Thoughts on Point of View
When Writing Your Novel
Answering the following Point of View questions:
Changing PoV Every Chapter?
Occasionally unreliable third person omniscient narrator?
How to write PoV for drunk or hallucinating characters?
First or third person? Which do you personally prefer when reading fiction stories?
I tried it once in one novel. I had 3 main characters. A young girl (1st person POV), her father (3rd person POV), and her grandfather (3rd person POV, from a flamboyant character who talks about himself in the 3rd person). Every chapter rotated between them. It went like this:
Chap1: ChA's POV on the event.
Chap2: ChB's POV on the same event.
Chap3: ChC's POV on the same event.
Chap4: ChA's POV on next event.
Chap5: ChB's POV on the same event.
Chap6: ChC's POV on the same event.
...and so on.
So, the reader saw each event 3 times.
For example, in one chapter the girl was sick and vomiting and you see her reaction, knowing she's pregnant, and hiding this from her family because she's only 14. You see her run from the dining room then lock herself in her room. You see her in her room, and hear her thoughts.
Then in the next chapter, you see her father, a recently divorced dad, whose wife just left him for someone else, and he's trying to hold what's left of his family together, he's worried about this, that, and the other thing, then suddenly his daughter whos been acting sick for a few days runs out of the room vomiting, locks herself in her room and is not answering the door while he's trying to find out if she's okay.
Then in the following chapter you see the grandfather, a elderly retired actor, flamboyant and self centered, unable to accept his career is over, not really caring much about his son or granddaughter, is witnessing his son's life falling apart, but is too busy being self centered to care. He sees his granddaughter run out vomiting and his son, her father, run out after her, but he just shrugs and goes back to his memorabilia from his past.
The whole novel continues to rotate in this manner, every 3 chapters showing the other character's dramatically different point of view of the exact same event. You end up seeing how 3 generations are affected by and react to the world around them and how though each of them are experiencing the same life events, they each experience very differently from the other two.
Of all the books I've ever written, this one was by far the most difficult and most complicated to write. It was so nerve wracking at times, trying to make sure I included each detail. Like if I had the father drinking coffee in Chap 1, I had to remember to have him drinking coffee in chapters 2 and 3 as well. It was SO easy ti slip up on the tiny details like that.
I rarely use outlines, almost always pantsing my way through a novel, but for this one I had to write an outline just to make sure I got everything in order. And I had to write 3 outlines, one for each character, then, figure out how to overlap them into one story.
It was a NIGHTMARE to write!
It was also one of my favourite stories I ever wrote though. I felt like I was getting to know more about the story, because I was seeing 3 different people each telling it from 3 very different ways.
It was definitely mentally exhausting to write, and it took MONTHS to write. Usually I pound out a first draft free flow writing it in a weekend. Because of the 3 POV characters in this one and the need to be matching everything up, it took me 6 months just to get through the 1st draft.
Interestingly, this is also the story that my readers... HATED... a lot.
It was the first novel I published. It was published on 2006. It was unpublished because of fan outcries in 2007, leaving it the most obscure, and difficult to find volume of The Twighlight Manor series.
And if you know the Twighlight Manor series, you know of course that this is Love, Lust, Madness.
The Twighlight Manor series rotates main characters, with there being 75 separate main characters being featured in the series depending on which characters were used in which stories. Rarely do more than 5 characters ever get featured in any one story at once.
At the time, Etiole was the primary main character of the series. He is the grandfather in this novel. The son his Phozeen, with the story being set days after Hornet aka Dulcee leaves him for FrostJackle. The girl is Etiole's granddaughter Ptarmagin.
This story hit a lot of nerves, with fans, as it was the story which shows Etiole's darker side. (He is the father of Ptarmagin's baby.)
It was also the first story to show Phozeen's violent nature (when he tried to kill Etiole.)
And while suicide has been a long running theme in the series since the 1990s, it was the first volume to show a graphicly detailed on page suicide.
The thing which ticked off readers the most however, was the fact that this was written, with it being the FINAL story of the Twighlight Manor series, and Etiole dies in this story.
Etiole is by far the character who has the most fans of any character in the series and killing him off, sent fans into a frenzy, many of them storming their way to FanFiction.net and their own various fanfiction blogs to rewrite this story.
