Storytelling Essentials: Deep 3rd Person Perspective

*This was originally posted over a year ago. I will have a brand new sketch posted tomorrow at 7:00 AM PST tomorrow. See you then!

STORYTELLING ESSENTIALS: DEEP THIRD PERSON PERSPECTIVE

So you’ve decided to write fiction, but have no idea what perspective to use. You love the way “Hunger Games” reads in first person, and wish to emulate it, but are uncertain how to describe situations and events that might be beyond your main characters current level of intellect. You decide to move to third person, but a short ways in realize that your story lacks emotion – and every time you try to broadcast the feelings of your protagonist, they come directly out-the-mouth through dialogue. Not very effective, seeing as how everyday people don’t commonly say, “I’m really scared right now.” And if they did, they’d be a pretty wimpy hero (Sorry, just saying).

I prefer deep 3rd person perspective. It’s sort of a hybrid of 1st and 3rd person that has become increasingly common in recent years. Here’s what it looks like –

* * *

George walked over to the wobbly wooden table, sat down, then stared at his now-cold cup of coffee. Since he’d first set that mug down, so much had changed…

George took a sip. He needed to think. He needed to be awake, no matter how much he needed to sleep. George groaned, ran his fingers through his oily, slick-backed hair, then crossed his arms and hunched over the table top. What could he do? Where should he start?

He winced his eyes closed, then gulped. The fact that he’d lost had yet to sink in. It was a terrible thought, but the fact that her murderer was still out there gave him something to keep his mind off her gruesome death. The way she looked, half naked, burn marks everywhere, and that thing she had on her face. What was that? Was it even human??

George shuddered then smeared his face. He took another big gulp of coffee, then smeared the brown from his sun-worn lips. He stood up so fast he knocked the mug down to the floor, bringing it to shatter.

He caught himself just short of swearing, then grabbed the chair backing with the tightly closed fold of his hand.

“Barbara,” He said with his eyes closed, then sniffed. “Who did it. For the love of God, show me something. Tell me who murdered you.”

After a short wait in dead silence, George let out a muffled whine, then scrunched his eyelids together.

A creak.

George’s eyes shot open. He slowly raised his gaze, and looked in the direction of the ominous sound. It had come from just above the mantle piece, right where he kept the picture from the fishing contest. The one Barbara always begged him to take down.

George remembered that picture fondly, almost able to smile even now from it. He’d caught the biggest fish in the water that day, won the contest and everything. He never understood why Barbara refused to smile when their photo was taken. He never understood why she always hated that photograph.

The creak sounded again. Same spot.

“Barbara?” Said George. The grin left him. He walked with a kind of slanted focus, keeping half-an eye on the picture. As he crept closet to it he felt his heart begin to beat a little faster.

“Are you… trying to tell me something?”

A thump. The sounds were coming from straight above, up in the attic. George didn’t think much of it – He was too rusty to even consider climbing the ladder to check it out.

George stopped by the picture. He placed his hand over the corner of the frame.

“Oh my God.”

He fell back a step, tripped, then crashed onto the short living room desk. He shut his eyes and pressed his hand to his heart. That man. That man in the picture Barbara had always asked him about. Jim was his name.

George gulped. A quick race of noises came from the attic – like footsteps.

After George won the fishing contest that day, he’d never seen Jim again – until this day. At the crime scene. Why the hell was Jim there, anyway?

George’s eyes flew open. He remembered something else – Jim asked where he was living at nowadays. And George had given him his exact address.

There was another thump from above. George had to get up, but he needed Barbara to help him…

* * *

Okay, so a lot of deep third person perspective in there, but you know what other story telling element was frequently employed? If you tuned in to my post a few days ago, you may have guessed it already – suspense. Once again, suspense is information withheld. Every time you found yourself asking, “Who? What? Why?” That was thanks to suspense, and is an effective tool to keep your readers reading. If you want to be a diligent student of the craft, you’d be wise to find and circle those sentences on your own, that practice employing them in your own scenes. When writing suspense, the questions are more important than the answers. In other words, your mind doesn’t compel you to keep reading because of how awesome the thing on Barbara’s dead face was – it compels you to keep reading because you don’t know what it was, but want to.

