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  1. Balmarog
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    Balmarog Member

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    Changing narration perspective

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Balmarog, Jul 13, 2011.

    I am completely lost on this, so any help or advice you guys can give will be helpful.
    Currently, I am writing a story from the first person perspective because I like the feel of it and how it helps the reader get inside the protagonists head. He's telling a story from his childhood.

    I'm already thinking towards my second draft and how I want to incorporate things in the protagonist's present which would best be done in third perspective. The problem is, I really like the first person story telling that I have him doing now. Is it 'ok' to use both kinds of narrative? First person for his flash backs, but third person for what's going on in the present?

    Personally, I've never seen writing done this way (that I can recall). I'm not sure how else to make it work...

    Thanks.
     
  2. Phobia27
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    Phobia27 New Member

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    Its funny you should bring up this subject as its somthing I am looking into at present.

    I read that you shouldnt change the perspective during a scene as it can add to reader confusion but as to using it for flashback effects wich was going to be a question of mine I can see that could be an effective way of writing them in.

    I am new to writing so im sorry I cant give you a better answer only what I have read so far.

    Hope some more help comes your way

    Ian
     
  3. pyrosama
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    pyrosama Member

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    If you start off in 1st person and you run into a problem area, you should try switching to 3rd. The reason being is that often times when you start off in 1st person, you really want to tell that character's story, but as you progress, interesting things begin to happen that should shape the character arc. If you are in 1st person, it's difficult to write objectively. You must give up a lot of freedom but try and stick with the same POV or change the entire story.

    I always use this rule, it's only for me. If I want to "be" a character, I use 1st person and stick with it all the way through, never change perspective. If I want to tell a story that I think would be a cool story to make up, I use 3rd. There's more freedoms with 3rd person because now you can be more objective about your characters and you can (as the narrator) be a little more free with how you describe and/or view your characters.
     
  4. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    I agree with what's been stated above. Stay away from switching perspectives. Either do 1st or 3rd. If the story is mainly about the character and not about the events around them and you really want to get in touch with your protag, then do 1st. But if there's a lot of outside characters and/or events going on (like the apocalypse or some sort of war) then better stick to the third.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can switch POV or perspective as much as you like. The trick is to do it well. The pitfall for many writers (and why beginning writers are often told not to do it) is that the change is done in an ineffective and/or confusing way. I've published stories with POV changes mid-paragraph and mid-scene where the author handled it well. There are books out there that include both first person POV and third person POV and alter between the two. I just read a story in a newly-published anthology that was written in second person. You can do any combinations of these things if you're good at it. There is no prohibition.
     
  6. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    Try in-cose third person

    While I agree with Steerpike that there are no "prohibitions" in writing literature, I have to say that there are more or less effective ways to do it. No one's going to jail for switching perspectives, but as an avid reader, I can say with absolute surety that if I came across a POV shift in a novel I'd stop reading it at that point. If I knew about it before hand, say via a review, I'd never buy the novel or read the first sentence of it.

    In my opinion, it's cheating the reader. You get certain things with first person and give up others. You get certain things with third person and give up others. Either POV works on its own, but switching causes the reader's spell to break. They can't maintain their suspension of disbelief. The switching POV draws too much attention to the author and the writing to keep a suspension of disbelief going. And, you have to have a suspension of disbelief for fiction to work.

    As for second person, it's never really worked well. Again, I think because it blows the suspension of disbelief, or maybe it makes us work too hard to maintain it because it's telling us something is happening to us, the reader, and we know it's not because we're actually lying in bed or sitting in a chair reading a book. Every time I read a sentence like, "You cross the bridge and see her waiting for you." I think, No I don't. I'm reading a book.

    A suspension of disbelief is the spell a reader willingly enters into in order to read a work of fiction . Switching POVs within a story breaks that spell.

    What you can do is try for a very in-close third person For instance:

    Sam walked across the bridge. She was there, waiting as usual. Why wouldn’t she stay in her coffin? Why bug me, he thought. What had he done anyway? Wasn’t it enough keeping her death-box polished and its satin liner in good repair? He kept her comfortable. He even fixed her makeup for God’s sake! Now she was there, just across the bridge, waiting for him again—as usual.


    That's what I think, anyway.

    E of G
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree that it breaks the spell. I've read any number of books that do it, and with seemingly more frequency these days, and I didn't find it to break the spell at all. The author handled it well. Same with second person. If the author does a good job, there won't be a problem with suspension of disbelief. If the author writes poorly, the problem can exist even if the author maintains a consistent POV.

    There will always be readers who will refuse to pick up a book over something like this, but I suspect that's a minority of readers, and for most if you write a good story and do it well, they'll read it regardless of issues like POV shifts (which are of more interest to those of us who also write than to your average reader). We all have quirks as readers. I don't read the blurbs on the back of books; a friend of mine won't buy books by female authors; many are genre-limited in what they read, etc.
     
  8. Balmarog
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    Balmarog Member

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    Thanks everyone. All good tips. I guess I'll just have to think about it some more and see if it'll work out. :D
     
  9. T.N.Korgan
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    T.N.Korgan New Member

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    I don't think it matters book to book. The issue comes up more when POV change in the middle of a book. Least that's my preferance.
     
