Mysteries are best in the first or third omniscient voice?

In my reading group, there has developed a school of thought that claims that the best ever mysteries are in the first voice, private PI type thingy. Personally, I go with PD James, Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie,  Their Third voice omniscient has produce far more intriguing plots than any other. I also think the best Thrillers and suspense novels are in the third voice, Silence of the Lambs, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Frankenstein, and the like. This may be a matter or preference, but I am sensing there is something to it. What do you think?

Views: 275

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

The story really dictates what pov you use in it. Some lend themselves more to one than the other.

I'll use either a close, limited third person, or first person. For my series, I prefer first person.

I suspect some of the dislike among readers for first person may come from the fact that first person is difficult to do well and can be very off-putting if your protagonist isn't strong enough/interesting enough to carry the narrative chores him- or herself.
I'm of the school of thought where the type of narration depends on the story, though most of my work does use third person limited. I have used first person more in my short fiction.
I think old school is being replaced by third person limited. It is more diverse and a very powerful tool for the writer. Watson, in a way, was Doyle himself.
I am with you. First person can alienate the reader at times.
It's a matter of the story. PI generally works best first person, although the classic MALTESE FALCON was written in the objective POV.

The modern Thriller works best with multiple points of view--but without head hopping in the same scene.

Romantic suspense? Usually tight third for the male and female leads with in some books generally fem-jep or thriller romances letting us see tight third from the villains POV.

First person can alienate, as Benoit says, but done well, it usually gets a reader totally "in."
The Falcon was written in a fairly close third and it was mostly objective (The Glass Key, Hammett's favorite novel of his own, was entirely objective) and only had the one POV character, Sam Spade.

I would agree that it's harder to write a modern day thriller in first person than in third using multiple POV. But it can be done. I've done it. :) http://tinyurl.com/29asch4

I don't often care for those hybrid first/third thrillers either.
Not sure about "The Glass Key." I only read it once. And you may be right about "The Maltese Falcon," which I've read maybe six times, but I've always had the impression that it was objective and that Spade had to talk so much, so we would know what he was thinking. No debate, just a comment that would have gone as a message if I had been able to find you crimespace page.
Objectivity was a big deal to Hammett so I made the distinction between the two novels. Though The Falcon is mainly objective we do get inside Sam's head now and then.
It's interesting that they didn't mention tight third.

The thing about omniscient, is that it kind of implies a narrator (someone telling the story who knows all). So those two points of view are related in many ways. They can also be hard to pull off. Omniscient can devolve to "head hopping" and first person works best if both the author and the narrator are good reporters/storytellers.

I tend to like omniscient best when it's used in some sort of hard-boiled setting. I think that Stuart Kaminsky used it really well in his Lieberman books, and though it has been a long time since I read his Rostnikov books, I think he used it well there too. And in older classics where they have a strong voice of the reporter (sometimes even an intrusive personality) it can work, but often it's a virtuoso performance.

To me, the head hopping I see in current mystery fiction just drains the tension right out of most scenes. There doesn't seem to be an strategy or purpose to it. It's just there.

In the end, I don't think any particular point of view or voice is superior to any other. They have to be used thoughtfully and well, with an eye to what effect they have on the reader and the story over all.

I myself tend to use first person and ultra-tight third. I like third because you can shift point of view from scene to scene or section to section, and thus give payoffs to things you build up in one scene in another. (Plus, you get interesting perspectives from different points of view.)
Absolutely. Tell me more about this "Tight third person"
You said "To me, the head hopping I see in current mystery fiction just drains the tension right out of most scenes. There doesn't seem to be an strategy or purpose to it. It's just there."

I like to hear more. Explain.
Imagine that the reader is a ghost in the story. The ghost resides in a specific location - that location is point of view.

With omniscient there are two extremes: One is objective, and that one's easy. The ghost is in a camera and only reports what can be observed. What's seen, felt, heard, etc.

If the voice interprets the situation, and gives information that isn't present in the scene - the history of the place or various people, and what they're each thinking, then it's like the ghost is in an all-knowing narrator. And this is a LOT like a well-done hard-boiled voice-over (more on that below).

In "tight third" the ghost resides inside a particular character and stays there until there is a scene change. Usually with tight third you are limited not only to just that one character's information, but also to what they know and experience at the time. This is great for revelations. When one character doesn't know something, it's hidden from us, and then in the next scene we're in another point of view where we learn the truth. You can also do the opposite - reveal the truth to the audience through one point of view, and then the audience gets to watch the poor ignorant other character bumble into a situation.

Some authors effectively blend omniscient with tight-third by easing into (or out of) a scene or transition with a bird's-eye view. They might report on the history of a town or a person, and then slip into tight third for the actual scene. Or they might ease out of tight third at the end, to give us a "Little did Mindy know..." to tease us into the next scene.

THAT technique is commonly used in first person - because a first person narrator is really a form of omniscient. The narrator knows how it will all end. The ghost of the reader may stay in that person's head, but that person's head may sometimes be out of the story completely - in a bar afterwards telling the audience what happened.

Now, as for head-hopping....

Head-hopping is when an author writes as if in tight-third, so the ghost of the reader is in one character's head, and then just switches every so often to give us a little bit of info from the other person's point of view. It can be done well, but often it's just plain annoying. And worse, when many authors do it, it takes all the mystery and anticipation out of the scene. We sometimes even get too much of what the characters are thinking and too little of the things they are seeing and feeling that makes them think it.

(There's a whole lot more to point of view, and I've simplified a lot, but I hope it answers your questions.)
Indeed! Indeed! You make perfect sense. Now if I have to adopt this in a practical example . . .

When I write about a character, then into the character's head, and back to what is happening to the character from a bird's eye view, I am in what voice?

A distant scene later, I am in bird's eye view of another character, then into that character's eyes and back out to omniscient, am I weaving right? Keep in mind, the second character is the Maine Character.

And there is a third character between the two--a mystery character, one I have presented to the reader but the reader does not know it is one and the same person, until I chose the right moment . . . Am" I tight third"? Or plain old confusing? Should a vary this sinusoidal routine to a more give give and take?

RSS

CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2020   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service