Deep third person perspective is merely a blending of plain, straight-forward depiction of events, persons, and things, with the inner thoughts and feelings of the protagonist. To better display the difference in perspectives, let me show you how the opening to this scene would have looked had I written it in third person limited:

George sat down at the wobbly talbe. He rested his hands on it, then let out a short winded breath. He balled his hand into a fist, then uttered a soft moan.

“Barbara… I can’t believe I’ve lost you.”

There was a creak. George raised his eyes to check it out.

The reason you now feel alienated from George, rather than involved with him, is because every description is entirely physical. The voice is that of the author, rather than George’s own, and the scene is akin to what you would see if observing, rather than partaking in. Here is how it may have read in first person:

I sat down in the chair and looked at my cup of coffee. It was cold by now. I couldn’t believe all the events that had transpired since the time I’d first brewed that cup. I couldn’t believe I’d lost Barbara. I couldn’t believe how she’d been killed; the way her body looked.

One of the drawbacks of first person is you must remain in character at all times. Your descriptions, your insights, even your suspense – everything is coming straight from the mind of your protagonist. She is the writer, not you.

Deep third person perspective may sound confusing, but after some practice you’ll get the hang of it. Of course, deep third person is my preference, and every author is different. Some even prefer second person:

You see George sit in the chair. You can tell he’s nervous by the way he stares at his coffee. You watch his hands tremble.

Blows, doesn’t it? Yeah, don’t ever write in second person.

 Hope this helps!

– Thomas M. Watt

– Script Analyst for SpecScout.com

– Author of A New Kingdom

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Master – 2.2

Master_eBook

Click here to start from the beginning

“Why are you laughing?”

“You’re paranoid baby. I swear, sometimes I wonder if I married a schizophrenic.”

She returns to me again, then playfully straightens out my Montreal Expos cap. “You’re Phillip Gordon! You stand a sexy six-foot four, don’t take shit from nobody, and married the hottest Latina this town has ever seen.” She sets her hand on my knee, then slides it up my thigh, closer to my crotch. “You have a beautiful daughter, named Avery. You’re the greatest football player this town has ever known. And you know what? If anyone gives you shit, just dump enough chlorine in their pools to kill off their entire families. And their little poodles.”

I laugh. “Saying things like that could get you in trouble.”

“I don’t give a fuck what people think, baby! Only you.”

Loretta rubs the crotch part of my jeans with the flat of her palm until she finds my dong. Then, in the sexiest voice you could ever imagine, “You like when I do this?”

Loretta forms her hand into a fist and punches me right in the dick.

“Hey!” I say, then shove her away with a single arm. She giggles like a school girl as she returns to her seat, then smiles to herself while staring out the window. I laugh at first, then the ride turns to silence. No music playing, no conversation – just silence.

“Loretta?”

“Ya Baby?”

“I love you.”

She takes my hand and kisses the back of it. “Love you forever, Phillip Gordon.”

CLICK HERE FOR 3.1!

  • Thomas M. Watt

Master – 2.1

Master_eBook

Click here to start from the beginning

I remove my Montreal Expos cap and take a step forward. I snag a firm grip of his shoulder, then stare straight into his eyes.

“One day, God-willing, you’re going to have a child of your own. And when you do, you’re going to raise that kid and do everything you can to keep him from becoming the person you once were; maybe the person you are now. When that day comes, I want you to look in your child’s eyes, and ask yourself – was it worth having this child? All the sleepless nights, all the extra-payments, all the stress that comes along with caring for a family?”

“Fuck that, I don’t do relationships.”

I smile. “Have a good day, son.” I turn around to face my wife. “Let’s go, babe.”

She frowns, then takes my hand. We leave.

CHAPTER 2

My Dodge pickup sounds like it gurgles cement as we bump along the road. Loretta unbuckles her seat belt, then leans over the center console and wraps both her arms around my right bicep.

“Let it go, baby,” she says, then kisses my shoulder.

“We should move,” I say.

