1. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    From First person to Third person tense.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Drstrong, Jul 13, 2015.

    I'm writing something which is currently at 15,000 pages and I've been telling the story through first person, present tense, from the POV of two separate characters. Each chapter follows the view of one of the mains, but at this point of the story, they are coming together and staying together for the remainder.

    I can't really have a POV for one of them, and not for the other (since they are both together), or can I? Could I still follow the same tense but swap POV's as the story progresses? I was thinking of going third person, present, but not sure.

    Thanks.
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    If you want to keep the first person pov of view going I wouldn't mix their pov during the scenes ( I've seen it done but it's hard to do without confusing the reader. Especially when it's I pov. ) Allow one to control a scene before switching. I don't know if you should switch to third. It could feel suddenly impersonal to the reader and distract them.
     
  3. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    As I was typing out this thread I realized "why not still do POV but swap it up a bit?" So yea, I'll probably just do that.

    It's not ever a good thing to re-tell scenes from different POV, is it? I get that if I start a chapter with one person's POV established, I shouldn't switch to the other person.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, you can. You can find published books that do exactly this (switch between a first person POV character to a different POV character told in third person, and even in present tense if I recall correctly).

    You can also shift to only having one POV, or you can keep them both in first person as separate POVs. There are no "can'ts" for this kind of thing.
     
  5. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    This is my first attempt at writing something large, so I don't want to go outside of the norm, whatever normal maybe right now.

    I've read around that first person, present isn't the most desirable way to write, and I'm not sure why. Anyone have objections to this tense? I just personally don't like writing in past tense, seems to fact based, like "first this happened, and then that happened, then this happened again.".

    First person, present gives me the chance to write with the unreliable narrator in mind also, because if my main character is encountering something for the first time, he doesn't really know what's going on and can't relay facts to the reader. Plus all of the inner monologue stuff is great, at least for me.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Present tense is common enough these days. More common in YA/Teen than elsewhere, but I've seen it pop up more and more in other writing. It is entirely a subjective opinion as to whether someone likes present tense or not. If you personally prefer writing in present tense, I'd stick with it. There's no good reason to not write it in first person present tense if that's how you envision the story working best, and the fact that people on a writing forum may or may not like it definitely isn't a good reason.

    I think the best thing to do is write the whole thing the way you want to. Then, once you have a finished product, you can go back through it and see if you have made it work.
     
  7. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    Yea, I have about 110 6x9 pages in MS Word right now and I read through every couple of pages after I type them out. I have a few continuity things I need to pick up but I'm trying my best to edit along the way.

    How do you guys feel about using "not so great" grammar when writing dialogue? Not everyone is supposed to be English majors, especially in dialogue. What about bad grammar when writing inner monologue? I mean, if the guy speaks that way to other people, he more than likely has that same voice in his head.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    When it comes to misuse of grammar in dialogue, I'm fine with it (internal monologue to), as it adds to the character. I'm of the opinion that less is more, though. It only takes a few sprinkles of bad dialogue or misused words to get the effect across to the reader and maker the reader 'hear' the character the right way. Some authors overdo it by writing everyone out in overdone dialect and misspelled words, and I think that detracts from the reading of the story. But again, how far you want to go with it is entirely a matter of choice. Try it a few ways, then see which one you think works best.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Could be interesting. But done too often it could get monotonous.

    Well, I think if the scene shifts you could change mid-chapter as long as you made it clear.

    I'm like Steerpike, I've seen everything under the sun done. But honestly I wouldn't recommend too many shifts if this if this is your first novel. I've written a few books - none published but I still have issues making the reader understand the difference between two he's in a paragraph.

    I like it, I've used it but in the stories I've used it in ( and people loved the story ) readers were still asking me to switch tenses. So be prepared for some hate. ;) I think the reason they don't like it is it can sound like script directions. It also has a strange way of twisting meaning if you haven't got a hold of word choices.
    I run to the dock
    I ran to the dock. One sounds like he has arrived the other doesn't. As a writer you have to be ready to catch things like that.

    For dialogue I'm fine with it. Inner dialogue not so sure. The trouble I have is if your other sentences aren't edgy. The loose grammar is going to stand out more than his thoughts. I'd either create an overall tone or limit it to dialogue - but you know what you could experiment, nothing wrong with that. It could turn out really good.
     