  10. Balmarog
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    Balmarog Member

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    The way I'm looking at it, it would change perspective every few chapters, briefly. It'd be obvious. The protagonist is telling his story, but at times the reader needs to be pulled back to "the present" as he pauses in his story to do something. I might be able to pull it off all in first person, but with the structure I've set up so far, I feel weird having him narrate what he's doing in the here and now. It would be something like-

    <first person past tense narration here>
    I heard a thump in my bedroom, the one where he was tied up. Or was supposed to be tied up. I put down my pen and reached into the desk drawer, looking for the revolver. There it is; its weight felt comforting in a primal, elemental way. Zeus's thunder bolt; Thor's hammer, mjolnir. When a man had a gun, he was a god. Damn it Sam, you really are becoming a sociopath aren't you?

    No more sounds from the other room. I give it a few more minutes before setting the gun on the desk next to me and continue writing my... confession? It feels like one sometimes, but no. It's a warning. Others need to know.

    <Resume first person past tense narration (or flashback if you like)>

    I'm just not sure if that block works as first person, given that the bulk of the story is essentially a flashback. Maybe it does...
     
  11. NecessaryPain
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    Must agree with this, wholeheartedly.

    I find it strange anyone would turn away from a story that shifts narrative perspectives. That's quite baffling, in fact. But to each his own.

    I am writing my first novel that shifts between both the 1st person perspective and third person limited, frequently.

    I have discovered that it works extremely well, considering my storyline revolves around 2 - and only 2 - main characters.

    There's a simple reason why i've decided to write it this way. Perhaps some of you will be able to guess why.
     
  12. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    The problem is you are shifting the verb tenses in the middle of the paragraph and even in the middle of a sentence. That's considered a grammatical fault. Changing POV in the middle of a book or story is generally considered a fault in fiction. Nothing says you can't adopt that style, but just remember there's a reason those things are considered faults--readers won't tolerate them.

    However, if you're not particularly concerned about having readers, you're free to do whatever you want.
     
  13. e(g)
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    I don't want to argue, and I really can't guess why you have decided to write the way you have. That's really none of my business. But I'm wondering how you know that your technique is working extremely well if you are in the process of writing your first novel (in other words, this is the first time you've tried this and you're aren't finished yet)?

    If you have two main characters, why not just shift between their perspectives with both of them being in the 1st person, like Paul Zindel did with "The Pigman?" (Admittedly, I'm not sure if they still read The Pigman in high schools these days, but it was a very popular young adult novel.).
     
  14. NecessaryPain
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    Well, so far when I read it, the balance seems good. I enjoy the shift in narration and i'm quite sure others would feel the same.

    Funnily enough, I started off doing as you have just suggested: 2 1st Person POV's. This was my original intention before I decided to write, and it started off okay, until I realised that the 'bad' character (isn't as simple as to call one 'good' and one 'bad', but you get the gist) could be explained far more in-depth under the third person limited narrative.

    It's hard to explain, but when I re-wrote these parts, it gave this character a stronger sense of mystique. Also, it would have been extremely unnatural to have this character begin with the 1st person, when the story begins with him being young. And writing it through the eyes of a child, or using a flashback etc, wasn't really what I was looking for.

    Saying that, these two POV storylines will eventually intertwine, and at certain moments the 'bad' character will operate under the 1st Person. I may even plan to do a later chapter entirely in his 1st Person. Maybe not though, because I agree that changing it up too much can result in a loss of interest. But who cares about the 'rules', right?

    Hope that makes at least some sense to you.
     
  15. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    Well, we can agree on this, for sure: So long as one doesn't really care if they have readers, one can write however they like, rules be damned.

    If one wants readers, however, one has to follow the rules for the most part because it's ultimately readers who set the rules.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Of course, the trick is determining which "rules" enough readers care about. When it comes to this one, I don't think most of them give a damn. I've read more books in the past few years that change POV in the middle of the book, sometimes alternating back and forth. If the book is well-written, I don't think most readers will care about it. It may be an idiosyncrasy of some readers, such as yourself, but I'd hesitate to extrapolate from that to readers in general.
     
  17. NecessaryPain
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    I see your point, somewhat. But I heavily disagree.

    I don't think it's fair to pigeon-hole and classify readers that way. Readers don't set the rules, authors do. And readers follow.

    Rules are being broken all the time in modern literature and some are very well received. Cormac McCarthy is a hugely successful author and he doesn't even write sentences properly. He uses lots of fragments and whilst it may irritate others, it works for him and his readers.

    So i'm going to have to disagree with that one. There are limits, most likely, but there's no hard and fast rule on how to capture the attention of readers in general. If it's good, it's good. Trying new things is always welcome, IMO.

    If all novels stayed the same, we would live in a very boring world. It's not that hard to have a shift in narration, and not lose your attention span. Really. I'm not saying my work is even good, but if it's bad, I wouldn't but it down to anything else other than bad writing.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    He doesn't use quotation marks for dialogue either. If you posted something in his style for critique on a writing site, you would surely have people telling you it couldn't be published that way.
     

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