Friday, January 30, 2009

Third-Person Shifting Viewpoint Narrators (9th In A Series)


Even though I have listed this POV as being the 8th of 8, it is the second most popular (First-Person Protagonist Narrator being most popular). Some novels are best told by a single narrator, others by multiple narrators. Shifting narrators in third-person is no problem so long as the writer observes a couple of rules. Before we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this POV lets review these important rules.
  1. Whenever possible, the introduction of a new narrator should be done with a new chapter. This allows the reader to adjust to the new viewpoint and it allows the reader to become acquainted with the character from whose POV the chapter is being related. Using multiple narrators within a chapter can be utilized, however if the writer is not skillful when doing it the reader may become confused. This leads us to rule #2.

  2. Once the reader has become acquainted with all of the narrators and can interpret each of the different POVs, the viewpoints can be shifted back and forth even within a chapter.

Let us now review the advantages of this POV:

  1. The writer has a choice between restricted and unrestricted omniscient powers.

  2. Multiple narrators gives the novel a broader perspective.

  3. Shifting viewpoints provides relief and variety to the reader, thereby sustaining interest.

  4. It allows the writer to communicate more emotion to the reader. The reader can vicariously experience the role of each narrator.

  5. The writer has greater scope to characterize the individual narrators and other characters through their 5 senses.

This POV only has one disadvantage, or maybe pitfall is a better word. It can lead to the writer being too analytical, going into more detail than a character requires.

A novel that successfully uses this POV is LeCarre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

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