As far as I know, Love, Lust, Madness was the ONLY story in the set to ever have fanfiction written about it....and written not because they liked the story, but rather because they hated the ending and wanted to rewrite it.
In the weeks following its publication, my inbox was quickly flooded with hundreds of reader out cries, many of them begging me not to stop writing this series that I had written since 1978.
Others asking me to write another story, a part 2 to Love Lust Madness, to reveal that Etiole had "not died".
Still others decried the death of the baby.
And interestingly, every email asked why this was a novel and not a short story, as the entire series was short stories, with Love Lust Madness being the first novel of the series.
In the years before this, I had received one or two fan mails here or there, and was not fully aware of how many fans I actually had.
This sudden outpouring of hundreds of fans coming forward and begging the series to continue, opened my eyes to just exactly how many readers I really had out there, and how much they deeply and truly loved this series.
I had intended Love Lust Madness to be the final story of the series, and had not planned on writing any more stories for The Twighlight Manor series.
I had long seen The Twighlight Manor series as a failure. It's sales have always been minimal at best, and local protects by various church had just reached a new violent high - October 18, 2006 a bomb blew up my house and an 8 foot tall Ku Klux Klan cross erected where my house had been days earlier. Members of the Saco Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Tim Smith, Kathy Smith, Joel Bailey, Mary Bailey, Easter Rhodes, Tommy Bryant, Dan Kenning, Jim Thomas, and Mary Elizabeth Chapman) gathered in my driveway after the bomb, to chant that I was a witch, stating they had asked God for the bomb to get rid of me and my Satanic books. (Keeping in mind this was the same church group who had banned the books I wrote in 1991).
Love Lust Madness was written, during Maine's -20F winter, the year that reached the record breaking -47f... while I was living under a 8x6 tarp with no protection from the cold.
I had no reason to think I would survive the end of winter, living under a tarp, and thus I wrote Love Lust Madness not only to end the series, but also to be my final book, as I fully expected to freeze to death before winter ended.
And uhm... wow... well, here's a response for you... remind you of someone? Teddy bears perhaps? I'm so very tempted to write a novel based off of this thread of, well, replies?
I'm just left to ask, what in the world triggered this commenter?
Ah! So, I clicked the user's profile, to see their posting history. WOW!
As they are typing these comments (right now - there were only 8 when I started writing this and there are now 43, in under 20 minutes) They are also one 4 OTHER subReddits typing very similar comments, AND they are one 2 other threads on THIS subReddit also posting like this. In one of the other subReddits they are bragging that they are drunk on tequila, whatever that is, I Googled it and apparently it's a drink?
But wow oh wow, if you want to see a mega troll in action on Reddit, just click on their comment, go to their profile, and see the THOUSANDS of hyper drunk comments they have left. Yie! Okay, well, that explains the attack on the OP here. They aren't just attacking the OP, they are just attacking everyone.
Well, anyways, when I typed my answer for this question, it had ZERO comments. When I went to post it, it had 4 comments. y the time I finished reading those, the troll had landed. I had not yet posted my comment because I was reading the wild insanity the the comment thread.
By the time I got done reading the comments a mod came in and closed the thread, so my answer never got posted, LOL!
Well, here it is anyways.
>>>Occasionally unreliable third person omniscient narrator?
>>>Is it okay for a third person omniscient narrator, when zooming into a character who is drunk/hallucinating, to report the imagined things he sees as though they were facts? Eg. "There WAS a man in the doorway" and not "He saw that there was..." "He thought there was..." "He thought he saw..." etc which might give away everything too early. Has this been done?
>>>Edit: I'm thinking that the unreliability happens in just one instance in the story (when the stuff is revealed not to have happened), while the rest of it remains reliably told. Does this make it any more acceptable? Or will it make readers feel even more cheated or doubt the rest of the story?
I believe that when it comes to fiction, as long as you know the grammar rules and are using proper grammar throughout, it's okay to break the proper grammar rules if it serves the story and plot or makes the scene easier to understand or helps the reader to connect with the character.
So, while what you want to do, may not be conventional wisdom for grammar in most situations, I feel that if it serves the story, than do it.
Proper grammar has it's place, and usually you want to use it. But one of the keys to know good grammar is also knowing when it's okay to break away from it for the sake of the story.