  10. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    I'm with you on that, I don't have any idiots in my story, just some that prefer to use slang, or use words like "gonna, wanna, em (them)", stuff like that.

    Even with one of my mains, he might not be an English major, but since I, the author know how to spell, I will spell things correctly and use punctuation the way I'm supposed to. There is a bit of separation between how the character is speaking and how I am writing the character speaking...if that makes sense.
     
  11. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    I would have written it this way:

    As I run to the dock.
    While (or when) running to the dock.

    Ran is past tense so I wouldn't have used it. But I get what you're saying.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can have an unreliable narrative and inner monologue in past tense. There's essentially nothing that you can't do in either tense-- and I say that as someone who hates present tense and would love to believe that it can't be used for certain things. But I'd be wrong. Unless you wrap the tense with some specific fictional reality, it's just a grammar choice.
     
  13. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    Maybe it's because I'm more comfortable with first person, but I don't see how to write third person present with inner monologue. Wouldn't it just come across as dialogue, in terms of the way it's written on the page?

    The idea of the character and the reader experiencing things for the first time is what I like. Sure, that can be done in third person, but it doesn't feel as personal as first person.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, I thought that you were saying that inner monologue is possible in present tense and not in past. You're saying it's possible in first person and not in third. I still disagree, but I do agree that it's harder in third person.

    One way to make it perfectly easy is to skip literal word-for-word thoughts. I had an example here that was about summary versus scene, but it also has a lot of inner landscape without word-for-word inner thoughts. Those thoughts could be even closer to literal, but this was the quickest example that I could find.

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/going-for-length.136420/#post-1296294

    This second example from me shifts from third-person close thoughts to what could be a literal thought ("Hot, hot...") and back again.

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/use-of-he-she-vs-character-name.132090/#post-1224522

    And this one, too. ("Joe. It had to be Joe.")

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/she-did-this-she-felt-that-she-said-this-she-walked.53945/#post-915339

    You can lightly and gingerly enter the character's mind, present literal thoughts, and gingerly exit again. You don't need quotes, italics, or "he thought" for this. When done well, I believe that it's a better and smoother experience for the reader than any of those things. But I can't find a really good example right this second....aha! Here's one that's a bit better than the above. The thoughts still aren't precisely word for word, because they're past tense, but the phrasing is the character's phrasing:

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/a-thought-on-thoughts.39347/#post-738742

    Another way is italicized thoughts. Many people like these. I don't. There's a sticky-thread sixteen light-years long on the topic, so I won't go into detail.

    This is related to what I said about whether you put a "wrapper" around the reality. You don't know how far in the past the past tense is. If your friend across the McDonald's table says, "Hey, look over there!" and you look, and you turn around, and your food is gone, and you say, "Hey, somebody stole my burger!" that's in the past tense. "The past" is less than a minute ago, but it's the past. And you may well have just experienced burger theft for the first time; the fact that you expressed that experience with past tense doesn't change that fact.

    Now, if your past tense story starts with, "I remember it so well, those events three decades ago..." then, yeah, that wrapper has tied your hands to some extent in determining how much you can not-know. If your present tense story starts with, "I'm recording my experiences in the memo recorder in my phone..." then that wrapper has tied your hands in determining how much you can know.

    But you don't have to have any sort of wrapper. And if you don't have one, then past versus present tense is just a grammar choice. You can even have foreshadowing in present tense:

    I admire the mural. Little do I know how much I will grow to hate it as the years go by.

    It's a little weird, but I suspect that I only say that because I so fervently hate present tense.
     
  15. Drstrong
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    Drstrong Active Member

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    Thanks for the tips, I should try to write something in strict third person, we'll see what happens. In the mean time, can you take a look at the link I posted below? It's an excerpt from the story I'm writing, in first person present, with a lot of dialogue.

    Curious on your thoughts of how it flows. (Should take you directly to the post in the thread starting with "Here is the follow up chapter")

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/untitled-excerpt-2223-words.140224/#post-1351333

    And this one, which is shorter, same tense.

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/the-light-in-the-water.140226/
     

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