A Matter of Perspective
Hi all! After an exciting first few weeks of introducing our miniseries, we have now rolled back around to our monthly hour-long episode.
This time, we are talking about perspective, and we dive into the pros and cons of first person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. Tune in to hear our thoughts and our experience of using each perspective in our writing.
As always, our mistakes of the month are on (or off?) point. Stay tuned to the end to hear the ridiculous mistakes we pick up when reading over our work.
Sarah: Welcome back everyone to Dear Writer, welcome to returning listeners or any new listeners that we might have. So today we are doing our main episode and we are onto episode 12. So, and today we’re going to be talking about perspectives in writing and why we choose the perspectives that we have for our books and just sort of just having a discussion about the different pros and cons of different perspectives and yeah.
Ashley: Quite looking forward to it, should be a really interesting discussion.
Sarah: Yes, I’m really excited too. Shall we have a discussion about, first, how are we going with our writing, we haven’t… it feels like agents since we’ve done one of these, now that we are recording weekly and these main episodes are monthly. It’s monthly updates. But so Ashley, how’s your writing thing going?
Ashley: It’s been going pretty good. I’m gonna go with pretty good. And I think we’re, we’ve both written about four chapters each of our new book. So we’re making some progress. I like that there are two of us writing it because even though I’ve only written four chapters, we actually have eight chapters. So it feels like you make a lot of progress which is good, especially when you know, writing, sometimes a bit up and down.
Sarah: Especially with this book, I feel like it is a little bit slower than what I would usually expect to be outputting with other books, but because we have to research so much for every chapter, I think it’s very helpful having another person. Even just to like bounce research back and forth. We’ve been doing a bit of that.
Ashley: Yes, definitely.
Sarah: Like, oh, by the way.
Ashley: Yeah. I was trying to remember what happened last time. I think I had finished, or I was at least writing—I’ve written two chapters from one particular character’s perspective. Since then, I have had to change characters, which has meant finding a voice for a different character who’s, one in a different time period and two, in an entirely different age and different life stage and different everything. So that was a little bit of a challenge. I struggled quite a lot with his first chapter, mostly because all of my other chapters had been in the past. And then I had to jump to the present. So it was a bit jarring, but I got through that one I think all right. But now I’ve had to go back to the past, again. So that’s been a little bit slower, mostly because it’s quite a lot of research to do. It basically involves this character walking up to an old city which it turns out there’s a lot of research involved in finding what exactly that’s going to look like, but I’ve finally gotten there. He’s through the city gates now. And now looking at the city, which has also taken an incredible amount of research to figure out what it would have looked like. So, hopefully. Now that that’s out of the way it should be smooth sailing for the last four, oh, probably five hundred words. Should be good. What about you, how’s your writing been going?
Sarah: It’s been going pretty good. So, I did a chapter in with our character in the present. So that didn’t take too much research at all. It was fairly easy going. I’ve mainly just been slowed down by like other things, not including… not in my writing life. Trying to get my registration for nursing and that kind of thing is speeding up at this point. Hopefully I’m going to be employable soon but yeah.
Ashley: Finger’s crossed!
Sarah: Because I felt like whenever I sat down, I at least managed to output probably about five hundred words a time, so I did get through pretty quick. But I wasn’t writing every day. So.
Sarah: There was a little bit of research that I had to do actually, surrounding the city that our character is in, and trying to work out different locations and a generalized view… people’s views of different parts of the city and stuff and what…
Sarah: Yeah, so that was kind of interesting. But then also, I’ve been editing my own book which should hopefully be ready for Ashley to be beta read soon so I’m really excited about that. Just got like a couple of small inconsistencies and I need to fix. I went through over the last couple days, and fixed up like most of the really easy stuff because I couldn’t be bothered thinking too hard about trying to fix the harder stuff and then now I’ve got about five or six slightly trickier points to work through.
Sarah: It was like, ugh, how am I supposed to fix that problem. I’m at that point with the manuscript where I, I just don’t want to see it again and I’m sure there’s going to be inconsistencies Ashley, so don’t expect it to be perfect.
Ashley: That’s what I’m there for though, right?
Sarah: Yeah, I can’t see it anymore. So I’m hoping if I give it to you, then it gives me time for it to rest. And I don’t yet look at it for a while, while you read it, so don’t feel like you need to read it super fast or anything, I’ll be quite happy to have a break.
Ashley: Sounds good. I’m really looking forward to reading it.
Sarah: Right, yeah.
Ashley: I’m very interested to see what you’ve done. Because I’ve obviously heard little tidbits about it through just talking to generally and throughout discussions on the podcast, I’m really interested to see how it has all come together.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, it… especially the first part, I feel like is done very well. I think the middle third of it gets a little bit twisty. Not so that it’s hard to follow. But there’s a lot of different pieces to it. Where that’s why I’m finding some inconsistencies because, it’s a psychological thriller, kind of like mystery thing. So, you know, there’s some red herrings and stuff and then trying to make the red herrings make sense and then I been trying… you know, I tried to link everything up in the end, so that even though they’re red herrings, they still kind of add to the plot if that makes sense?
Sarah: So trying to twist that all into something that makes a coherent narrative is a little bit challenging.
Ashley: It sounds challenging
Sarah: Yeah, sometimes I read it and I’m like, this too complicated, but I think it’s all right.
Ashley: I guess we’ll see how it comes through when I read it, which will be good.
Sarah: Yes, yeah. Anyways, should we move on to our main discussion regarding perspectives.
Ashley: Yes, let’s do it. So to start, I thought we should probably quickly go over what point of view is, and particularly, why, why do we even need to have this discussion in the first place. So why it’s important. And why it’s something you probably should, you know, put a bit of thought into before you embark on writing an entire novel in your chosen perspective.
