1. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    First Person - from a 5-year-old's POV

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ToeKneeBlack, Feb 12, 2016.

    As a request from one of my readers, I'm writing my next story from a first person POV.

    The problem I have is that the main character is 5 years old. My understanding of people of that age is that they have a limited understanding of past and present tenses, and they would flip back and forth between the two when telling a story. When an adult does that, it's seen as unprofessional.

    Should I try to write it with little regard for keeping the tense consistent, or would it feel more authentic to have it change every now and then?

    For example:
    The noise was very loud. I looked all around, but I didn't find a lion or a tiger or even a cheater. Then I looked again; it was Mummy snoring!
    I had to cover my mouth to stop laughing, but nobody woke up so I tip-toed to the top of the stairs.

    I checked the time on John's phone; 11:52. It won't be long 'til Santa gets here!

    When Mummy snores, I go down two steps. She's so loud, nobody can hear the stairs creaking under my feet.

    Now I know the vocabulary is quite narrow and some of the words are wrong (I've used "cheater" instead of "cheetah"), but would it be accepted as a child's POV or simply disregarded as bad writing?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think I'd probably keep the tense consistent, but you can play with sentence structure, word choice, faulty conjugations, and other such things to give it the sense that a child is speaking.

    You might go to Amazon and look at the samples of some of the Junie B. Jones books. They've been very successful and feature a protagonist who starts in kindergarten and then goes to first grade in later books. You can see how the author uses the first person POV:

    EDIT: Geez. Site won't even let me link to a book. Here: www(.)amazon(.)com/Junie-Joness-First-Boxed-Books/dp/0375813616

    Just take the parentheses out of the URL. Lame :D
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Stick to one tense. Flipping back and forth is confusing because with narrative you could be talking about flashbacks or immediate thoughts, for all I know, and it would just make it hard to follow. And then I'd start wondering if you knew what you were doing, and that's never a good question for a reader to ask!
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Room is written from a first-person POV, five year old boy. He has some trouble with words but it's done in a way that reminds you he's a child without being grating (and I'm very easily grated by non-standard SPAG :D). You might want to check it out.

    In your example, the switching actually doesn't bother me at all. I can feel the childish excitement and the jumbling of words. I would stick with correct spellings though (cheetah) since a five year old wouldn't be able to spell either version.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You wouldn't like the series I linked above. Junie says things like "runned" instead of ran, etc.
     
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's the kind of think Jack did in Room - it's been a few years since I read it. Usually it would really bug me but maybe I'm more forgiving for a child protagonist? If @ToeKneeBlack's example was from an adult character I'd probably be all KILL IT NOW.
     
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, doesn't bother me from a child character. My daughter loved those books when she was little, and she found that to be a humorous part of the books (she always knew when Junie was saying something incorrectly).
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The tense switching would absolutely bother me. I would suggest that you just stick with past tense--I doubt that the reader is going to find that unrealistic.
     
  9. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the feedback and recommendations everyone, I'll go back over what I've started and fix it.
     
  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Sounds like a nice idea. What's the story about?
     

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