Thursday, March 08, 2018
Fixing Problems With Third-Person Limited POV
My student is writing an excellent novel with four points of view. In each section, she is writing in third-person limited, so the narration is supposed to be coming from the point of view character of that section. I noticed in this student's chapter last week that this point of view character was sounding more like an omniscient narrator. When I was reading, I felt like I was reading the novel's events like someone was telling me the story while sitting on a cloud and looking down on the earth. In actuality, the events in this section were very upsetting for the POV character. But I couldn't feel it. The writer was too involved in trying to get the plot down correctly, and she lost the voice and the character's feelings in the story during this section.
This happens to us/writers/me all the time. I mean, come on, writing a novel is not easy! And this student of mine has a very complex, interesting, and unique story. Plus, she is writing in four different points of view! So it's no wonder that some of her narration is a little off.
I told her that she needed to really pretend that she was that POV character and put herself in those events and write what this character would see if he was actually there. That's the key. Instead of worrying about making sure the plot is correct or you filled in the backstory or you remembered to have the character open the car door before he started driving the car, you have to get the events down through that point of view character's eyes and even more importantly, his or her heart! What is her body experiencing while these events are unfolding?
It's usually easier to write with emotion with first person. I don't notice this omniscient/loss of voice problem as much with first person narration as I do with third-person limited. So another thing writers can do if they are having this issue is write a section in first person, in the voice of the POV character just to get the events down and the emotions on the page, and then write the section in third-person limited for the novel.
If you are writing a novel in third person or using multiple viewpoints, are there some challenges you've come across that we can all learn from?
Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, editor, children's author, and instructor, living in St. Louis, MO. Her next novel writing class starts on Friday, April 6. To find out more information about Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach, please click here.
photo by Robert Meeks on Flickr.com