It was pitch black as we bumped our way slowly down the dirt road. My parents peered carefully out the windows for any unexpected wildlife as we weaved deeper and deeper into the woods towards our little cabin. But when the brakes screeched, it was not for the deer, rabbits, or even bears that we might have expected. There, looming before us in the road, was a giant moose.
It was usually—okay, always—dark by the time we made it back home after a trip to town. After all, the closest affordable grocery store was two hours away, and it didn’t take an insignificant amount of time to shop for…was it nine of us at that point? I forget. My brain converts the memory of a moose blocking the road to happening every single time we got back from town, but according to my siblings, it was only once or twice. Regardless, it was both awesome (in the traditional, awe-inspiring sense) and frightening at the same time. We had to wait, silent, car idling, and hope that the moose would eventually move away of its own volition without becoming angry and charging our car. And then, when the moment was over, we could once again brag to our friends that we were face-to-face with another moose. It’s one of those memories a child never forgets.
I’ve never thought to wonder until now what that moose might have been thinking. I’m ashamed to admit that, as a writer, but I’ve only ever thought about my family’s emotions, thoughts, and fears. But can you imagine that moose’s thoughts?
“What is this strange monster holding two bright suns that has invaded my domain? I shall defend myself and my realm!”
**gazes straight into headlights**
“Argh! My eyes! My eyes! What devilry is this? Must escape before it takes advantage of . . . its advantage!”
**blinks rapidly as it looks back into the dark forest and rationalizes how to approach this**
“But not too quickly or it will think I am frightened. I am not frightened. I am simply sharing my domain.”
**saunters casually off, trying not to trip over the roots as black specks still dance in front of its eyes, chanting to itself to regain self-confidence**
“I am the king of the forest. I am master of my domain. I am gracious to strange monsters who attack my eyes.”
Okay, maybe a little fanciful. But it is fun to consider other points of view, right?
Speaking of which, can I complain about POV for a minute? Remember those golden days of childhood summer, and you lay there reading a book that takes you out of this world and into another one? You emerge, if you are lucky enough to have already finished your chores, several hours later, dreamy and satisfied. Delighted with the experiences you’ve had and the visions you’ve seen.
Did it, in those days, ever once occur to you to ask, “Was that first person, second person, third person, or omniscient POV? Why, third person of course. But, was it third person limited, third person objective, or third person omniscient? Third person limited, certainly. Did the writer at any point slip out of their POV to give us a glimpse into another soul? OMG, yes! Therefore, they must be shunned forever more!”
That might be an exaggeration. But seriously. POV is the bane of my existence. ALL I WANT IS TO GIVE ANY PERSPECTIVE I WANT AT ANY MOMENT I WANT. There, that is my hissy fit. Now I’ll be more rational. Maybe.
I understand the thought process behind establishing POV and sticking with it. I even agree with it, for the most part. Both so it doesn’t take the reader out of the story, and to maintain some element of mystery about what’s coming next. But when it comes to third person limited versus third person omniscient, that is where I get annoyed. There are just times, when you want to be able to give a little more. For instance, that moment when the current POV character walks out of the room and you want to see the people staring or murmuring after them. Or when two main characters have a fight and stalk by a cubical, and the person there is snickering at them, which they certainly don’t see, but maybe the reader might want to see? Or the moment the spoiled rich girl closes the door and her poor maid sinks to the floor behind it in relief.
I know, I know, “then go omniscient!” Aha! But, apparently, even omniscient authors have limits. You apparently STILL aren’t supposed to go slinking around to different heads and thoughts because it can confuse the readers. Okay, then what exactly IS omniscient for?
I’ll let you know if I ever figure that out.
Sigh. Honestly, I’m a bit confuddled about where all the lines are drawn exactly. And that is probably part of my exasperation. Because I want to do things right, but I also want to do them my way. Or, really, I just want to do them L.M. Montgomery’s way. Listen to this:
“You must promise,” said Aunt Elizabeth sternly, “that for the three years you are at Shrewsbury you will give up entirely this writing nonsense of yours–entirely, except in so far as school compositions may be required.”
Emily sat very still–and cold. No Shrewsbury on the one hand–on the other no more poems, no more stories and “studies,” no more delightful Jimmy-books of miscellany. She did not take more than one instant to make up her mind.
“I can’t promise that, Aunt Elizabeth,” she said resolutely.
Aunt Elizabeth dropped her knitting in amazement. She had not expected this. She had thought Emily was so set on going to Shrewsbury that she would do anything that might be asked of her in order to go–especially such a trifling thing as this–which, so Aunt Elizabeth thought, involved only a surrender of stubbornness. . .Elizabeth knitted furiously in her vexation, and Emily sat motionless, struggling with her bitter disappointment and sense of injustice. . .The door opened and Cousin Jimmy slipped in. Cousin Jimmy knew what was in the wind and had been coolly and deliberately listening outside the door. He knew Emily would never promise such a thing–he had told Elizabeth so at the family council ten days before. He was only simple Jimmy Murray, but he understood what sensible Elizabeth Murray could not understand.
(Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery)
See how the story slips in and out of Emily, Aunt Elizabeth, and Cousin Jimmy’s thoughts and motivations? Can anyone tell me what POV that is? Because, according to The Everyday Novelist, that’s considered head hopping since it is “switching from one limited POV to another in the same scene, telling the story from first one character’s POV and then another’s, instead of from the POV of an omniscient narrator.”
Or am I wrong? Is it considered omniscient since there aren’t necessarily any descriptions of the emotions? Ugh. I miss the days when I was blessedly ignorant of such things and wrote just how I liked.
Do any of you struggle with POV? Have you figured out how to stick within the lines? Does it curb your imagination to have to do so? If so, #writersunite!
Okay, my rant is officially over, and thanks for listening!