Ashley: So I think point of view is pretty much the narrator’s position in relation to the story. So it’s the voice basically of a story. That’s not to be confused with the writers tone, for example, and the sound of the story. This is more who is telling the story, and who they’re going to be telling it to. And why is it important? It’s because it is how the reader experiences the world that you’ve created in your book. Which is basically the whole point of writing a novel in the first place. So the point of view that you end up choosing really determines how any readers understand the story that you’ve written. And there are a few main point of views, I think Sarah’s going to give us a brief overview about.
Sarah: Yes, so there is three points. First Person is the first one, where one of the characters narrates the story and using, like they’re talking to you at a cafe or something, and saying, this is what happened to me. I don’t know, like an example might be: “I didn’t know what to say, so I dug my hands into the pockets of my jacket and looked at her with sympathy.” Which is an example from our book When the Rain Falls. And then there is second person, which uses the ‘you’ pronoun and it’s most common in nonfiction. It’s kind of like us having a conversation with you, our audience on the podcast, you know. We are using ‘you’ to try and include you. But a fiction example would be: “but what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions until all you can remember as a name.” Which is from Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney.
Ashley: If someone writes a novel in second person, hats off to you. Oh my goodness.
Sarah: I think it’s not used very much because that usually when people are reading a novel in fiction, they’re wanting to feel like they’re part of the novel. So when you start referring to someone in terms of you, And this happens like it… in some ways it does include the reader, but in other ways it reminds you that you’re not there, if that makes sense? Like it’s easier to, to feel a part of the action if rather than having the narrator referred to you all the time, you’re like in the eyes of the character. But, for that reason, because it’s not used very much we probably won’t discuss it from this point forward. If you want to look it up, then great, I’m sure there’s lots of information from different sources on the internet. But for the purposes of this podcast we’re not going to go into that today.
Ashley: I’m imagining a second person novel as one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ books.
Sarah: Yeah, that is where it’s used often, and it’ll be like, turn to page 188 if you chose this option.
Ashley: You get to a door, do you open it? Yes? Turn to page 51. No? Continue on.
Sarah: Did you ever try any—just, just as a side thing—did you ever try any of the like, RL Stine adventure/horror things as a child?
Ashley: I never did. No.
Sarah: It was amazing. I died like every time, though. Every storyline it’d be like, oops, nope. Too bad. I’m dead. Choose different next time. But yes, but I mean they can be a lot of fun, but it’s not your traditional way of reading a book.
Ashley: No, yes. Yes.
Sarah: So the next one is third person, where the author narrating the story is relying on third person pronouns like ‘he’ and ‘she.’ Eg: “He started down the worn path with the mountain at his back.” Which is actually from our current historical fiction novel. So there’s a random sentence for you. But yeah, there is quite a few different ways of using third person, which Ashley I think it’s going to explain a bit more about.
Ashley: Yeah, so there’s three main ones, which would be third person limited, third person objective, and then third person omniscient. So third person limited, it’s very similar to first person. So the view that you have of the novel is limited to only one character, which is usually the protagonists, not always. Kind of just depends on how your story is going to go. And like first person, the story is confined to the knowledge and perspective of that one character. So we know the experiences of that character. We know, you know, we can get their backstory. We know how they feel, but we can’t really go outside of that person’s view of the world. And then we have third person objective, where the narrator pretty much just tells us what the characters are doing rather than deep diving into their thoughts and things. Hemingway occasionally use this technique as well. But it’s not particularly common, so we probably won’t go into this one too much. And then we have third person omniscient, which is told by the all-seeing narrator. It’s often called the ‘god perspective’ and this narrator knows everything about all the characters, he knows how they’re all connected. He can tell us all about their childhoods, their feelings, all of their motivations. So an example of this would be from the novel, Everything I never Told You by Celeste Ng. So it goes, “Lydia is dead, but they don’t know this yet. 1977, May, six thirty in the morning. No one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.” So yeah, I guess now that you kind of know a little bit about what we’re going to be talking about. We can probably jump more into the discussion now about pros and cons. I thought it’s probably best to… we’ll start with first person, I think. And maybe just move through the main perspectives and just have a little bit of a chat about the advantages and disadvantages of using them, and then relating them to our experiences. Because we’ve actually used probably all three to some extent. So we can kind of offer how we feel.
Sarah: Kind of.
Ashley: Kind of offer how we feel it’s gone.
Sarah: Kind of.
Ashley: Sarah, what… our teen fiction series is written in the first person. So we have a… we have quite a bit to say about using first person as a point of view, what do you think some of the advantages of using it are?
Sarah: I think it does create quite an intimate connection with your readers, because it kind of… as I said before, it feels like you’re at like say a coffee shop, and you’re having a chat to your best friend. And they’re telling you about something that happened to them, and it’s like a firsthand experience. And you can go very deep into the character’s emotions and thoughts using first person, compared to using third person, where even though you might use the character’s thoughts, it’s a bit more limited and a bit more objective than in first person, where you’re in the characters mindset when you’re writing, and you’re kind of writing to the reader from the character’s direct point of view. So I think that’s a huge advantage to getting everything that the character is feeling across. And I think that’s why it’s often used in teen fiction, because often at that age range, they’ll quite relate well to a first person narrator. So you’ll find that a lot of teen fiction is written in first person. And I think we quite naturally chose it, it’s often a perspective that people use when they’re first getting into writing, because it’s quite easy to find your voice using that perspective, because you can just imagine that you’re the character, and how you would say it. And so do you do sort of tend to get a bit of the author’s tone coming through, I guess, but yeah. Also, I think we’ll explain a little bit more shortly about why we, and how we chose first person for our teen series, because that does have a bit of a story too.
