The Late Student, Part 2
Welcome back! We’re trying out different takes on one scene to get practice writing in different points of view.
We’ll use the same prompt as last week:
A student walks into the classroom late. The student walks down the aisle and sits in an empty seat. The professor stops the lecture for a moment to watch the student. The professor tries to continue the lecture, but he forgets what he was talking about and looks a bit frustrated and annoyed.
This time, we’ll write in the third person.
Once again, the goal is to write a short scene based on the prompt. Choose a 3rd-person POV and write the story from that viewpoint. Let’s look at the different flavors of 3rd-person POVs that are used in writing:
Third Person Omniscient
Ah, the voice of God, so to speak. An omniscient narrator knows everything about everyone. The narrative can jump in and out of people’s heads, and even forward and backward in time. This POV is very flexible, but isn’t used all that often in modern literature. There’s a good reason for this – it can get really confusing. It’s easy to make the mistake of jumping between character’s thoughts too often, leading to disjointed scenes that are hard to follow. In 3rd-person omniscient, the scene might go like this:
Dr. Spencer heard the door open, but kept on speaking. That’s Daniel, I’ll bet. Spencer wouldn’t let the kid throw him off though – he refused to give the kid that satisfaction.
Daniel let the door close behind him. Some students turned to watch him find his seat, but most refused to turn away from their frantic note-taking as they followed Spencer’s lecture. Daniel took the chair next to Erika – to his credit, he barely made a sound as he carefully lifted the chair instead of dragging it.
Erika glanced at Daniel through the corner of her eye. Poor guy. Maybe I should ask him out? Erika smiled wanly as she flipped through the papers on her desk, finding the extra copies she had secured for Daniel.
There can be head-hopping when I use this POV, but I should be careful not to ‘switch heads’ in the middle of a paragraph. I should also be careful to realize that only the narrator is psychic – the characters are not (unless it’s a sci-fi / fantasy where that’s appropriate).
This is a far more common POV style that is used in most bestsellers. In this POV, the narrative “camera” follows one character at a time, and shows how that character experiences the story:
He was still furious at the taxi driver as he walked into class. He scowled, his fists clenched as he stormed to his seat. Some classmates flinched as he stomped past, but he saw none of it. What a stupid moron, he thought as he slumped into his seat.
This narrative style stays with one character at a time – it usually follows one character for a whole chapter, or even for the whole book. The Song of Fire and Ice books, for example, have each chapter devoted to a different character, and build a narrative across great distances.
In this style, the narrative simply reports events with no thoughts or feelings. The reader has to guess what characters are thinking or feeling from their actions or facial expressions. You can think of this as a hidden camera POV – the narrative describes only what a camera would record.
Daniel stormed into class, a frown set into his face. His fists were clenched as he stomped toward the back of the room. A few students recoiled from him, but Daniel just walked past. A heavy sigh escaped his mouth as he slumped into his seat.
Now, choose a POV style and rewrite The Late Student
Chose any type of 3rd-person POV and use the Late Student prompt. Write a short scene from that viewpoint, and be sure to stay consistent with the rules. You can follow any character – the student, the professor, or a classmate. I’ll share my own example on Thursday.
See you then!