Not sure if this'll help or not, it would depend I suppose on how you handle the story as a whole, but, the series I wrote, the MC takes Opium and LDS and drinks Absinthe (often using all 3 at once), so frequently scenes occur where he is high, drunk, or both. The PoV of the series is USUALLY 3rd Person Limited from his perspective, though there are times when he passes out and, there is the need for a different character to narrate, at which point the story "zooms out" to 3rd person omniscient during just that scene while the MC is unconscious, and one or both of his 2 friends takes over as the narrator.
As all 3 of the drugs he uses cause hallucinations to some varying degree, often there is a "hallucination transition scene" just before he passes out and the other character takes over as narrator.
So, if I was to take your example:
>>>"There WAS a man in the doorway" and not "He saw that there was..." "He thought there was..." "He thought he saw..." etc which might give away everything too early. Has this been done?
... and write it as a hallucination scene for him, I would do something like this:
Each sentence is very short and is a new paragraph and it written in a sort of "poem-like" format, no longer bocks of text like a normal paragraph, and it's quasi-dialogue-ish, but it's not quite dialogue and not quite narration. By blending the narration and the dialogue together and physically changing what the words LOOK like (how they are formatted/typeset) on the print page, clues the reader into the fact that something has changed and the narrator is suddenly having trouble focusing and maybe, just maybe, whenever the text looks like this, we shouldn't trust the narrator to be telling us everything accurately while the text is not formatted in correct and proper grammar.
Now the example I just wrote above, doesn't change PoVs and stays in 3rd person limited with the MC as the narrator, because we as readers never seen him passed out, the scene doesn't tell you he passed out, and transitions straight from him passing out, to him waking up all in one scene, allowing the hallucination of the man in the doorway, to not yet be known to the reader if the man was really there or now, but also doing it in a way to hint to the reader, the man might have just been a drunk vision. Later scenes might have him looking for the man, and evidence reveal that there never was a man and confirm to the reader, yeah it was just a hallucination.
Not sure if that helps you out or not, but, that's how I'd handle the situation you've described, if I was writing it in my own novel.
And now that I've written that example, I'm going to rewrite it, add character names, expand it, and see if I can't write a full chapter based off of it. I love using stuff like this as writing prompts. I just wrote a scene 443 words long, based off using this:
>>>Is it okay for a third person omniscient narrator, when zooming into a character who is drunk/hallucinating, to report the imagined things he sees as though they were facts? Eg. "There WAS a man in the doorway" and not "He saw that there was..." "He thought there was..." "He thought he saw..." etc
... as a writing prompt.
I wonder, can I get a 1,000 words out of it, and than keep going and turn it into a Quaraun story, perhaps even a full novel, based off of just that?
Who knows? We'll find out.
Also, not to join the argument going on there, but... this commenter and their 18 comments...
>>>>>Third person is not the MC. It's the author.
>>>>>So if the author is an unreliable narrator, the book sucks.
>>>>>What you're talking about is not unreliable narrator.
>>>>>The thing is, by definition, YOU CANNOT WRITE UNRELIABLE 3RD PERSON NARRATIVE.
>>>>>Because 3rd person narrative IS THE AUTHOR.
I've read more than 10,000 novels in the past 50 years, and I've NEVER seen a 3rd person novel where the narrator was the author.
Because when the AUTHOR is the narrator it's a little thing called 4th person meta... it's VERY rare, Douglas Adams used it in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where the book itself is the narrator, because the book is the author writing itself as it tells the story; outside of the satire genre you are almost never going to see the author be the narrator
3rd person limited narrator is ALWAYS the main character; that's why we know what it is the main character is thinking - isn't it?
3rd person omnipresent narrator is the main character and secondary characters who take over when the main character is not around; that's why we know what it is the main character and his/her friends are thinking - isn't it?
3rd person head hopping is when EVERY character is the narrator depending on which perspective is best for the scene in question; that's why we know what it is that every character is thinking - isn't it?
I wonder though, is a reader sees the narrator as the author and not as one of the character, the way the author intended, doesn't that mean the reader lacks reading comprehension skills and is missing out on vast elements of the story, simple because they think the author themselves is the character telling the narrative parts? They are not connecting with the character on a deep level, if they don't see the character as the narrator, right? I don't know. I've never thought of it before.