Ashley: It does. I definitely agree with how first person feels a lot more personal. And I find… well I really love first person as a point of view. I know there are a lot of people out there that really hate it, but, but for me personally, I really, really like it. I always feel like I’m a lot more in the story. Connected with the characters. And I also find that by virtue of that, you’re able to really develop your characters, I think. Cause the readers are able to get a really good handle on who they are, what their backstory is, etc, etc. I guess it also, I find, builds a lot of intrigue in your stories. Obviously, because it’s such a limited view and you’re getting the thoughts from the character directly, the character doesn’t know… one, they don’t know all the information and two, because it is quite a biased view of the world, you’re getting a, I guess, a skewed perspective of the story from them.
Ashley: Which allows you as a reader to keep—ah sorry as a writer—to keep your reader guessing questioning motives and events, like, is what they’re telling me the truth? Is it not the truth? What’s actually happening? And I do quite like the… being able to do that.
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Ashley: That you can really use it to your advantage when you’re writing, writing your novels.
Sarah: Yeah, I would agree. And that’s something that I’ve certainly used in like, particularly the one that I’ve been writing by myself. Because it’s a sort of unreliable narrator. So I kind of chose just to have the one first person perspective throughout the entire book, which is a bit different from… because we sometimes use multiple—which I don’t know if it will have time to talk about this later—but, you know, adding in multiple perspectives. And then keeping the first viewpoint is what we did for our teen series and that’s becoming a lot more common. And I find that you can kind of create what’s called dramatic irony using this technique, where the characters don’t know what’s going on because… and you get their perspective of it very clearly, of what they think is happening. But then when you combine that with like multiple perspectives throughout the book, then the readers know exactly what’s happening. But there’s this sort of discrepancy in the information that the readers and the characters have, so you can get those sort of situations where the reader’s going oh no, no, don’t do that.
Ashley: We do that a lot in our teen fiction series.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. I think the nature of having first person with multiple perspective kind of lends itself well to that. So if you’re, if you like creating those situations where you have the readers biting their nails like, oh god this is going downhill, then it’s a very good way of doing it.
Ashley: Especially I remember a few times in our teen fiction, I’ll be re—you know, editing, and I’m like, oh, Dylan. You shouldn’t have said that. You shouldn’t have said that. That’s such a terrible thing to say, because know exactly how Lizzie’s feeling, you know exactly, you know what’s going on in her mind, and you’re like, ah, you can just see how badly it’s going to go for them.
Sarah: I think that’s also an advantage is that when your characters do do something, you know, they make a mistake, they do something that’s not very advisable. And it could, you know, it has the, the risk of becoming like, putting your readers off and being like, oh, I don’t really like this character very much. But then when you get next into the characters head, then you can kind of make it make more sense. And, you redeem them.
Ashley: I guess you can explain directly, explain direct—like exactly why they’ve done it. And you can kind of, I guess, seek common ground with them so they’re not such, not such a douche.
Sarah: Yeah. So that is another benefit, I think.
Ashley: I would agree.
Sarah: I did want to talk about… so I don’t know how much you remember, Ashley, about how we actually chose to do the first person perspective for our teen series.
Ashley: I don’t remember a lot, I know we’ve had this discussion once before, briefly, not about perspectives, but about how it happened. And I actually had totally forgotten about it until you brought it up, but I know we were given an assignment to write some story about… what exactly? About war? I don’t a hundred percent remember.
Sarah: So, I’m gonna explain this because it is kind of interesting. I think people fall into writing perspectives for different reasons. And as I said, we were probably attracted to it because we were very new writers. We were teens ourselves at the time. So it probably had a little bit to do with what we were reading as well. But, we were actually given a homework assignment by social studies teacher, and the assignment was to come up with a sort of piece of writing, of creative writing, about imagining if we were… if we had to escape from our own country because of war. Basically trying to put ourselves in the perspective of refugees and emigrants… like emigrating from countries into different countries. I don’t know that we really covered the becoming an immigrant to a new country very well in our story. We certainly covered the becoming a refugee and escaping the current country thing a little bit more, but there were actually four of us and originally—I feel that with to admit this but then the characters have changed substantially—but because this assignment was putting ourselves into that situation, the characters were actually us originally.
Sarah: Which, yeah, you can see certain qualities has stayed the same. And I think writers always and put a certain amount of themselves into the characters regardless, anyways. So yeah. And we, we did this assignment. We had a really great time doing it and we had to read it out to the class and they were all quite interested and on the edges of their seats. So me and Ashley decided to continue it and make it into a novel, which is where the idea originated, which is why there’s these different perspectives as well because originally there were two other girls who were doing the assignment with us, and they chose not to continue and made it into a book, but we kept the original four perspectives and then added a couple of more ones as well. So that is the story of how that book came to be. And why we chose first person, because originally it was us writing ourselves.
Ashley: Oh dear.
Sarah: They’re so different now.
Ashley: Yeah. It was… do you still have a copy of the original story?
Sarah: I have the original like, first draft completed copy. But not like the original, original clear file, written by hand copy, which I think you have.
Ashley: That’s what I have. It’s always a good laugh, isn’t it?
Ashley: If you’re feeling down, bring out that book. I actually have all three of the, well I have all three of the original clear files. It’s pretty, pretty entertaining, I like how one of them you’ve written, “if stolen, return to Sarah Anderson, APR I think? That must have been your homeroom.
Sarah: Yeah that was my homeroom.
Ashley: Because people are really gonna steal a clearfile of half worked—
Sarah: If stolen?!
Ashley: —half finished teen fiction novel, which is—
Sarah: That’s funny, I didn’t even know that it had that on there. That’s funny.
Ashley: I’ll send you… I’ll have to send you a picture later. But it’s pretty funny.
Sarah: I’m pretty sure it had little like animated…
Ashley: You drew pictures of us!
Sarah: That’s funny.
