PoV Describes Known Location

Wayne Mack

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What are some techniques to have a PoV describe a location that is well known to the PoV? This isn't something that seems natural for the PoV to think about, but I want to introduce it to the reader. I am using a first person PoV.
 

HareBrain

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I'd try to base on either something that's changed, or a favourite feature they'd take notice of anyway, and then relate those things to the overall area in such a way as to unobtrusively sketch the whole place. (All, of course, while using such precise language as to accurately indicate their emotional state, and while foreshadowing significant plot developments in a way that the reader won't understand yet but will congratulate once they've finished.)
 

The Big Peat

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Obvious question - can you switch PoV to someone seeing it for the first time? Or the PoV of someone who is naturally observant, even of the familiar?

If not, I agree with HB on having something changed or focusing on someone they enjoy seeing. The other possibility is have the PoV in the sort of emotional mood where they look again at things they know well i.e. full of love, or worried about attack and thinking if its defensible or not, introducing it to someone, etc.etc.
 

sknox

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Why does it need to be described?

I would take a look at Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. At some point we follow them into their office. What gets described? More to the point, what gets described in the initial scene, and what gets described in later scenes?
 

tinkerdan

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This is where you can be creative--I've used it to a small extent in my writing.
You use more than one POV and use the mood of the character to access what they see.
In my Cripple Mode series I have the space station described by several characters from the point of view as to how certain aesthetics or lack there of affect them. One person sees a bright positive setting while another sees the dismal draining qualities. It can be like they are living on two different space stations.

However. I have more than a handful of POV so there are many shades of gray--not to be confused with that other authors books.
 

paranoid marvin

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In real life you wouldn't describe familiar things to yourself. In a movie you don't have to , but in a book it's one of those necessary things.

Most things that happen in stories aren't realistic, because they pretty much all skip out the more mundane things such as eating, bodily functions and wandering minds. Also something exciting/interesting is always happening to the protagonist, and this just doesn't happen in real life.

I think that as authors and readers we have to accept that for the purposes of a story, some things have to happen that probably wouldn't if it was for real. As long as our suspension of disbelief isn't twanged too harshly, it will stay intact.
 

msstice

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What are some techniques to have a PoV describe a location that is well known to the PoV? This isn't something that seems natural for the PoV to think about, but I want to introduce it to the reader. I am using a first person PoV.
I would imagine a first person POV has immense latitude in this case because they are the narrator of their own story and there is no conceit that they are not. They can jump around in time, narrate things that happend in a different POV as long as they have some way of getting this knowledge later on and so on. So I think it's perfectly acceptable to have a bit that goes:

When the Troll smashed me with his club, I staggered over the ledge and fell into the pit of finfadoom. You have not seen it, but I've had the pleasure of falling into it once before. It is deep, immensely deep, and the walls are made of hot stone ...
 

HareBrain

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I would imagine a first person POV has immense latitude in this case because they are the narrator of their own story and there is no conceit that they are not.
Yep, you have spotted what the rest of us seem to have missed. Whether it would be natural for the POV to think about a familiar location at the time they encounter it in the story only really applies to close-third. A first-person narrator should be more concerned with what the reader or listener of their account would benefit from knowing.

(This assumes past tense. First-person preset would be different.)
 

Wayne Mack

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I would imagine a first person POV has immense latitude in this case because they are the narrator of their own story and there is no conceit that they are not.
That's an interesting observation and it might be fun to (re)open a first person vs close third person discussion thread. In my case, however, I chose to go with first person as I wanted the reader to be deeply engaged with the PoV's thoughts and personality. While I don't think it is possible to avoid providing some direct to reader information (the PoV's regular world is different from the reader's), I do hope obscure the reveals as much as possible. I am concerned that a direct to reader address would fit with the tone that I hope to reflect.
 

Wayne Mack

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I'd try to base on either something that's changed, or a favourite feature they'd take notice of anyway, and then relate those things to the overall area in such a way as to unobtrusively sketch the whole place.
I think I will use the 'something has changed" idea. I already have a minor noticed change and I think I can make that more prominent to support the description of the area. The actual room description is unimportant, that it exists and has a 'hidden in plain sight' vibe is.
 

msstice

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Whether it would be natural for the POV to think about a familiar location at the time they encounter it in the story only really applies to close-third. A first-person narrator should be more concerned with what the reader or listener of their account would benefit from knowing.
From how I consume stories, I think third/first doesn't matter that much. Your last phrase is the most important: does it add to the story?

If I was in close third person and this was the pause after some action, I would accept some omniscient backstory/world-building as long as it was smooth - a literary pan away from the close third person to omniscient as it were.

Chapter breaks are good places to do this, especially if we've primed the reader to expect this periodically. As you point out, a break away in the heat of the action is not good for much except comedy. But again, it's possible to do this to stretch out the climax.

In writing, as in life, timing is everything.
 

Yozh

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MC could interact with the environment, rather than just describing it.