“Why?” Loretta springs back.

“I don’t want to live here anymore. I don’t want Avery growing up here.”

“You and I grew up here. We have family here.”

“I don’t want Avery dealing with the same bullshit I do. She shouldn’t have to deal with these questions.”

“What questions?”

“C’mon Loretta, you want me to say it?”

“Say what?”

“The fact that I was an NFL prodigy who quit. Fact that the same people who thought I’d be rich and famous call me when their pool’s got too many leaves floating on top.”

Loretta laughs. She sits back in her own seat, crosses her arms, and stares out her window.

“What?”

She looks at me, rubs the tip of her nose, and turns away.

Click here for 2.2!

Thomas M. Watt

Master and “THE ROOM” – 10/20

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I’m busy adding a riveting twist to the ending, one I believe will add a heavy layer of drama to this psychological thriller. Finishing this book is consuming my writing time, and keeping me from posting short stories on here. The final part to Too Perfect Marriage took me six hours to write, but I accept that. One thing I am certain of – rushed writing is cheap writing.

Though there are tricks, techniques, and structures that will greatly enhance your stories, emotion can never be artificial. If you are not feeling the anxiety, disgrace, or enchantment of your characters, neither will your readers. Consequently, it is a waste of time to churn stories out like I’m some sort of machine. What I produce will repel you.

I am on the fence about posting the opening pages of Master. Because it is only a hundred + pages, I must have a definite release date in mind. That way I can give away the right amount prior to making it available. I am reluctant only because posting the pages on here guarantees that the book will be self-published (it is greatly frowned upon by publishers to pick up a book with content already posted on the web).

Mainly because I’m immersed in finalizing Master, I haven’t put much time into taking my gaseous plan and morphing it into something solid. I haven’t queried a single publisher or agent about Master, and have yet to look into the pros/cons of pursuing that avenue. This is the first book I feel would have a chance at getting picked up, in spite of its short length. I’ve queried a terrible book before, and the process is aggravating to say the least – they tell you to wait up to 6 months to hear back, and even if someone requests and loves your full manuscript, it takes roughly a year to get that book into stores. I am, to a fault, an impulsive person.

I hate posting poor content on here, and have no intention of transitioning this blog to a shameless book promotion website. When I do launch into marketing mode, I intend to do so in unique and exciting ways. Nobody wants to buy a product that is crammed down their throats – but they might consider biting into a pitch if it’s delivered with spoonful of humanity.

On a lighter note, check out the clip below for a good laugh. It’s from a movie titled “The Room” that has been voted the worst movie ever made. It’s so godawful there’s been a bestseller written about the making of it, and get this – James Franco is making that story into a movie.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Master Update – 10/18

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Waddup, waddup.

Haven’t been posting as frequently as usually. That’s mainly due to finishing up edits and preparing for the release of Master.

First thing’s first – I need to be %100 convinced the book is worth pushing. So far, the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. Nonetheless, I’m still adjusting a few minute details and polishing it off each and everyday. I want to receive another round of reviews before I decide there’s no more changes to make. I’m seeking out well-read individuals who are willing to race through it and give me a basic, overall perspective of the book (If you’re interested, drop me a note in the comment section. No special knowledge required).

Once I have the novel completely ready to go, there’s still a lot of work to do – send it out to book review blogs, hype it up across the web, and honestly, just promote the hell out of it.

There used to be this small burger joint in town. Hole-in-wall type place. First time I went entered I took a look at the menu, then decided to grab lunch at the Subway next door. A while later I gave it another visit, and let me tell ya – it was the best goddamn burger I ever tasted. Third time I couldn’t even get in – Place was boarded up, there was no more burger joint.

What’s the point of this story?

That burger joint kicked the shit out of its competition. But nobody was aware, because people are always reluctant to try something new. That first burger purchase took a leap of faith by me, but by God I’m happy I devoured it.

Master is essentially my first novel. It’s the first time I’ve put something together that people will enjoy reading – like that burger I was fortunate enough to sink my teeth into. So I plan on marketing the hell out of it, but want to be absolutely sure it’ll be worth the time and effort. I’m expecting to generate a whole bunch of downloads and sales early. If readers like what they see, then word of mouth will help the book spread.

