1. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    Can I write 1st and 3rd person in the same story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alex_Hartman, May 31, 2008.

    I want to write my story in first person, but I want to have bits throughout the story that are about this guy who is my MC's dad (she doesn't know this until the end). I want to write these bits in 3rd person. It's not something my MC's going to know about, it's just giving the reader information that they will understand in the end. I read another book where it did this only the other way around. The story was in third person and the bits were in first.

    Can I do that?

    -Alex
     
  2. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    You can do it, but whether or not it works is all down to your ability as a writer.

    If you do it, keep in mind that it may be confusing and may put some readers off.
     
  3. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    P.S. Think about this: Are there any other ways you could convey the information in question? And why must these sections be in 3rd person?
     
  4. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    This is really weird because I was wondering whether it could be done, and what kind of story I'd use it for only a couple of days ago.

    I agree absolutley with Lucy in that it all comes down to your skill as a writer. I think that the main thing would be making sure that, before the reader has read a single word of a new paragraph, that they know whether it's in 3rd or 1st person. Something as simple as writing all the 3rd person parts in italics, for example.

    I think the whole point of writing is to be creative, so give it a go!
     
  5. Hulk
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    Hulk Banned

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    Read the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud and see how he has done it so magnificently. You can only learn by seeing how the skilled authors out there have managed to pull it off and pick tips from them.
     
  6. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Or wait for the movie next year - which just goes to show how popular that style can be if you do it right, having been optioned for a movie.

    Al
     
  7. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    Off topic a bit- i bet the movie will be rubbish. I've never read the Bartimaeus trilogy, but you know what movie adaptions are like...
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that would be annoying to the max, imo... italics should be used as sparingly as possible, since they're hard to read in large doses...
     
  9. Cpn. Anon
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    Cpn. Anon Member

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    I think he was just using that as an example though, and it all depends on how long the segments are (i can't remember what book it was in, but i remember reading that used italics for asides in a way that would work similarly to her idea, should the parts be particularly small). Although, there's a wealth of things you can use to introduce and separate narrative voices; different font/font sizes, different text alignments, chapters, headings ...

    House of Leaves has several narratives throughout and it uses a combination of the aforementioned ways to make each narrative instantly recognisable.
     
  10. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    Sweet. Thanks. I am going to have so much fun writing this. I just wasn't sure if that would make sense, but I think it will work out! :D

    -Alex
     
  11. InPieces
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    InPieces Senior Member

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    It's definately possible, and if used well, extremely effective and innovative. Anyone who tells you otherwise obviously hasn't read a good book where this happens. I can name many where this technique was used, and even one of those novels were written by a first time author.

    ~ InPieces
     
  12. Kelly Ishii
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    Kelly Ishii New Member

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    Faulkner did it in "The Sound and the Fury."

    It's the story of a Southern family's demise as told in first person by the retarded son (in which there is no concise definition between past and present); another son, this one ingenious but neurotic (told in a stream of consciousness style); the third son who is all business and ruthless (told straight-forward and most conventional); and the point of view of their slave - this is told in third person.

    This book makes it work because the devices of perception are used to help give us a more concise and engulfing idea of how the characters think - or don't; and the third person is done as sort of us stepping out of this family's life as it, we assume, begins its own demise. Also, this helps us see what transpires with the other members of the family that a first person perspective would limit us from seeing.

    In other words: if it serves a greater purpose, and is done creatively, it works.

    Kelly Ishii
     
  13. garza33
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    garza33 Active Member

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    And don't forget As I lay Dying, an exercise in shifting PoV that works perfectly. Too bad we do not all have Faulkner's skill.

    My first short story, 'Ralph', is in the first person for the first couple of pages, then shifts to the third person for the rest of the story. I've got to take a machete to it, though. It's starting to get out of hand. Every time I think it's finally finished, I think of one more scene that ought to be there.

    This is the only problem I have found with writing fiction. How do you turn off the tap?
     
  14. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    This is done in the (very good) Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn.

    The main character, Takeo, has his chapters told in first-person, while another main character, Kaede, has her chapters told in third-person. It works well.
     

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