Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Storyteller’s Rulebook: Maintain Identification, Even in Third-Person
This narrative voice can theoretically go anywhere because you’re merely on the hero’s shoulder, and not stuck in his head, but practically, in order for this sort of voice to work, you have to agree to limit yourself just as much as you would if you were in first-person: You’re nailed down on that shoulder and unable to move.
Most limited-3rd person is essentially the same as 1st person: the narrative voice is even privy to the hero’s thoughts, despite referring to the hero as he/she. The key to maintaining that sort of privileged access is that you have to be privy to the hero’s thoughts and only the hero’s thoughts.
It’s tempting to cheat. In one book, a hero was talking to a social worker, and it described something the social worker saw in the hero’s eyes, “She had seen that sort of look before.” This is a no-no. That’s flirting with entering the social worker’s head, which would break our full identification with the hero. Instead you have to say, from the hero’s point of view, “He saw that the social worker had an I-know-what-you’re-going-through face”. That’s the hero’s POV. That’s all the hero can know of the mind of the social worker: what he can see.
In an old post, I talked about the limitations George R. R. Martin imposed on himself while writing “Game of Thrones”: He had chosen his heroes and couldn’t go places they didn’t go. But it’s even more limited than that: even in the rooms he’s in, he can only know one character’s perspective on anything.