The equation is simple – product x push = success. I think Einstein won a prize for that one. But if you don’t have a good product, or neglect pushing it, you can never achieve the success you’re looking for. That’s my theory, at least.

As for this blog, I know I’ve been MIA for the past few days. That’s because I want to get this book hot-and-ready, that way I can put out an official release date and blog the first few chapters leading up to it. I want you to know I’m not just blowing steam up your… who blows steam, anyway?

Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Master and Too Perfect Marriage Update – 10/10

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I know many of you are looking forward to the next part of Too Perfect Marriage. I’ll get to that in a moment.

The cover to Master is in! I can’t wait to show it to you, Ellie Augsburger did an incredible job. I’ve finished Master, and currently am going through and solidifying things. It’s crucial to hammer out the plot in the first few drafts, but a side-effect of focusing on plot is the dialogue becomes interchangeable. Every word that exits a character’s mouth should be specific to their unique personality. A lot goes into a single line – plot, characterization, emotion, and intrigue, just to name a few. When I say intrigue, I mean that their are lines of dialogue that spark interest even without full awareness of the context.

Along with editing Master and blogging short stories, I’m also a full-time student at a local cc. So many hours spent on the computer can take a toll on you mentally – it’s important to use your body. Earlier this week I felt like I could read the same question from a homework assignment 15 times over and still not understand what it was asking.

I plan to transition from writing mode to promotion mode next week. Don’t worry, I’m not just going to fire out constant updates for Master. I’m inclined to post half-a-page of my book a day up until I publish it. Hopefully, doing this will show you that the book is pretty good, and maybe when I release it you’ll be curious enough to download it (I’m debating whether or not to make it available for free during the first five days of its release).

As for Too Perfect Marriage, I should be wrapping up the series next week. Check back on Monday, I plan on posting part 7 then.

  • Thomas M. Watt

First 5 steps to book marketing & MASTER Update – 9/9

indiana jones

Contrary to amateur belief, it’s most beneficial for an author to market their work before it is published. This way, potential readers will have something to look forward to, much like the opening weekend of a new blockbuster movie. That’s why we see trailers for movies that aren’t going to appear in theaters until much later; to generate some hype and anticipation.

If you’re like me, promoting your work is alien to your nature and feels like an insult to art (I am trapped by this deep-seeded ideal that beauty should be recognized the moment it is seen, and is apparent enough in itself that it should never have to be pointed out to anyone. Then I remind myself that Van Gogh never sold a painting).

Fortunately, the world wide web holds an endless bounty of information, and enough google searches will get you off the sidewalk and onto the main road. I owe a lot to Benjamin Myatt, author of the High Moon Rising series for pointing me in the right direction. His books have been downloaded several hundred times over. He recommended I check out this link, which led me to a free, downloadable PDF file that includes a checklist of the most effective ways to promote my book.

Now that I have a plan for marketing Master, I feel much better about my future as an independent author. It’s hard for any artist to accept, but nobody is going to buzz your doorbell to ask if you’re the next big thing. You’ve got to bang knuckles door-to-door and say, “Here I am.”

Below is my list of things to do today in order to get the ball rolling in the marketing department. Follow along if you’re in the beginning stages of promoting your work.

1.) Contact three potential cover artists (whose portfolios include covers for psychological thrillers)

2.) Create a list of keywords that describe ‘Master’, seek out blogs that express interest in those keywords

3.) Involve myself in an online forum without being called an idiot, getting booted, or giving out my address to someone who wants to help me receive an assault and battery charge.

4.) Figure out how Goodreads works (What’s this place for? Am I supposed to log-in when I read a book, then log-out when I’m done?)

5.) Figure out how to get more twitter followers.

* One final note, tomorrow (9/10/15) there is a #pitmad event on twitter that allows you to pitch your story to tons of literary agents. (write your logline in 140 characters or less and use the hashtag #pitmad). I plan on entering Master, and suggest you enter whatever story you’re currently working on.

  • Thomas M. Watt