marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

POV and looseness

Besides the person chosen, there's always the question of how loose the POV can be.

Even in a first-person story.  The conventions of writing let you write a first-person narrative as if it were a third-person one, with nothing told that the character did not know, sense, or feel at the time.  At the other extreme, you get situations where the character is actually writing a book, such as C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, or telling the story (in extreme cases, with a frame to position it), and can freely tell, elaborate, and omit according to future knowledge.  And you can work between them with stories where the narrator is telling a story but usually sticks to the events as it happened.

In third-person, you have the same range.  Sticking straight to the character's POV, not only is what is seen and felt and thought but in the character's POV, so that we don't get "He was so angry with Jack that he would have gladly smashed his face in" but "that arrogant jerk Jack -- his hands tightened into fists, his breathing came hard, and he had to fight to keep from rising from his seat".  All the way to those (comic) authors who claim that the documents they are basing their work on are unclear at some point or another.

Loose POV loses in identification -- and if first-person, dramatic tension, too, because the awareness that the narrator lived through it is pressed on us.  OTOH, it gains in infodumping.  Tight POV lets you tell nothing except what the character can see, and only hint at and suggest what he doesn't perceive.  An immersive POV has its problems for infodump.

Seguing between them can be done, if done subtly and slowly enough.  Even first-person narrators who are overtly telling the tale sliding into recounting it as it happened to them, often enough, especially as we're prepared to grant them feats of memory and trust their veracity far beyond human level.  It's a lot easier than switching POV in person -- but it still has its tricks to it.  And sometimes it doesn't work and you have to stick to the appropriate degree of tightness for the story, and you have to get around the issue some other way -- sigh.
Tags: dramatic tension, exposition, point of view, sympathy, transition

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