Breaking the fourth wall in close third person.

msstice

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In omniscient third person it is common to say something like "Years later the villagers would come to know these events as the Purple Feast." This is expected since the reader has taken the role of listener and the writer the role of the story teller.

In close third person how icky is it to do this? I'm following Joe the Dragon Slayer in close third person on one of his quests and he defeats the dragon. Can I as the narrator poke my nose in at the end of the battle and say "Years later, this battle was known as the Joe Throw" and then resume my close third narrative?

Perhaps a more clever technique would be to say:

As Joe put down his sword, sat on a rock and drunk the last of his water, he mused, "In the years hence, will they call this 'The Joe Throw'?"

They have different connotations. In the first this says nothing about Joe's character or voice, but in the second there is definitely a statement about Joe.

Thanks!
 

luriantimetraveler

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I think one of the tricky things about a close 3rd person POV that I've heard in listening to writers and reading is this:
The narrator is neither your protagonist nor the writer: they are their own character, who may exist only in their voice, but nonetheless is separate from both writer and protagonist. In light of which, I would turn it around and ask: is making such an observation in the character of your narrator?

It sounds like not — in which case I might go with your second option. If you want to soften, complicate it, you could do something like:
As Joe put down his sword, sat on a rock and drunk the last of his water, he mused, "In the years hence, will they call this 'The Joe Throw'?" He shook his head and laughed at himself; he had more important things to be thinking about.

...or something like that?

All that being said — I'm a fan of such asides in a story, and if you like it in that moment, you could consider adding others (a sprinkle!).
 

The Judge

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As I read your first couple of paras I'd already formulated my reply ie "No, you can't bring in future knowledge in close third without making every other writer reading the book start shouting at you (readers who aren't writers won't give a toss) but what you can do is have Joe or one of his pals say 'In years to come, they'll call that the Joe Throw!' " And damn me, you go and spoil my eclat by thinking of it for yourself! ;)

Anyhow, even if the first option doesn't offend ordinary readers, to me the second is a far better option -- after all, we don't actually need to know what it's called in the future, but by wrapping it up in Joe's imagination, we can join with his emotions such as pride in his success and/or wish to be immortalised, which adds to the narrative rather than detracting from it.


(By the way, I know the sentence was just thrown together for the post but in case it's not just a typo, the pedant in me has to point out that "As Joe put down his sword, sat on a rock and drunk the last of his water, he mused" is incorrect -- the "As" means that everything following has to happen in the same instant so "As Joe put down his sword, he mused" is fine, but it's impossible for him to put down the sword, sit down, and drink all in the same moment as he's musing on one short thought. And it's "drank" in the past tense. Sorry, I'll go back and sit in Pedants' Corner again.)
 

Wayne Mack

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I am not sure there is any need to predict the future. If the tale is going to stay in its current timeframe, then it really does not matter what it will be called many years hence. If the tale is going to skip ahead several years, this piece of information can be given after the time jump. "Joe recalled the battle years ago that was now known as The Joe Throw."
 

zmunkz

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I agree with @Wayne Mack . I’m not sure it adds anything except a viewpoint break, which some people may not notice, but others will find jarring. It’s usually best not to risk jarring your readers unless there is a good reason for it. This seems more like a head nod to your own world building rather than a benefit to the story the reader is immersed in.
 

tinkerdan

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I've been guilt of such transgression in my work.
Usually just a quick line.

What annoys me: in something I recently read there were entire paragraphs of soon to be discovered information that clearly was there just to speed the story up; I guess.

One instance the character had just met someone and suddenly has a paragraph of that persons background in the narrative(first person)all information that he couldn't know yet and was probably told somewhere in the future pages away, but for some reason it was important to know right then(but apparently didn't fit into present dialogue)and that was pretty jarring. It came out as though he were saying, I was soon to find out...

The answer not an easy yes or no; this is okay or it's not. It is more one of if you do feel the need to do that, get it over quick and move on and try not to draw attention to it.

