It’s been a whirlwind since NaNoWriMo started. Being the planner that I’ve come to be, it’s such a struggle to not edit my writing or look at my research that I’ve been compiling since April. I was off to great start and still am. I’ve consistently stayed ahead on my daily word count goals. While I refer to my outline, new ideas come to me as a I write, driving me and my story forward. I’ve completely changed some things, though, and added new things and discarded others. I’ve rewritten scenes, which I need to stop doing. I must stop going back to read what I’ve already written.
Along the way, I changed my protagonist’s name and gave her an entirely new personality. Once I reached around 7,000 words, I decided to completely changes things. I deviated from my original plan and shifted the point of view to another character. Through all my plotting, I had never considered changing view points from chapter to chapter and character to character, but I’m glad I did. It’s been great fun. I feel as though it gives my other cast of characters a chance to tell their side of the story. I’m using three different characters who take turns showing and telling their story.
When I decided to use other character’s points of view, I steamrolled through a couple thousand words. Then BAM! I hit a block. I began panicking. My plots and plans had been turned upside down since switching characters. So what did I do? I strayed more off course and did a bad thing to another character — one who isn’t a point of view character but a major player in my cast. I made it so that she was under suspicion of murder. I was so proud that I deviated from my outline. I felt like a total NaNoWriMo’ing panster. I wrote for another 1,000 words and then BAM! Here I sit wondering how the hell to get this character out of the local jail when my outlining did not allow for this plot twist.
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I’ve been assigned the dreaded task of writing a short story using third-person objective point of view. I say “dreaded,” since most of my stories are written from the first-person POV. I also like reading first-person stories and novels because I feel more connected to the point of view character. Writing in first-person POV is preferable to me for that same reason. To write in third-person POV is a challenge for me in itself, but third-person objective is a completely different beast for me to tackle.
From the third-person objective point of view, the narrator cannot read the thoughts or feelings of any of the characters. The narrator may only describe what is seen or heard, as if they were a fly on the wall or a spectator in the stands. The actions, dialogue, and descriptions of the characters can be explained, but no judgments can be made. This has been a struggle for me because I keep wanting to describe what a character is feeling or thinking. I began writing sentences such as, “Her cheeks burned in embarrassment,” but caught myself and backspaced. A fly on the wall couldn’t possible know that a character “felt” embarrassed or that her cheeks “felt” hot from embarrassment. That would be making a judgment, and that’s the whole point of third-person limited. Your narrator cannot make judgements. While writing my story using this POV, I have to keep reminding myself that third-person objective is like watching a movie. A character’s feelings and thoughts are only revealed by what they do and say.
In his book, Master Class in Fiction Writing, author Adam Sexton points out the pros and cons of third-person objective POV. He notes that third-person limited is one of the least used POVs, but that it works for John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, as well as Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants.” According to Sexton, one reason why more novels and stories aren’t written from this POV is because it challenges readers to draw their own conclusions. On the other hand, Sexton claims that it can be a good thing because it makes for more active reading, rather than passive.
As writer, third-person objective point of view has been quite a challenge. But I’m keeping in mind a passage from Sexton’s book: “If you force yourself to write a story from this point of view…you will discover just how much information you can communicate to your readers dramatically rather than explicitly — how very possible it is to show rather than tell. And that can liberate a storyteller, as well as empower her.”
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