MULTIPLE THIRD PERSON SUBJECTIVE – OR WHAT WAS THE JANITOR DOING WHEN KENNEDY WAS SHOT?

[Note: As part of my resolution to focus my life and mind on my writing, so too will this site reflect that. Gone, for the most part, will be social commentary, and other buggerboos that really mean little in the great expanse of time. Occasional things that I find neat-o, book acquisitions and the like will still be included. Although I am cutting back also on the pics with the posts. I just don’t have the time to make it all pretty. Besides, the subject is writing, not pictures!]

I was reading a little article on the multiple third person subjective POV. POV is an inexhaustible subject. There are just so many applications and uses possible. It is almost akin to talking keys in music.

This is simple random thoughts on the subject.

Part of the gist of this article was how not to confuse the reader with multiple POV’s. This would be like switching unintentionally in the middle of a scene, or giving information in the middle of a scene that we could only get if the POV had switched but it didn’t. Or simply switching the POV so frequently that the reader gets lost keeping track of who he is seeing the story through.

All of that is pretty basic stuff. But it occurs to me that I haven’t seen much serious play with perspective. That could be my limited experience or writers don’t fool around with rules as much as they could. Comedy uses experimental devices in perspective for certain effect – like a skit on the Death Star cafeteria or Darth Vader’s shoe shiner – things like that.

But I wonder about other applications. How about a story told from multiple third person subjective with unreliable narrators. Let’s say each perspective is a narrator who is a liar. But each lie or omission of their story paints a truth that is greater than the sum of their accounts.

How about a normal story with a few MTPS’s but with scenes that suddenly move, at important moments, to the man behind the deli counter at a mob assassination.

I’m not suggesting experimentation for the simple acrobatics of it (although writing should be fun and if you want to try it, why not?) or to nihilistic ends. I can see a trap where this could be easily put to undermining ends. A romance seen from the perspective of a flea infested dog, or a habitually masturbating warlock in the closet.

Of course, the man behind the deli counter doesn’t have to remain a peripheral character either. Perhaps his introduction is as a peripheral character witnessing a central event that brings him gravitationally into the center of events or even the mover of events. And perhaps the central mover of events is cast out of orbit to be a deli counter man.

It suddenly occurs to me why most time travel stories I have read are either first person, or single third person objective. Can you imagine (and if there already is one please tell me!) a science fiction story with time traveling shape-shifters told from unreliable MTPS POV’s.

Hmmm.

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3 responses to “MULTIPLE THIRD PERSON SUBJECTIVE – OR WHAT WAS THE JANITOR DOING WHEN KENNEDY WAS SHOT?

  • taichiwawa

    Just a few examples of famous works with multiple narrators:

    Rashomon, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury*, Dracula, Pale Fire, Cloud Atlas…

    *One of the narrators in The Sound and the Fury is mentally handicapped.

    • bensira587

      You know, I have never read the original Dracula. Is it worth reading? The concept of vampire or Dracula was/is so blasé’ in common culture (and now they sparkle!) it held no interest.

      For entirely different reasons I have never read The Sound and the Fury. I suppose I should. I loved the one star reviews it got (many similar books get the same reviews) “This book is hard.” is always the reason given. As someone with a rather poor education myself, I feel compelled to ask them, “might that not be your fault and not the book’s?”

      Or they will One Star it and simply say, “I didn’t get it.” Well, maybe you are daft, man!

      Arf, I could write a rather long rant on how to choose books based on Amazon reviews.

      I have read a number of books with multiple narrators. I am just ruminating on how to go buck wild with it. I mean, the twelve bar blues is always nice to hear, but it peaks the interest if you can manipulate it and create something new.

  • taichiwawa

    I read Dracula ages ago. Much of it is in the form of diary entries and the style is what you’d expect from a work written in the late 1800s. Of course, at the time, I was disappointed.

    I read The Sound and the Fury in college. The reason so many give up on it early is that the first narrator is Benjy, the mentally handicapped character. That first-person narrative emphasizes sensory impressions and naive emotion in its response to events. The sense of what happens is revealed in subsequent narratives, which have their own individual perspectives (though the last section is written in the third person). The novel is considered a classic in American literature.
    ___________

    Digression:

    I once wrote a paper about the vampire genre because its easy to understand: the seduction of evil which saps one’s (soul / life-essence / innocence) blood. The vampire cannot see its true nature = no reflection. It is a creature of darkness and is destroyed by light (exposure of its nature relative to what is considered the good – why it shrinks from Christian symbols). Moreover, the genre has sexual themes which no doubt titillated the delicate sensibilities of the Victorian reader: seduction, entrapment, rapture — not to mention bodily fluids.

    Etc., etc…

    Making vampires heroic now in pop culture seems to validate another tenet expressed by the myth: the seduced become like that which has seduced them.
    ___________

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