Third Person POV, a Camera, an Intermediary

I’ve been reading about third person narrative theory while drafting my novel. I’ve found this article to be helpful, because it explains the differences between the author, narrator, protagonist, and viewpoint character. The author must slip into the narrator’s skin and also that of the viewpoint character (and the protagonist or multiple viewpoint characters…but I’ll save that discussion for another time).

How does a writer treat the narrator? More often than not creative writing teachers will recommend treating the narrator like a movie camera that can hear and record the thoughts and feelings of the viewpoint character. A camera is a great analogy, because everyone knows cameras don’t have feelings. Thus, a camera will help aspiring authors resist the urge to interject their thoughts and opinions onto the text, avoiding authorial intrusion.

How do you control the camera? Great question (and the purpose of today’s post). This article gives a great explanation and example, “Movie scenes often begin with an establishing shot, one which shows the viewer the bigger picture, as it were, before honing-in on the specific location where the action is about to take place.” Writers can start broad and explain the scene, but once they slip inside the viewpoint character’s head they can’t come out until the scene finishes. They can never return to the narrator’s neutral voice until the next scene or chapter. I believe authors should vary how early they slip into their characters’ heads for each scene and chapter. Sometimes they should do so immediately, while other times they should take their time to set the scene. Doing so will add texture to their work.

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