Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Point of View 4

Point of View: Getting Really Close

Third-person point of view can be extremely versatile in narration. It can either be objective - a neutral narrative that does not look inside any of the characters to reveal their thoughts or feelings - or at the other extreme it can be close point of view.

Close point of view latches onto one viewpoint character and freely enters that one's mind and feelings. Traditional limited third-person still has a certain amount of distance:

Harold slumped in his chair, feeling despondent. What was the use, he thought. Mildred would never love him. He felt an urge to leave the library. What if Mildred came in right now and saw him? What could he say to her? He got up and quickly walked to the exit.

Move a little closer and give the thoughts and feelings more directly:

Harold slumped in his chair, his throat tight. What's the use? Mildred can never love me. He didn't want to stay in the library. She might come in at any moment and what would I say to her? He made for the exit.

Deftly done, the blend of direct feelings and interior monologue can draw a reader into a character's life.

But remember this in getting close: Don't stand outside the character. Or at least don't do it too much. When a narrator comments on a character, that immediately provides a bit of distance. If you don't want that distance, keep the narrative close. See things from the character's point of view.

Harold slumped down in the chair, his throat aching. What was the use, Mildred could never love him. Might as well get up and leave the library. What if she should come in? What to say to her? Useless....

Move in as close as you can for these kinds of effects. At its best, close third-person narration gets you both the freedom of third-person and also the immediacy of first-person point of view.

Hey, a twofer!

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