E.g. "The incessant door buzzer ruined my plans to to sleep through first shift, so I shook the weasel hair off the housecoat I was using as a bedspread, closed my sleep pod to hide the snack wrappers and beverage cans from view, and clad myself while shuffling to the vidicom screen next to my unit door."
 

Wayne Mack

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Whether it would be natural for the POV to think about a familiar location at the time they encounter it in the story only really applies to close-third. A first-person narrator should be more concerned with what the reader or listener of their account would benefit from knowing.
That is an interesting conjecture. I think I might be missing something, though. Is there any reason that in close third person (or any other presentation) that the story should not be concerned with what the reader would benefit from knowing? That may be a more generalized version of my original question, what are techniques to convey needed or interesting information without breaking the reader's flow?
 

HareBrain

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I think I might be missing something, though. Is there any reason that in close third person (or any other presentation) that the story should not be concerned with what the reader would benefit from knowing?
Yes, it should, the difference being that in first-person it can be open about it. In first-person, the conceit is that the writer and POV character are the same person, as far as the reader is concerned. We can assume a first-person narrator knows of the existence of a possible reader -- the story is likely to be a written memoir or something. An omniscient third narrator can do the same thing: we have a storyteller somewhat detached from the action. But close-third (and first present) is meant to restrict itself to what occupies the character's attention. So while the writer should be concerned with what the reader needs to know, they have to artfully make it so the character's attention is also focused on whatever that is.
 

sknox

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>techniques to convey needed or interesting information without breaking the reader's flow
A necessary precursor to that is being aware of why you believe that information is needed or interesting. That's extremely difficult for the author to judge. Getting reader (or editor) feedback is invaluable here. I started to say experience matters, but here experience just means I've had lots of readers and no one seems to complain when I do X, so I'll keep doing that. So even experience goes back to reader feedback. (this applies to the clause about reader's flow as well)

Anyway, assuming you have determined the information is needed, your question remains. The very first technique--I would argue it's a necessary one--is that the information must be needed by a character, or is interesting to a character. Doesn't have to be the primary character, and very often isn't. So that's one technique.

A second would be ... I'll call it framing. It's how you handle the prose surrounding that information. It's easy to identify what not to do there: don't have the exposition interrupt an action scene. That sort of thing. What to do is always harder to identify than what not to do. But one technique would be to raise a question. The question could be raised to a character, but it can also be raised directly to the reader. Then, when the information comes, it is welcome. Always assuming it's well-written, but let's just assume that.

A third technique, often recommended, is to break up the information. A bit here, a bit there. This makes it easier to insert the information without breaking whatever flow is going on at that moment. I can, depending on how it's handled, create a bit of tension for the reader. Sure, I see that, but what's around the corner? Why is there a gun on the mantel?

There's three. For homework, come up with two more and have them ready to read to the class.
 

Swank

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@Wayne Mack
Instead of having a purely theoretical and universal discussion, why not discuss the specifics that are giving you problems, then come back to a wider application of whatever solution?

We spend so much time with theories and so little time with actual writing.
 

Ursa major

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What are some techniques to have a PoV describe a location that is well known to the PoV?
Well one way -- and I'm not sure this is advisable, but even if so, I would guess that it's a technique that should be used sparingly, if at all -- is if the PoV character gets the feeling that something is not quite right in a location with which they are familiar, so they try to work out what it is.

So, for example (and off the top of my head, so it's quite boring, and it's uses lists :eek:), you might have:
As soon as Karen entered the room, something seemed amiss. What was it? Everything was exactly where it should be, as it had to be: the antique furniture, none of it made less than a thousand years ago (although she always suspected that most of them had repairs that had necessitated the use of new materials); the way the drapes were hanging just so; the precise placing of the paintings of her ancestors, the....

No, there was nothing physically different; everything was perfect, even down to the coolness of the air and the bluish tinge of the lights.

For the first time in her adult life, she felt truly afraid. All the wards were in place -- she could feel them and they were not reacting to a magical attack -- but somehow, an attack there was, its growing power threatening to overwhelm her.
 

Toby Frost

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Very briefly, if you say "Bob went into his bedroom" people will assume that the bedroom is decorated in a fairly standard way, considering factors of time, place, style etc, and will contain the standard objects. So, to pin it down, I would find reasons to mention unusual things/decorations (probably involving Bob interacting with them), especially where those things hint at bigger things about the setting. I think you can get away with a small amount of "tell" here, provided that it's necessary to the story.

I headed to my bedroom and sealed the airlock behind me. I unfastened my plastic arm and put it on the little steel workbench. Tiredness made my head spin: the hum of the ship's engines was numbing. The rubber floor felt as springy as a trampoline. I pressed the red button set into the wall and watched the bed fold down from the ceiling. As soon as it touched the ground, I dropped onto it and fell asleep.

Something a bit like that - except better written, of course. The important bits are the workbench, the sound of engines, and the folding-down bed, which suggests that the room is small. The rubber floor suggests artificiality. My mental image is that the walls are either metal or plastic, and nothing in the room is natural or wooden. Hopefully, this comes across in the writing, without being stated outright.
 

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