Ashley: Yeah it’s pretty amazing. Hilariously, also, my writing as an adult is much worse than my handwriting as a teenager, I’ve noticed. I looked and I’m like, wow, my writing as a teenager was so nice. I look at mine now, I’m like, oh it’s illegible.
Sarah: I think mines much the same. Our writing styles kind of merged over the years that we were doing that. So, if you see mine and Ashley writing now, it’s very similar, although I think yours is slightly more scrawly now whereas mine’s is kind of kept the original. Because obviously we stopped writing by hand, so mine kind of merged to Ashley’s to a point and then when we stopped by hand, it’s just kind of kept static.
Ashley: We should pull it back to pros and cons, perhaps.
Ashley: Well, I feel a lot of the cons are, I guess I they can also be like pros, if that makes any sense.
Sarah: Yeah. It depends on your, your story and what you want to portray, right?
Ashley: Yeah. And what you’re using it for. Yeah. So, I think the main one is you’re really limited in the knowledge that you can give the reader, especially if you’re only doing it from a single perspective. So because you can only put across what the character puts across, or what the character knows, it can be very limiting as to actually progressing your story forward. It’s probably one of the, the main ones. And then because you only have one voice, you’re really only limited… you’re limited to that voice. So you better make sure your character’s not annoying, really interesting and not boring. Otherwise, I think it can wear on readers pretty quickly. And I guess, but I think it’s, I don’t know if it is really a con? Well, I don’t think it’s a con, that a lot of their view is biased, right, because it’s from their perspective exclusively. But I actually think that’s… people say it’s a con, but I feel like if you’re choosing first person you’re choosing it because that’s a factor.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah.
Ashley: In your decision.
Sarah: I would probably agree with that. But I, yeah, I definitely relate to… I’ve heard some people say things like, they feel like they’re rattling around in the character’s brains and they can’t get free, or get their point across. So I think if… I would say if you’re feeling trapped by the characters viewpoint, then maybe you need to think about, like, a different viewpoint.
Ashley: Mm hmm.
Sarah: Or using like maybe third person omnipresent is more for you, or something like that because you still have that problem, to an extent, with third person which we’ll discuss. But, I think the other thing that I notice with just in terms of inconsistencies with first person, is when… you have to be a bit more creative and use different ways to describe your point of view character because they can’t see themselves. And, that’s one of the problems that I, I think we’ve had it occasionally with our series. Like oh when I’m editing, I’ll be like, what? And it’ll be something really small and innocuous, but you do have to be really careful about it. So, for example, instead of saying something like, “my face turned beetroot red,” like, how do you know that your face is turning beetroot red? Like, are you standing in front of a mirror? No? Then you probably can’t say that. But you could say something like, “I felt heat flood into my face.” And the other thing is that they can’t see behind them and they don’t have eyes in the back of their heads. And so you have to, when you’re writing from first person, you really have to realize that you, you have this one viewpoint from the character and you have to put yourself into, not only the brain of that character, but the eyes of that character as well. Because I think I’ve had situations in our book where they’ll be running and there’ll be like someone behind them, and it won’t say, oh, you know, “I turned and looked over my shoulder and saw…” it’ll just be like, “Grace tripped behind me.” Oh, that’s probably not a great example because he could maybe hear her trip, the particular example I’m thinking of was in our second book, I think it was to do with the expression on the character… character’s face behind them.
Ashley: Ah, right.
Sarah: And I was like, actually, he can’t see what’s going on, especially because he’s running and he… it was like, ah… no. So you do have to really think about you know, what can the character, see if they’re sitting on the ground and there’s like windows up above them? They’re probably not going to be able to see out the window very well. Or like, you know, just things like that. So I think that can be a disadvantage in some ways, you just sort of have to get a bit creative with it.
Ashley: Yeah, definitely.
Sarah: Can also be an advantage because, again, not having that information of what’s going on. You can’t necessarily see what’s going on. Can be… can create like mystery, right?
Ashley: I think another… this one I found online and I’m kind of like still unsure about it. I can see where they’re coming from. That it’s hard to put in subplots when you have only one character’s perspective, which I can understand, to an extent, but I feel… you could still do it. There’s ways which you can put in.
Sarah: It depends on what kind of subplots you’re talking about.
Sarah: I don’t… say if you wanted to create a subplot between two other characters. And not… like if you’re creating subplots between your own character and another character, then that’s doable.
Ashley: Yeah, definitely.
Sarah: If you’re trying to create like an in depth subplot about, you know, a character over here and their love interest or something, then you’re gonna struggle to do that because it’s not only about like how much your own character sees, but it’s also how much they care about that other subplot. And if,
Sarah: If you want to do that, then why aren’t you writing it from that character’s perspective?
Sarah: That’s their story.
Sarah: That’s not the story you’re telling, right?
Ashley: Yeah, exactly.
Sarah: To me subplots should always add the plot, like the main plot that you’re creating.
Sarah: And so, if you’re creating a subplot that’s got like nothing to do with the main character. Then you’re probably trying to tell a different story, right?
Ashley: Yeah, or you’ve chosen the wrong perspective. Like
Sarah: Yeah, yeah.
Ashley: If you’re wanting to do that. Or maybe you need two perspectives, I don’t know, like two characters that you’re telling the story from.
Ashley: Which I guess one way to get over some of these problems, right.
Sarah: And in some ways, you know, that’s what we’ve done, because we’re using… again, you have the same issues as far as being contained within the character with third person limited, because you still can’t see outside the realms of where the character is, but you know, like if you add those extra perspectives, you can develop more of a subplot. And we’re doing that with our current book, right.
