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LAgrunion
06-15-2016, 03:11 PM
I'm trying to write my sci-fi story in close/tight/deep third-person POV. The problem is, when I do exposition (e.g. explaining the history of my world), sometimes it comes across as sounding omniscient.

I only know one author who does close third-person POV: Suzanne Brockmann. I've read her stuff. She's very good at it, but her genre is romance.

I've not been a huge sci-fi reader. When I think about the sci-fi books I've read, they all seem to be written in omni or regular limited third-person POV.

Can anyone recommend a good example of sci-fi written in close third-person POV? Preferably stories that are set in futuristic, space, or alien worlds. But I'll be happy to look at novels in other genres that do exposition well while in close third-person POV.

Thanks.

Roxxsmom
06-21-2016, 12:03 AM
By tight/deep/close third-person, do you mean limited third in general, or do you mean the style that's sometimes called deep limited third?

I remember that CJ Cherryh has the rep for grounding her third-person narratives in character povs and not telling the reader anything the focal character didn't know. I remember her earlier books (Downbelow Station and the Morgaine Cycle as being more omniscient, but she slipped into a tighter style of third-person in her Chanuur books and later works in her Merchanter-Alliance universe. I wouldn't say her stuff is super deep limited third throughout, but she has passages within some of her stories that go pretty deeply into her pov character's perspective. These books are older, though, so they do break some of the "rules" of pov that we're taught to follow now (for instance, in her Chanuur books, she sometimes changes limited-third povs at paragraphs without a clear scene break).

Her most recent books are (mostly) set in the Foreigner Universe, which I didn't get as into for some reason. I think those are in limited third also.

I know there are other, more recent SF writers who use limited third as well, though maybe it's not a super deep or immersive "always in character voice" style. Maybe Carolyn Ives Gilman's Dark Orbit. It's been in my "to read" queue for a while, so I don't know which pov it's in.

There are a number of more recently successful writers of space opera style SF who have used first person. Scalzi and Leckie, for instance. First person shares some of the constraints as third person does, so maybe seeing how the authors convey information in that viewpoint would help. Though first-person can be reflective and have places that feel almost omniscient when the narrating character muses about or explains something.

A writer who does use deep or close first and third person narratives in short stories in Juliette Wade (I follow her blog posts about world building and pov). She used to come on AW sometimes, but I haven't seen her here for a while. Many of her stories are in magazines like Analog, which require a paid subscription to read, unfortunately, but she's been published in Clarkesworld (stories are available for free online). Short stories and novels are different things, of course, but her work demonstrates how one can convey information without stepping outside of a character's "here and now."

An excerpt (http://juliettewade.blogspot.com/2009/10/cold-words-page-1.html) from her story "Cold Words" from Analog is available on her web site.

LAgrunion
06-21-2016, 01:02 AM
Thanks Roxxsmom for your input! I had given up hope ...

I meant deep/close/tight limited third POV, where everything is written the POV character's voice. Basically a first-person POV but with third-person pronouns. And no thought tag.

So, instead of:

Roxxsmom is awesome, Donkey thinks.

It would be:

Roxxsmom is awesome.

I will check out the examples you mentioned.


Though first-person can be reflective and have places that feel almost omniscient when the narrating character muses about or explains something.



Yeah, that's the problem I'm having. It's easier to do voice if the POV character has an unusual speech pattern or has a strong personality (e.g. talks in slang, is snarky, has a regional vocabulary, etc.). But what if the character is just a fairly normal person? Most people I know wouldn't really sound that distinct if you were to record transcripts of their speech.

And if I have to do exposition on something dry like history or how a device works (cuz not everything can be efficiently or appropriately conveyed through dialogue or action), how do I do it in a voice-y way so it doesn't sound like an omni narrator has popped in to give a lecture? Arrrgh.

Roxxsmom
06-21-2016, 01:27 AM
I think there are novels that vary the narrative distance, whether in limited third or first, where some passages (usually ones with high stakes, action, or other emotionally intense elements) feel very much in the character's here and now, but others are more distant or telly, and in a more neutral or formal narrative voice. The latter don't (if in first or limited third) break pov and relate things that the pov character doesn't know, but they're used to skim over parts of the story that are useful information (like what happens over the two week interval between chapters 5 and 6), but describing them in detail would slow the pace to a crawl.

This back and forth is something I tend to struggle with, as my own preference for writing in limited third is to jump into the middle of a scene without preamble. But some beta readers have complained that there's not enough grounding or information about how much time is elapsed since the end of the last scene and so on. It's more of an issue with novels, I think, because the pacing is more likely to be uneven with varying amounts of "down time" between important scenes. Making that transition from shallow "skimming or summarizing" of events to deep "here and now" in limited third without confusing the reader is one of the things that gives me (metaphoric) hives as a writer.

I'd love to see some others chime in here, possibly with examples of books they think handle general description and information in deeper limited third passages well, because it's a question I've had also.

eskay
06-21-2016, 06:43 PM
There are a number of more recently successful writers of space opera style SF who have used first person. Scalzi and Leckie, for instance.

Leckie's Imperial Radch books are a little weird though; yes they're technically first person, but it's often (at least in the later books) a quasi omniscient first person, in that you get direct emotional reactions from other characters. I'm reading Ancillary Mercy right now and there's a part where it's just straight up "Here is what I saw on the recorded surveillance footage" and then it's straight third person for a chapter. It's actually a really interesting book from a POV point of view.

I went to look at my bookshelf and see if I could find a good example. Probability Moon by Nancy Kress is hard SF with lots of (IMO) well-done exposition, and it's in limited 3rd but not quite as close as you are asking--"XXX, she thought" comes up sometimes. But there are sections that are the character's thoughts that are not tagged as such.

jjdebenedictis
06-21-2016, 07:42 PM
It's not science fiction, it's fantasy, but Orson Scott Card's book The Crystal City does this very well. That author is generally very good at slotting you straight into a character's brain with no buffering or filtering.

Fujuman
07-02-2016, 08:02 PM
I'm trying to write my sci-fi story in close/tight/deep third-person POV. The problem is, when I do exposition (e.g. explaining the history of my world), sometimes it comes across as sounding omniscient.

I only know one author who does close third-person POV: Suzanne Brockmann. I've read her stuff. She's very good at it, but her genre is romance.

I've not been a huge sci-fi reader. When I think about the sci-fi books I've read, they all seem to be written in omni or regular limited third-person POV.

Can anyone recommend a good example of sci-fi written in close third-person POV? Preferably stories that are set in futuristic, space, or alien worlds. But I'll be happy to look at novels in other genres that do exposition well while in close third-person POV.

Thanks.

I think I know what you mean. Something like writing your narrator as if she were a regular person? H.P. Lovecraft did that wonderfully, and if you can get past the heavy prose, his writing is a good place to start. The thing is many of his stories would have the narrator writing the events in a journal, and switch to first person at the end of the story. Aside from that, many of his stories are in that close third voice.