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3rd Person Objective POV

Posted: 8/3/09 | Written by Jeannie | Labels: , , ,

Every story that you love, every story that hooks you has a purpose. You are getting from point A to point B as smoothly as possible without loosing your focus, your interest or your way. Narrative is the same, because without it you loose the reader; narrative without purpose will irritate readers.

Writing sample: Lamy VistaImage by churl via Flickr

Many of you are probably familiar with the 3rd Person Objective point of view (pov), even if you are not a writer. The best way to think of it is to visualize your favorite movie and then describe a scene from it. You are not in the movie; you are a nonparticipant in the events that take place in front of you. When you write from the 3rd person objective, you are not a pivotal character in the eyes of your readers. You are the camera operator. One advantage while being in this point of view is that you can really control the pace of your story. If you chose, you can either set up a scene or summary in a lengthy and incredibly descriptive way or you can be short, sweet and concise, depending on what your story calls for.

When you are writing in the 3rd person objective POV you need to make sure you have all the necessary elements of the story. Journalists use this rule, "the five W’s and H."

1. What happened?
2. Who took part?
3. When?
4. Where?
5. Why did the event take place?
6. And how did it happen?

How and what are not the same, a how in the 3rd Person Objective is an exact replica, or under what, certain circumstances took place. What happened? A man was murdered. How? The man was murdered with piano wire. If you state that someone was murdered, you can draw your reader in with the narrative of what was used, thus explaining the how and enticing the reader to continue on with the story.

Writing in 3rd Person Objective POV can vary greatly depending on whom you are writing for. Just as when you are outlining your story, and figuring out the style or genre this POV can change depending on the reader. Would your reader hear the descriptive yet hilarious overtones of a person tripping into the love of their life, would they consider it poignant or dismiss it without a thought. Just like a movie, you must consider whom you are writing for. If you miss this, even the greatest POV will fall flat.

In the 3rd Person Objective POV there are two types of narration -- summary and scene. Summary narration is done as a strict observance of what is going on. You do not depict people and their surroundings in great detail. It’s a summary of what happens, the essentials. For example, ‘the man walked from east to west, crossing the street and dodging cars.’ It is concise, correct, and has no extra non-essential thrills.

Narration in scene form is the most often used by novelist. While summary narration plays an important part in the 3rd Person Objective POV, scene narration can help to set the tone of a story, pace the piece, and hook the reader into continuing on. When telling a story in a scene narration, it is of the utmost importance to vividly draw out the scene in your mind. As a writer you must think like a camera operator. You must understand the scene before you can write it. Think in terms of analyzing a film’s cinema photography. Can you set the tone of the scene through description? Would someone be able to read a scene, thinking that it is dark and unabashed in detail? Instead of simply describing a person, can you portray them? The scene narration can deepen the viscosity that moves your story along. In Maya Angelou’s Champion of the World she masters this rich tapestry of 3rd Person Objective POV. Half of the story is written from the narrator’s POV. She is descriptive, pensive, and portrays the people with such a vivid quality that you can see how it would play out on screen.

"The last inch of space was filled, yet people continued to wedge themselves along the walls of the Store. Uncle Willie had turned the radio up to its last notch so that youngsters on the porch wouldn’t miss a word. Women sat on kitchen chairs, dining-room chairs, stools, and upturned wooden boxes. Small children and babies perched on every lap available and men leaned on the shelves or on each other." – Champion of the World by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou uses only two of the 5W’s in this paragraph, who and where. When you look at this narration it is ripe with personality and information. The use of youngsters rather than kids, paints a picture indicating this is a story set in the past. While we can also see anticipation of the next question, what is happening, by the people wedging into the room. The vibrancy of the remaining story continues with the desire to enrich the reader’s appetite by narrating the remaining questions.

On the other end of the spectrum scenes can also be brief and concise while still painting a vivid picture. W. Jackson Bate uses such a scene to help portray his subject -- Samuel Johnson – as a lovable and down to earth man. He continued painting the scene by using descriptions such as portly, imposing, and gentleman. However, when time to actually show that he was a lovable soul he continued by narrating Dr. Johnson with some friends at the top of a hill where the great man,

"delighted by it’s steepness, said he wanted to "take a roll down." They tried to stop him. But he said he "had not had a roll for a long time," and taking out of his pockets his keys, a pencil, a purse, and other objects, lay down parallel at the edge of the hill, and rolled down it’s full length, “turning himself over and over till he came to the bottom." – Biography of Samuel Johnson by W. Jackson Bate

In this small yet pertinent paragraph we find what happened, who took part in it, where, when, why and how the roll took place. This scene was put in to portray Samuel Johnson as a person, no more, no less. The narration in this instance moves the story forward quickly but is not a summary because it uses the five W’s and elaborates on the scene to engulf the reader in the moment. A summary could have read, “Samuel rolled down a hill.” It would still be an accurate statement, but it does not clearly portray the idea behind the scene.

Both Summary and Scene narration methods are really dependent on the writer’s preference. In some cases a summary is needed to keep a story moving along while in other cases a scene can help control the pace or feeling of your narration. The main point of 3rd Person Objective POV is to emphasize the story. Using he/she/they maybe a 3rd person point of view, but when you add in the objective you have a chance to paint an oil painting. By developing a scene or summary that will engross your reader in a brilliant world of description that leaves you, the narrator as a camera operator directing what they are seeing.

Source: Bedford Reader - Eighth Edition, "Narration" (75)

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