Ashley: Yeah, I think it’s, I was gonna say there’s one more point, I might add. I was gonna say we actually find this happens quite a lot in our teen fiction series. I don’t think it’s a con, but it I think can be difficult for story progression, because characters… because you have a very, have a very specific voice and a very specific way of doing things. Sometimes you can’t get across exactly what you want to get across because of the constraints of your character’s personality. For example, we often have this in our teen fiction book for we want a character to do something but… or say something, or, you know, for example, we want a view of a certain event, let’s say, but some characters in our teen fiction book aren’t actually suited to tell the reader effectively about that particular event. So we carefully choose who we, we put it through to for the best effect. Which I think could be a problem if you only have one character. Where yeah, their idiosyncrasies prevent you from if you’re, you know, doing it properly to like, a true first person, prevent you from actually getting across what you want to say.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely. Some characters, you know, they’ve all got their own things that’s going on. And especially if you’ve put a character through like a certain amount of trauma, then, if something happens to someone else, they’re probably going to be less attuned to what’s going on. And they’re not going to be able to tell that aspect of the story very well, which we certainly had issues with in Darkness, Set Us Free. But then also, it’s yeah, about which character is going to care most about the event that’s happening. So when we do the multiple perspective, it gains like it does give us the option of saying, oh wait, you know, which character is this going to be most effective. Yeah. And sometimes it’s not like even sometimes it’s not the character who cares most about it. Because if… it can depend on, like if you’re putting a character through trauma and through something really terrible happening, sometimes that character can be difficult to relay the information through and the events of what’s happening, because they get so stuck in that trauma. So sometimes we’ve been like, well, actually. This character cares most about it, but let’s revisit him later because he’s gonna be like overwhelmed by this event, and lets use this character to show what’s actually going on or, you know, we’ve, we’ve had that kind of situation as well.
Ashley: Yeah definitely. Even minor things too. Like you know this character would never noticed this, so why would you…
Ashley: But it’s a key thing. So you need to use a different character just to like get that point across. Whatever it may be.
Sarah: It is interesting. I found like in Darkness, Set Us Free, that often in the earlier books, it was often the guys who’d be doing the more action-y chapters. It’s not like stereotypical in the way that it related well for the characters at that period of time, but in the newer books, it’s the girls who are doing a lot of the action telling, which is kind of cool.
Ashley: It’s cool. It’s cool. They’re quite cool characters.
Ashley: Flawed, but great.
Sarah: Should we move onto third person?
Ashley: Yes. I guess the best place to start is probably with third person limited because it’s fairly similar to what we’ve sort of been chatting about with first person, in that you’re still limited to the perspective or what one particular character knows. Personally, I think one of the benefits of it is, you can kind of get the best of both worlds, to an extent, with respect to knowing both the character and I guess the setting and outside world around them. Which, yeah, I guess sometimes can be a little bit more challenging when you’re in first person, but third person can help a bit. You get more of a wide view of the world. I think like first person it does allow for quite good character development, because you’re still… it’s not quite as intimate as first person, but you still get that, you know, the thoughts and everything from your character really coming through. What do you think?
Sarah: I think third person is a lot more visual than first person. So, first person you’ve got all the thoughts of the character and it can be quite introspective. You still get the visual going on, but third person… it’s more like a different… so we described first person as being, being told the story by a friend, whereas third person’s a bit more of like, you’re not necessarily the character’s friend, but you’re there at the scene of the story, and you’re following this character around. And so, you begin to know the character, and you can kind of see everything that’s going on more like, visually. And yeah, so you know like, you still care about the character because you see them going through all this stuff, but it’s not as intimate as knowing every single one of the characters thoughts and feelings about the situation, right?
Ashley: Yeah, I think so. I think so. And I guess in that same vein, you’re not—like we just talked about—you’re not limited by the character’s tone and nuances and things, so you are able to, I think, better describe what’s going on around the character too, which then helps it be a more visual way of telling a story, I think.
Sarah: Mm hmm. How about we talk about why we chose to use third person for our current book.
Ashley: I think that really plays on what you’ve, you mentioned about it being more… needing more description. So we’re setting our book in, I think a bit more of a complex world than our teen fiction was set in. And I think it required more world building to take place, right from the start. And I think first person would likely have limited a little bit what we were trying to achieve. Mostly because, well there would be one, a very obvious person to choose for first person, and I don’t think he would have been able to, I guess, set up the world enough for readers to really invest in it, I think. Is probably how I would say it?
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. Also, I think—this is kind of a thought that I’ve had for a little bit. It’s hard to put words to this thought. Let’s see. So I think when you’re putting characters into a setting that is not the real world, I’m not saying that you can’t use first person and I’m sure there are plenty of great examples of like fantasy and sci fi and all that and first person. But I feel like especially for historical fiction, to an extent, and this is how I feel when I write is that, if I’m trying to describe a world that’s not exactly like our own, sometimes I feel almost a disconnection from first person, which sounds really strange, I know. Just bear with me for a second. But the thing is, that those people from those different worlds may think a little differently to how we think today. And so, for our historical fiction, even though you know we’re still using the thoughts of these characters in like, third person limited and stuff, like it’s not as intrusive as going into a historical characters mind and constantly using their thoughts to portray the situation. To me, that would be really difficult because the culture is so different, that trying to describe that would just be such a huge challenge that I’m not sure that I, I don’t think I could do a good job of it, at least.
Ashley: No. I would agree, especially, I think especially with historical fiction, because it is a world that existed and a lot of these characters are people that existed, and it’s a culture that existed. So you really want to make sure that you’re giving—even though from so long ago—at least a relatively true picture of what that culture was. Whereas if it be like in fantasy, you’ve made up the world. So if you’re doing first person in fantasy, you… well, you know what the world was like, because you’ve made all the law and what the world is like, so you can more in that sense relate to it. Where I feel like especially with ours, I wouldn’t know how to do it.
