Spoonful #47: 1st PERSON POV
My last spoonful ended with a teaser: what POV (Point-of-View) is most similar to 3rd Person Limited? Well, the answer is the topic of this week's Spoonful.
We learned in Spoonful #46 that the 3rd Person Limited POV uses a narrator who can only see into one character's inner thoughts. That POV is tricky because the narrator refers to that character by proper name and also by HE, SHE, and THEY.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that the 1st Person POV also centers on one character's inner thoughts. This time, however, that character visibly acts as the book's narrator by referring to themselves with I, ME, and MY. If the prior POV is the most challenging to discern, this POV is probably the easiest. It bears repeating that POV is determined by examining a book's narration. When characters talk through dialogue, they all refer to themselves as I.
What is the benefit of the 1st Person POV? When the narrator reveals his or her deepest inner thoughts and perceptions, readers can develop powerful connections to the character. The pitfall, however, is how to use this POV without starting every other sentence with the word I. The writer must also take care not to creep inside any other heads and only reveal what the narrator observes.
The 1st Person POV is also useful when switching narrators by chapter. In order for that to work well, the author must clearly differentiate between the alternating narrators. A great example of this is THE KANE CHRONICLES, by Rick Riordan, a trio of Egyptian Mythology-themed books featuring narrators (and siblings) Sadie and Carter. Each character is so well drawn, you can easily tell who's narrating even without their names as chapter headings.
The last POV in this miniseries will air next week. Can YOU figure out which one is missing? Stay tuned!
Laura Fineberg Cooper
Inquiring minds want to know: how does 3RD PERSON LIMITED compare to 3RD PERSON OMNISCIENT(covered in the last spoonful)? Read on and all will be explained.
The similarity is that both POVs refer to characters using names and the PERSONAL SUBJECT PRONOUNS he, she, and they. Both POVs are called 3RD PERSON because they don't use I or you.
Now for the distinction:
The 3RD PERSON OMNISCIENT narrator is all-knowing. The 3RD PERSON LIMITED narrator is NOT! This type of narrator can only see into one character's mind. For all other characters, this narrator can only relate what he or she observes. Is this narrator outside the story or is it really the character whose beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and perceptions skew the story's narration? You be the judge.
The 3RD PERSON LIMITED POV is the most difficult type to determine. As soon as you realize you're only learning how one character thinks, you know the book has this type of narration. Which character will it be? Most often, it will be the main character, but not always.
A wonderful example of the 3RD PERSON LIMITED POV is WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare. Main character Kit is raised free as a bird in Barbados, but flees to Puritan Wethersfield, CT after the death of her grandfather. Is the narration skewed by Kit's upbringing? The answer is a resounding YES!!!!
Which POV does 3RD PERSON LIMITED most resemble? Stay tuned for next Sunday's spoonful, when the answer will be revealed.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
A Spoonful of Grammar
POINT OF VIEW (POV) in literature refers to the perspective (attitude, thoughts, and beliefs) of a book's narrator. Just like your points of view color how you observe and experience life, a book's POV shapes how a story is told. So how do you deduce a book's POV? PERSONAL PRONOUNS provide all the clues you need.
The 3RD PERSON OMNISCIENT narrator refers to characters by name and by the PERSONAL SUBJECT PRONOUNS HE, SHE, and THEY. This type of narrator is characterized by an all-knowing ability to tap into each character's feelings and thoughts. Most often, the narrator remains invisible: when talking directly to the reader, they use a different type of POV know as 2ND PERSON (a topic for another spoonful.)
Picture books are often narrated in this POV style, but 3RD PERSON OMNISCIENT isn't often used in books for older children. THE DIVINERS a young adult novel by Libba Bray, is written in this style. LORD OF THE FLIES by Henry Golding is, too. Generally, historical novels can carry this style better than contemporary novels can.
When seeking to determine a book's POV, don't look to dialogue. When characters talk, they always refer to themselves as I. Look instead to the narration - when the narrator is describing the book's plot. By paying attention to the PERSONAL PRONOUNS used, I guarantee you'll be able to spot this (or any) type of narration on the first page or two. Happy sleuthing!
3RD PERSON LIMITED will be explained next Sunday. Until then, I hope you have a wonderful week.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
I'm kicking off the first spoonful of 2020 with PERSONAL PRONOUNS, tiny words that deserve respect. Just try to write or speak without them, and you'll understand how much we rely on them. Clearly, I couldn't manage it, as this introduction is laced with pronouns!
PERSONAL PRONOUNS refer to specific people, places, and things (NOUNS). Here's the list:
SUBJECT: I, YOU, HE, SHE, THEY, WE, IT
OBJECT: ME, YOU, HIM, HER, THEM, US, IT
POSSESSIVE: MY/MINE, YOUR/YOURS, HIS, HER/HERS, THEIR/THEIRS, OUR/OURS, ITS
REFLEXIVE: MYSELF, YOURSELF/YOURSELVES, HERSELF, HIMSELF, OURSELVES, THEMSELVES, ITSELF
(Special note: MY, YOUR, HIS, HER, and THEIR act as possessive adjectives because they precede and modify nouns. Here's an example: "Let go of MY cookie!"
Consider the following repetitive, pronoun-less passage:
"Brandy loved to paint portraits. Brandy entered a painting in a city-wide art competition. Brandy was overjoyed when Brandy won 2nd place."
Did you notice how many times Brandy was repeated? Now let's tighten up that passage and add the pronoun SHE.
"Brandy entered a portrait painting in a city-wide art competition. She was overjoyed when she won 2nd place."
I hope you'll agree that the revised version is preferable. Here's a tip for the SAT and ACT: they value concise language. They also agree that all pronouns should be properly introduced. In the above example, Brandy's name must be listed before any pronouns are used.
I covered INDEFINITE PRONOUNS in Spoonfuls #5 and #6 and how to use ME, MYSELF, & I in Spoonful #31. The all-important topic of SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT (covered in Spoonful #4) applies to subject pronouns too! Stay tuned next week to learn how the SUBJECT PERSONAL PRONOUNS can help to decode POINT OF VIEW!
Laura Fineberg Cooper