a bad habit of passive voice: "A knife had been placed on the table" becomes "A knife sat on the table." Passive voice adds distance because the reader has to think about who did the action, rather than what the character sees.

    Hopefully these aren't problems for you, but I struggle with them.
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  18. #18
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong per se with any of these original sentences, Chris, if they convey what you intended to convey.

    But, yes, being aware of things we tend to overuse is half the battle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris P View Post
    Others have said great things, such as reading what other people write and paying attention to what works and what doesn't to make you feel close to a character.

    In my own writing, the words "he could [sensory verb: hear, see, taste]" are red flags. "He could see a blue curtain hanging over the doorway" becomes "A blue curtain hung over the doorway." Another red flag is "there": "There were eight people on the dance floor while . . ." becomes "Eight people danced while . . ."

    I also have a bad habit of passive voice: "A knife had been placed on the table" becomes "A knife sat on the table." Passive voice adds distance because the reader has to think about who did the action, rather than what the character sees.

    Hopefully these aren't problems for you, but I struggle with them.
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  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    I'm with Bufty. Sometimes, we tend to focus on the "dos and donts" so much that it can paralyze the writing. I know; I've been there.

    I think knowing the rules is helpful, but we should also know when to break them or throw them out altogether.

  20. #20
    Superpowers: Making babies, writing MeganJoWrites's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris P View Post
    In my own writing, the words "he could [sensory verb: hear, see, taste]" are red flags. "He could see a blue curtain hanging over the doorway" becomes "A blue curtain hung over the doorway." Another red flag is "there": "There were eight people on the dance floor while . . ." becomes "Eight people danced while . . ."
    An editor I worked with referred to those verbs - hear, see, taste, etc - as intruders. Meaning, they take the reader out of the action - intruders.

    I had TONS of those in my MS and while I think sometimes they work and are necessary, they can be distracting when overused.

    I also struggled with passive voice as well. I always want to say "He was sitting" rather than "he sat."

    I usually just write my scenes and then go back through and make sure all of my vices aren't prolific.
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  21. #21
    I against I Jon M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeganJoWrites View Post
    I also struggled with passive voice as well. I always want to say "He was sitting" rather than "he sat."
    Past progressive does not = passive.
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    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon M View Post
    Past progressive does not = passive.
    Passive voice would be, "The chair was sat in by him."

    Past progressive has a definite place (well so does passive voice for that matter), but if a writer uses it excessively or incorrectly, it does have the effect of making the passage feel less immediate.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 01-26-2013 at 08:13 AM.
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