Sarah: I think it’s… it’s more like a time related thing. So like sci fi and fantasy, to an extent it’s… it’s not so bad because you know you, you have made a lot of the world. But you know, I tried doing… I started a book and maybe one day I’ll finish it, but it wasn’t really calling to me. So I set it aside. But, I started doing like a futuristic dystopian book. And I think, like it was just really hard to latch on to what the culture was of this place in the future. I just think third person allows that like extra room of how you might visualize a culture, but not necessarily have to go into the thought processes behind it as much as you would in first person. Yeah.
Ashley: And I think I guess another thing to add is for this historical fiction book, we are also using multi perspective again, very deliberately.
Sarah: Mm hmm. Yes, yeah.
Ashley: We were thinking about using just one character and in the limited perspective. And I think our historical fiction book, it’s, it’s also like a quite a large political saga as well. And there’s a lot of things happening.
Sarah: We seem to be attracted to political things.
Ashley: Yes, it’s a political saga. Its, I guess, quite thriller-esk, and I don’t… we could not have achieved what we wanted the readers to see with only one character. I just don’t think it would have made sense. Or at least it wouldn’t have… we wouldn’t be able to do the same things that we’re doing now, if we had stuck to one very specific view.
Sarah: I think it would have made sense. It just wouldn’t have encompassed… I think we wanted to portray the historical events more fully, is really what we wanted to do and if we only used this one character, we could only really show a small amount of what was happening, rather than sort of show more sides of the equation. So.
Ashley: Yeah, and I think that being able to show the world, well, what was happening more fully creates a lot more…
Sarah: It makes it a lot more dynamic. That’s the word I was looking for.
Ashley: I was gonna say also, because we’re able to show a lot more of what’s going on now and more of the moving pieces, I think we’re going to be able to create a lot more, I guess, tension suspense and dramatic irony between all of our characters which I at least hope might like give it, give our book that something a bit extra, you know, rather than just having our one character tell the story which… so. Looking back, I’m glad we’ve made this choice.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. Me too.
Ashley: Do we want to mention that it was supposed to be originally, the first time we did it, it was possibly God perspective?
Sarah: Yeah, so I mean if we go… sort of move on a little bit omnipresent view. We didn’t purposefully do it. I think we decided that we were going to do third person, and then because it was so new to us at that point, the third person, I think we were trying, we sort of mistakenly did it from an omnipresent viewpoint, which just felt very unnatural and…
Ashley: It was just weird. I’m just gonna put that out there. It was weird.
Sarah: I think it is a challenging perspective to attempt for any, any writer. And there are people who do it very well. But, that isn’t… I’m not one of those people.
Ashley: Me neither. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve written a lot in first person, like a lot, a lot, in first person. And then jumping to the god perspective. Probably, I’m gonna go, it didn’t vibe with us very well. And we didn’t, like, maybe we could have done a little bit of a better job of it if we tried it again, on purpose. But, I also don’t think it was a good fit for the novel we were trying to achieve either.
Sarah: I find it a little bit confusing. Just jumping between characters heads, because I’m like, whose… whose head am I in now?
Sarah: Yeah, I think some people quite naturally just like flow through like, characters heads. But for me, I, I’d probably be like breaking it down into like paragraphs, like this person’s head and then that person’s head and it would be very confusing.
Ashley: Yes. Actually in preparation for this, I did go back for this podcast, I went back and read some of our original chapters for this book. Anyway, so we only made it about eight chapters through but I was having a quick read and, I felt like looking back at it, I didn’t think our protagonist… that we connected very well with our protagonist. I feel I didn’t care… it didn’t make me care enough for him. I was kind of like this is a bit strange and also he seems a bit… it just didn’t sit right. However, I did think that it allowed us to explore some of the motives of our other characters quite well, which now we don’t have.
Sarah: Because I remember that first sort of prologue/first chapter thing was, it started off in one character’s and it went to like a different character. The character’s wife. And so it kind of explored his and her viewpoint, which was interesting, but.
Ashley: Mm hmm. So we don’t have that anymore. But I, to be honest, I think it’s fine, because you don’t need to know every single character’s motivations, I don’t think. I like that as a reader, you can try and guess sort of what they’re thinking like, why have they done this. And then be able to, I guess, present it later on, in probably a conversation.
Sarah: Lends a bit more mystery.
Ashley: Well I guess it kind of touches on some of the pros and cons, though. So I guess the big pro for the god perspective as the world building, right?
Sarah: Yes. Yeah, so you can get more of an eagle, eagle eye perspective on the world.
Ashley: Mm hmm. I guess really set the scene of where these characters are. Which, to be fair, is a little especially for us as a little bit challenging with this current novel, because obviously Ancient Greece is a big place. There are a lot of really complex relationships between city states and everything, so we’re obviously limited, having to limit a lot of what we put out there into more bite sized pieces, and kind of drip feed that information out through various different ways.
Sarah: Yeah yeah
Ashley: Dialogue and all sorts, because we can’t just, you know, do a weird God perspective, like this is what’s happening right now on my little tabletop game of all of these pieces.
Sarah: There’s a great quote, I heard it on The Storygrid Podcast and I’m not sure who originally quoted it, but—because I know they were quoting someone else—but it says to use exposition as ammunition. So rather than give all your exposition at once, you want to like hold back stuff and then. yeah drip feed, like you were saying, so that readers don’t feel like all this exposition is being forced onto them and then instead you bring it out at key moments like, oh he noticed this. And he had a sudden realization, or I don’t know. But, yeah. So I think that’s kind of how we’re… we’re treating our…
Sarah: Third person limited viewpoint, a bit more. But I mean there are situations where omnipresent would be…
Sarah: More useful, yeah.
Ashley: Guess another advantage is you can follow the story of multiple characters at once if you want. You can really jump around the world that you’ve created and explain, pretty much if you want to, right from the start, how are these how all these things are connected with their points of view and everything. Which I guess if you’re using a limited perspective, the only real way to achieve that is to use multiple perspectives, I guess.