I don't know, but it seems to me that writing yourself, the author, as the character in the novel, narrating the story, is quite arrogant and, as a reader, I would think the author's ego too big for me t want to read the book, if the author stuffed themselves into the book as the narrator. Maybe I'm over thinking it, but, I've never like stories where the author writes a story about an author writing a story. I always see stories like that as the author giving themselves an ego trip and not really caring about either their readers or their characters.
In all the books I've ever read, I've never once thought it was the author LITERALLY as the character in the story telling the story. Is that weird? Do others see narrators as being the author themselves being a character in the book?
You know, I went to college for an degree in teaching English Literature and the textbook of grammar rules states:
3rd person limited narrator is ALWAYS the main character
3rd person omnipresent narrator is the main character and secondary characters who take over when the main character is not around
3rd person head hopping is when EVERY character is the narrator depending on which perspective is best for the scene in question
On the other hand:
>>>>>Sticking oranges up your ass does not make you a citrus tree. - thealmightymalachi
Sticking oranges up your ass does not make you a citrus tree.
Has to win hands down best quote of the year.
But getting side tracked by the commenter ... back to the OP...
And if you want to see an excellent example of 3rd person omnipresent with an unreliable narrator done VERY WELL... read the Witcher novels: they have 2 narrators: Geralt who SHOWS the reader what is actually happening and Ciri who TELLS the reader what she wants the reader to THINK is happen. Every character appears twice.
For example: Geralt meets Avallac'h and sits and talks WITH him, and Geralt SHOWS what Avallac'h does, we see Avallac'h talk, we hear Avallac'h's dialogue from his own mouth, we see him walk around the room AS he does it. A few chapters later Ciri takes over as narrator and TELLS us that she had met Avallac'h and doesn't let us see Avallac'h do anything, doesn't let us hear his actual dialogue, instead Ciri tells long texts of exposition of yesterday Avallac'h did this, last night Avallac'h said that, Ciri tells us AFTER THE FACT what she WANTS the reader to THINK happened. And than, still later, the narrator moves outside of Ciri's head, and is now Starry Eyes (a different character) talking, not Ciri or Geralt, and we SEE Ciri's actions, what ACTUALLY happened between Ciri and Avallac'h and WHY Ciri so desperately tried to hide the truth about her interactions with Avallac'h from the reader.
If you want to read it for yourself, it's Chapter 7 of the book Tower of Swallows and Chapter 5 of the book Lady of the Lake and the epilogue of Lady of the Lake. Read all 3 chapters side by side, to see all 3 narrations, and watch how vastly different Avallac'h is portrayed depending on if the narrator is Geralt, Ciri, or Starry Eyes. The following is a MAJOR SPOILER for how the Witcher novels end - reveal only if you don't mind knowing the end of the series: >!Ciri is revealed as a horrific liar, and you find out that 90% of EVERYTHING you were told across 8 novels never happened at all, because EVERYTHING narrated by Ciri was a complete and total lie, and ONLY the parts narrated by Geralt were true and actually happening. Turns out Ciri was on fistech (cocaine) the whole time, never had any magic powers, never was the chosen one, and imagined the whole thing in a drug induced hallucination.!< It is the absolute BEST WRITTEN unreliable narrator I have ever seen, because >!as shitty as the "it was all a dream" ending is, Andrzej Sapkowski pulled it off really well, because you do not see that coming at all, simply be
cause of how many lies Ciri told the reader while she was the narrator. However the "it was all a dream" ending was a huge letdown, ever though it was pulled off well, because I fell in love with so many characters in the Witcher novels and to find out none of them were even "real" in the Witcher world at all and they were all just drug induced figments of Ciri's imagination - Avallac'h, Eredin, King Auberon, The Wild Hunt - they weren't real. They were just a dream Ciri had, and I'm insanely in love with Avallac'h, so the "oh yeah, by the way, that was just a drug induced dream" reveal was big let down for me. That he did it well and I didn't see it coming, doesn't change the fact, I really really don't like the "it was all a dream" ending-trope, because I invested a lot of time to read those 8 novels and got emotionally attached to some of those characters and to get to the end and it be: "yeah it never happened" just makes it feel like I wasted my time.!< If you want to see the drug addicted unreliable narrator having lots of hallucinations, done well, read all the Ciri narrated sections of the Witcher novels.
>>>Which do you personally prefer when reading fiction stories.
