For writers: what is Outer Limited POV?

I received an unusual email the other day. It was from this author saying that she was going to use an excerpt of my book Invisible as an example in her revised book for writers about Point of View.

Apparently I'm a bit terrific at writing 'Outer Limited Point Of View', something I've never heard of before, and certainly nothing I was trying to do, but hey, I'll take it. 

According to her blog, this is what Outer Limited POV consists of.

Outer Limited (Hemingway called this the "fly on the wall POV"): "limited" to the "outer" things in story, only what can be observed, ostensibly objectively. No thoughts, feelings, motivations of ANY characters are revealed. Reader only sees/hears what can be observed/heard. 

Without a doubt, Outer Limited is the most difficult POV to successfully maintain for any length of time, but it is just like a movie without any voice-over, so I suspect the reason more authors don't use it is (1) because it's so difficult to maintain successfully as every word can reveal subjectivity and author is supposedly objective and invisible, and (2) because it's difficult to create the emotional connection between readers and characters unless author is extremely skilled at realistic dialogue and convincing character development.

Apparently Outer Limited POV is often used in crime fiction. Obviously, Invisible is far from being a crime novel, but just so we're clear, here's how my outer limited POV segment was written. This is the part where Jazmine finds out she's got the main part in the play.


"I don’t think Miss Fraser was all that understanding. In fact, I think she got a bit cross. She certainly sounded annoyed with Angela when I picked up the phone and had this conversation with her:

Miss Fraser: Jazmine, I’ve had some bad news.

Me: Oh. Um. What is it?

Miss Fraser: Angela’s quitting the play. Her other commitments have become too pressing and important. And The Secret Garden is coming last on her list.

Me: (a little bit uncomfortable): Oh. Really? She’s quitting? That’s not, um, good, I guess.

Miss Fraser: No. Absolutely not. With two weeks to go, and her having the main part, we have a bit of a problem.

Me: (Thinking, why is she telling me this?) Oh yeah. That's hardly any time. What can you do?

Miss Fraser: Well, actually, this is why I'm calling you. I know that you know the part and I have seen you act and I think you would be the best person to take it on at this stage.

Me: (Completely stuck for words with absolutely nothing coming out of my mouth) um, um, gasp, splutter

Miss Fraser: Jazmine? Are you still there?

Me: Yes. Sorry, I just don't know what to say.

Miss Fraser: Well, you have to give me an answer. I'm asking you if you will play Mary.

Me: I don't think I can do that. I mean, I'm not an actress. I didn't try out for the play.

Miss Fraser: Jazmine, I think you have proved to me and to yourself that there are many things that you think you can't do that you actually can do. I don't need to tell you what they are. What I am telling you is that I believe you can do this. And I would like you to do this.

Me: (Still trying to stall for time) Isn't there someone else you can ask?

Miss Fraser: Of course there is. There is always someone else I can ask. Quite honestly, a dozen girls would bring me flowers every day for the next two weeks if they thought they could have the part. But I'm thinking about the production and making it the best play possible. I have seen you do the part, and I know you can do it very well.

Me: (Still in shock) I… Well…

Miss Fraser: Come on Jazmine, choose. It's yes or no. I'm hearing the old Jazmine, the one who just wanted to hide and let life pass her by. But I've seen a new Jazmine in the last few weeks. I'm sure you don't want to go back to where you used to be. Now, what's it going to be?

Me: (Feeling absolutely terrified but completely excited) Yes. I'll do it.

Miss Fraser: Excellent. We won't have any costume issues. Obviously, you are the same size as Angela, but we will have to work a little bit more this week to make sure that you know all the scenes and the stage directions.

Me: (Head spinning) Wow. I can't believe it.

Miss Fraser: You'd better believe it. Opening night is a fortnight away. And there's a lot to do before then. I'll see you on Monday morning. Make sure you study the script, eat a good dinner every night and get lots of sleep.


For more about POV, I recommend you get the book, Mastering Point of View. I'll be getting a copy because clearly I need to learn something!