Sarah: Mm hmm, yeah.
Ashley: We purposely have, I think, limited ourselves to only three perspectives for our historical fiction novel. And very purposefully chosen them as well, I think, to put our story across. We debated quite a few different characters, like should we use this character, or that character. I’m quite happy with the ones we settled on, I think it’ll give a really good picture of what’s happening. I guess our, our teen fiction has a lot more perspectives.
Sarah: Yes, we tried to take one out actually.
Ashley: We did.
Sarah: But, then the beta readers—not that they’d ever… that they even knew that that perspective was ever in there, but they noted a gap where that person’s perspective would have been in some ways. They were like why don’t we hear from this person. So then we had to put them back in.
Ashley: Yeah. I guess that…
Sarah: We were like clearly, she was meant to be in there from the beginning.
Ashley: I guess that kind of is one element that is a, I guess, a con for first person versus third person is that I guess if you’re on first person you can be fairly certain if you’re only using one perspective that your character is surviving, generally speaking. Otherwise, unless it’s like from the grave, but…
Sarah: Yeah, whereas with multiple perspective, or with third person then… well, even, even third person though, unless it’s at the end of the book.
Sarah: Unless you have more than one character—
Sarah: —we find with the multiple perspective, you can kill off characters, like main, fairly main characters and surprise readers.
Ashley: Definitely, definitely.
Sarah: Possibly anger them, so be careful.
Sarah: Not that we’ve angered any readers, I don’t think, although…
Ashley: James was pretty upset.
Sarah: James is probably upset.
Ashley: James is pretty upset. He kept thinking that they were coming back. It’s one of those things where no, it’s… she… they haven’t actually died, they haven’t actually died.
Sarah: This is a real life thing. Come on. We don’t deal with reincarnations.
Ashley: Although, James does appreciate our teen fiction, how we are not afraid to just kill off characters, whenever we feel like it. He was like, right from the start, is like, you just kill them off and you don’t see it coming, he’s like any character could be gone. I don’t know who’s going to be next.
Sarah: We’re watching, um, Broke—well we have just finished watching—The Brokenwood series. We’re waiting for the next season to come out. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of it.
Ashley: I haven’t, I haven’t.
Sarah: It’s so hilarious, but it’s a New Zealand cop, like, crime drama. Yeah it would probably drive you insane because there’s so many inconsistencies. Drives me insane sometimes. But, it is amazing, and it is very funny. But because they’re like investigating at least like one murder per episode and it’s all set in like this tiny town in New Zealand…
Ashley: Oh no, oh no!
Sarah: No one’s safe. And like you get some characters who have been there for like, for ages. And they’re just randomly killed off.
Ashley: I like it.
Sarah: It was, it was great. Anyways, sorry, just had to, to put that in there. We’ll go back to the point with omnipresent.
Sarah: In my mind, I think it depends what kind of person you are as to whether you’re going to do this viewpoint well. I remember having a discussion with my sister once about, just how we view like the layout of the streets, because we’re talking about—when we were living in Auckland, we were talking about the layout. And she is a person who views it from a more sort of eagle eye perspective of, all the streets are linked up like this. And she’s viewing it like looking down on it. Whereas, I’m a person who I sort of memorize what it looks like as I’m like walking down or driving down the street and whether I take a left or right and I might use landmarks to familiarize myself with where I am. And so for me, trying to think in that, that sort of God’s eye perspective, just really doesn’t work very well. And so, maybe, maybe that’s a good metaphor for whether you might be that type of person. Or maybe not.
Ashley: I’m much like you, Sarah, when I think about, you know, where I am. I’m never looking from above. I’ve always just memorized. I’m on the street, which means this, if I look between those houses the other streets going to be running beside me and if I, you know, ahead is the Skytower which means, you know. Wherever, wherever I’m going is behind me. Stuff like that. Not looking, you know, not looking from above, like a map, I guess.
Ashley: Yeah, I don’t know if I could, I could do um, God perspective very well. Maybe one day. I also don’t know if I’m the kind of person who would write a novel that would really um, where the god perspective would be the best way to tell it, if that makes any sense. I feel like the stories I choose, I really like being limited so the readers can’t know everything. And being able to hide things or use that to tell a story. I fell that’s more what I just personally, personally prefer. But maybe that will change one day, who knows.
Sarah: Yeah, I think, was my nursing and having studied a bit of psychology and stuff I quite like being inside the characters heads a bit more. So I think that naturally trends me towards liking limited third person or first person. But yeah, anyways. Um, is there anything else that you wanted to add to that?
Ashley: Not really, no. I think I’m, I think I’m good. What about you?
Sarah: I’m good. I’m keen to move on to mistakes of the month, cause I’ve got some good ones, this time.
Ashley: Would you like to go first.
Sarah: Ah dear. Alrighty. So the first one I have, like all of them this time came from edits from my own novel, because I was going through editing. But this one was, was… gave me a little laugh, which is, “I tried to throw off the feeling and calm my racing heart with a shake of me head.” Which comes off weirdly Scottish or something. “With a shake of me head.” I can’t do a Scottish accent but.
Ashley: Oh my gosh. I like it.
Sarah: It was great.
Ashley: I like how it’s also just thrown in there. Like, it seems normal and then they kind of become Scottish at the end.
Sarah: I know, it’s great. Do you wanna do one of yours?
Ashley: Sure. So all of mine are from our current historical fiction novel. Just… pretty much once I found when I’ve read over things that I’ve written to try and, you know, you know either edit or send to Sarah. So, one of the really amusing ones I found, I had, “Many screamed the lyrics to words Simon had never heard of.”
Sarah: I like that one.