>>>First or third person? And would you be able to tell me why? Thanks in advance!
If the main character is supposed to be me/the reader and is left nameless and genderless and devoid of any description, so that I can actually believe it's me, than I don't mind 1st person. If it MC is going to be me, than is MUST BE ACTUALLY ME. So soon as the 1st person character looks in the mirror and comments on her golden hair and blue eyes, I'm out of there, because it's no longer me, and once it's no longer me, I just can't get immersed in the 1st person PoV.
But for MOST stories, I'd rather have 3rd person, because I like to get to know the main character as though they were my best friend. I don't like it when the story is first person, but the character has a name/gender/race/description because then it's like the author is trying to force me to BECOME someone who I am not, and I'm fine with who I am, I don't want to become a different person.
So, if I find the book is in 1st person but the character has a name/age/race/gender/hair colour/eye color/etc, I'll just toss the book aside unread and go read something else. I know there are readers who WANT to become a different person and so like the 1st person named character style, but, I'm not the right reader for those.
I'm somebody who likes to feel like I'm having adventures WITH the main character not AS the main character. For me, 3rd person is the best way for me to get fully immersed in the story, because I get to hang out with the main character. So 3rd person is always my preference.
Of course, I like character driven stories, so as a general rule I EXTREMELY HATE 1st person, because it is nearly impossible to pull off a good character driven story with it. Once a while a writer can pull it off, but usually, it just feels like most writers use 1st person because they are too lazy to bother creating a fully fleshed out three dimensional character, and they just slap in a dull, drab, cookie cutter, give a few details, than rely on the reader to fill in the blacks themselves by pretending they are the main character.
It's not so much the 3rd person is better for a character driven story, because like I said, sometimes you'll find an author who gives good fleshed out 1st person characters, but rather it seems that, for some reason the bulk of authors just put more effort into fleshing out their characters when they write in 3rd person, and seem to be like when a lot of writers do 1st person they are thinking: "Hey, I'm writing 1st person, who gives a shit if I flesh out the character!" while it feels like 3rd person authors think: "This is 3rd person, the reader can't self insert themselves, I better flesh this character out to the max".
So in the end, it's not that I ACTUALLY dislike 1st person, but rather I dislike how the bulk of authors get sloppy/lazy with character creation when they write 1st person. 1st person can be done really well, I think it's great when it is, but, it's just so difficult to find the rare gems hidden in the massive dung heap piles of crap, that it sometimes feels pointless to even bother trying to look for well written 1st person.
The end result is, I'd rather be reading than shifting through crap looking for something to read, so I end up just avoiding most 1st person stories completely, unless my brother says "So, this one was done well, you should read it." He reads 2 or 3 novels a week and has for 30 years now, and I trust him to recommend a well written 1st person. But otherwise, I just stick to 3rd person stories.
Also, I don't mind seeing the story from multiple 3rd person PoVs. Because, it's like I'm with all my friends and get to see what all of them are thinking. So I tend to like 3rd person with 2 or 3 PoV characters best of all. But not 3rd omnipresent. Rather 3rd person limited, where it's usually 1 main character, but than once in a while also a secondary character's view point.
If you are trying to decide which one you should use in your own writing, my personal rule that I write by is this: write it the way YOU as a reader would enjoy reading it, that way you will find readers who like the same things you like; in order words don't write what you think readers will want, because there are readers for everything, so just write it the way you would want it to be if you were the reader.
So, me personally, because I prefer to read 3rd limited most of all, I write 3rd limited. But if you like reading 1st, than I think you should write 1st, or if you like reading 3rd omnipresent, than you should write 3rd omnipresent; or if you like to read 4th person meta (the author and not one of the characters is the narrator; like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the book itself is the narrator and tells you the story as it writes itself) than you should write 4th person meta; or if you like to read 2nd person (the reader "You" is the main character, like Choose Your Own Adventure books) than you should write 2nd person.
My point is, I don't think that it should matter to the author, what OTHERS like to read. I believe it should matter to the author that they look at their own personal reading habits and strive to write the same style they personally enjoying reading.
So in the end, I think there is no true right or wrong answers as to which PoV is best to write in. I think there is something out there for everyone, and that we as writers should just write the thing/style/story/plot/genre/format/PoV/characters that we personally enjoy. So I think we should all just write the thing we like the most and not worry what others like or not.
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