Examine just why it is there and then if you leave it in do so realizing that it's mostly there for you and probably should be cut. Most of the time they don't serve a big enough purpose and even if they did such as the information in that longer paragraph I mentioned--it can be disturbing to the reader and there was probably a more appropriate way to put it in without breaking the timeline of the story to squeeze it in as a sort of aside to the reader.
 

CTRandall

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I agree with @luriantimetraveler that you need to treat the narrator almost like another character. If you make these kinds of asides on a regular basis, then it fits with your narrative style and will work. If this is an exception, it will probably feel awkward and intrusive and some version of the 2nd option will work better.
 

farntfar

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(By the way, I know the sentence was just thrown together for the post but in case it's not just a typo, the pedant in me has to point out that "As Joe put down his sword, sat on a rock and drunk the last of his water, he mused" is incorrect -- the "As" means that everything following has to happen in the same instant so "As Joe put down his sword, he mused" is fine, but it's impossible for him to put down the sword, sit down, and drink all in the same moment as he's musing on one short thought. And it's "drank" in the past tense. Sorry, I'll go back and sit in Pedants' Corner again.)
Given the use of As in this paragraph, surely the requirement is not that he needs to do the 3 things at once, but simply that he muses continually whilst performing the 3 things, one after another. So rather a long muse, but otherwise possible.
It isn't unknown for my mind to loop on one fairly trivial thought for several minutes, even if it is usually pretty pointless.
 

The Judge

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Yep, I should have made that clearer rather than just relying on the "musing on one short thought" -- everything he does has to fit in the same length of time, however long or short, as the musing.

Though personally I'd discourage anyone from structuring the sentence that way ie beginning with "As" with a list of things done if it were to be long-drawn out muse/lengthy thought, as it really doesn't work to the story's advantage. In the event of long musing I think the sentence would be better structured by inverting it eg something like "He continued to muse on the problem/argued with himself/made an inordinately long inner speech as he ..." and even then I'd hesitate to enumerate all his activities unless they added in some way to the story.
 

DLCroix

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Hi, @msstice ! Well, my atrophied brain needs to process a lot of information to come to some kind of conclusion and it is still wrong most of the time, so don't give too much thought to what I'm going to say, but ...
History usually recalls the fight; not the blood. Or, as they say, "the miracle is told; not the saint". Therefore, I prefer the first option, that of the Purple Feast. Sorry dear Joe, but people are ungrateful, boy. It is even likely that they will make a pilgrimage to the place where you grilled that huge lizard or, let's suppose, from then on they give the cavern the name Purple cavern. But except for the beers or the gold that they have paid you, and the pat on the back, people are only going to remember the fact, in a hundred years they will only know that in that place they gave him the ones with the octopus to a very bad dragon. In fact, hopefully your grandchildren will know that their grandfather was the one with the feat. But who else?
 

Phyrebrat

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I agree with @luriantimetraveler that you need to treat the narrator almost like another character. If you make these kinds of asides on a regular basis, then it fits with your narrative style and will work. If this is an exception, it will probably feel awkward and intrusive and some version of the 2nd option will work better.

Yes, this! Within the last year I started reading Dickens for the first time (for shame!), and I've picked up a habit I'd never seen before; the use of parenthetical thoughts from Dickens, although they feel in-POV, they're not. I've been writing a novel over the past year set in 1865 and have really enjoyed doing this - very rule-breaky - but I think I've probably only done it ten times.

TBH it's more for character depth than expo, but either work for me.
 

thisreidwrites

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I could be wrong, but it seems to me that your question actually has to do with the timing of the telling of the story.

"Years later, this battle was known as the Joe Throw"
works just fine - if your narrator is telling the story from a point BEYOND that in the future.

he mused, "In the years hence, will they call this 'The Joe Throw'?"
- also works fine, but gives the reader the solid impression that the narrator is mulling over this stuff RIGHT NOW, in their present time, rather than some future point. So it just depends on which impression you've been giving through your book, and which you'd like to give now.

/two cents :)
 

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