Ashley: It survived many read throughs. Obviously it’s meant to be songs. Screamed the lyrics to words. It’s really good. I enjoyed that one, I had a good laugh, a good laugh.
Sarah: Well, maybe he hasn’t heard of those words.
Ashley: Yeah, well possibly.
Sarah: He is in Greece, but he does speak Greek so, it’s unlikely. So another one that I had was, “‘Sorry,’ I mutter, my face turning away and backing into my room.” I didn’t spot that one for quite some time. And then I was like, my face turning away?
Ashley: I’m just imagining someone’s face leaving, and then just like trotting off and the person is kind of standing there looking like one of those like really creepy dolls that had it’s like eyes wiped off.
Sarah: Exactly. I was like, what is going on here?
Ashley: Trots into the bedroom.
Sarah: Oh my goodness.
Ashley: Right, so another one I found it was, “two tear lines ran down her dust coasted face.” That one also took a lot to find. I was like, hmm, the dust coast. I like it.
Sarah: Dust coasted.
Ashley: The dust… dust coasted. It kind of rhymes as well. So when you look at it, the S’s are kind of merge into one. So you don’t notice it.
Sarah: Yep. Another one that I had, “I shrug on some clean boxers in a loose tee on autopilot.” I don’t know how you shrug on boxers. I’m just gonna say that.
Ashley: I was tryna imagine that, I was like, I don’t, I don’t see it.
Sarah: It’s like, putting it over your head as well as a t shirt or something? It’s like, yeah I’m just gonna wear it all on the top.
Ashley: I was just like, through one leg, through one leg, and like trying to like shimmy it down onto your body. Oh my gosh. That’s amazing.
Sarah: Makes me think of like, Mr. Bean, you know that episode where he’s like trying to get changed into his—I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Mr. Bean, but—
Ashley: I’ve watched a little bit. A little bit, yeah.
Sarah: —there’s this, there’s this episode where he, he’s at the beach. And then he notices someone’s there, and he wants to get changed until his swimming costume. So, then he’s trying to pull his pants off and like, keep the swimsuit on over top, and speedos… anyways. You had, did you have any more?
Ashley: Yeah. So, the next one I found was, “When he neared her, he rambled an apology?” with a question mark.
Sarah: Whaaat? Why the question mark?
Ashley: I don’t know how it happened! I don’t know. I must have accidentally hit it or something but I was like, oh my god.
Sarah: Well, I’m not sure if I should be apologizing for this so…
Ashley: Or, is this an apology? And then whatever he says, after that, but yeah. Oh my god. What was your… do you have another one?
Sarah: Yes, this one was brilliant. And I had to tell Ashley ahead of time, which often we save these just very good laugh on the podcast. This one, I could not hold back. “He stared at me through flared nostrils.”
Ashley: How did that even happen.
Sarah: I was thinking about people when they’re like, quite worked up. And I was thinking about like pinpoint pupils, and flared nostrils. And I started writing like that pinpoint pupils but then I reorganized because I… I just got it all muddled up and then somehow the flared nostrils came out instead of the pinpoint pupils, and then I wasn’t happy with the pinpoint pupils or the flared nostrils anyways so I deleted the whole lot, but, “He stared at me through flared nostrils.”
Ashley: I love it. Just imagining like little eyes in someone’s nose. And instead of blinking they have to like, flare their nostrils so they can see.
Sarah: That’s great. You had one more, right?
Ashley: I do have one more. This was oh, probably, near the end. Recent, I’m gonna go with like from like two days ago, maybe. And so it’s, “He rested his hand against Helene’s hose to keep his balance, his vision swimming.” Instead of horse.
Sarah: I just realized that, I was like, what was this thing? And then I was like, oh, it’s supposed to be a horse.
Ashley: Was meant to be horse!
Sarah: Helene’s hose. Sounds really dodgy.
Ashley: I know, I was like oh my god. Especially did they have hoses in Ancient Greece? Likely not.
Sarah: No, I don’t think they did. Unless you’re talking about something else entirely.
Ashley: Which is very confusing in this sentence. Anyways…
Ashley: If anyone else has any mistakes of the month, please, please send them in. We would love to read them and share them just because everyone makes mistakes, and why not have it bring joy to other people.
Sarah: You could make someone’s day.
Sarah: You could make someone’s day.
Ashley: Yep. But yes, we all make mistakes. So yeah, please send them through. If anyone if anyone finds anything particularly hilarious. We’d love to hear from you.
Sarah: Yes. So we still have some spots in the ‘Be Featured’ section of the author spotlight for our podcast. So if you would like to be on that as well. Then go to our website at www.lindersoncreations.com, hover your mouse or click on the podcast tab at the top, and it should give you a scroll down menu which has to ‘be featured’ listed under there. And yeah, then fill in the form will get back to you. Might not necessarily be immediately, because we are doing the episodes like one a month. So, you know, it’s probably better I think for you and us if we record them closer to the time, because…
Ashley: Definitely more relevant that way I think.
Sarah: Yeah, you’re not advertising things from like months… something you’ve done like months ago. But yeah. So if you want to be on the show with us, we’d love to have you here.
Sarah: So what do we have next time on Dear Writer, Ashley?
Ashley: Right. So our next episode is the second installment of our creative life miniseries, and we’ll be talking about ‘A Day in the Life of Ashley and Sarah’, which should be a good conversation. You can see how we organize our time with our busy schedules, and how we make time to do all of our writing projects. Yeah, so I hope, I really hope you guys enjoyed today’s talk. And if you’d like to know more about us and writing projects you can visit us at www.lindersoncreations.com. Or, we’re also pretty active on social media. So check us out on Instagram or Facebook, which is also under Linderson Creations.
Sarah: And rate or review the show on Apple podcasts, or subscribe on whatever podcatcher you use. And yeah, we will catch you next time, next week. Happy writing, everyone.
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