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  1. RabidChipmunk
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    RabidChipmunk Member

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    Perspective Shifts

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RabidChipmunk, Feb 19, 2011.

    In the story I'm writing, the protagonist has a series of reccuring nightmares that become gradually clearer as the story goes on, leading up to the plot twist at the end. The story is written from a third person perspective, but I find it hard to create a sense of the dream being "real," for lack of a better way to describe it, without inserting the reader directly into the protagonist's head.

    My question is this: would it be too jarring for the reader to shift perspectives from first-person in the nightmares to third-person in reality? The story actually opens with one of these nightmare sequences, but it's set off from the rest of the story by being written in italics and having a shorter, more straightforward sentence structure.
     
  2. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Forgive the editor in me for pointing out that you should have said recurring nightmares. You probably would have caught that yourself anyway. Although, recurring nightmares would imply that it is the same nightmare over and over, which wouldn't really make for a good story. Did you simply mean, a series of nightmares?

    Switching from first person to third and vice versa might be possible, I'm not sure it's a good idea though. I can say that I don't recall reading a single book that switched back and forth.

    I'm also not sure it's a good idea to have an entire portion of your story in italics, just because it's a nightmare. Seems like that might be a bit of overkill.
     
  3. RabidChipmunk
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    RabidChipmunk Member

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    Yeah, I meant recurring. It's late and I'm exhausted :p

    Yes, it is the same nightmare over and over. The story revisits this nightmare about four times overall, but the reason I'm hoping they stay interesting is that each visit back to the nightmare reveals more and more details on what it is happening. It starts out with leaving open-ending plot-threads and creating a mystery on what it is happening, and then each subsequent nightmare reveals more and more details about what's going on until, finally, the nightmare is explained and a major plot revelation ensues.

    If you don't think perspective switch is a good idea, do you have any other suggestions? Any ideas are welcome, if I don't use them they'll at least spawn an idea I might.

    And about the italics, if it makes it any better, the nightmare sequences are short; only a couple of paragraphs and it only takes up about half the page. Is it still too much? And if so, what would you recommend?
     
  4. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I don't find the third person limited point of view an obstacle to making a character's thoughts 'real' for the reader. You can present the immediacy of the thoughts in the same way, despite the fact that you'd be using third-person pronouns instead of the first person.

    That being said, I do understand why it can be easier to get into your character's voice when you're writing in first person than it is when you're writing in third person. Sometimes, when I'm writing third person, I slip out of the character's voice and write in my own, so that it starts to feel like I'm telling about a character's perspective rather than presenting it directly. If that's the case for you, why not draft the scenes in first and then just edit the pronouns to change them to third?

    I wouldn't recommend shifting from third to first person, as I think that would be too jarring. I have seen some authors shift to present tense to create immediacy in dream sequences and italicize the passages. Some people don't like this either, as they feel that it makes the reader too aware of the fact that the rest of the story is written in past tense, thereby detracting from the immediacy of the narrative.

    I don't switch tense in my own work, but I do draft in present tense for scenes where suspense is really important and change it back to past later...that might be another useful suggestion for making the nightmare scenes more vivid.
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    First person allows the readers to be in the char's head, that's an advantage of writing in first person, but it can also be the limiting factor if you are writing a longer piece. The solution is third person limited, jump inside the char's head when you want, get out of it when you want. As Silver Dragon said, I see no problem. You'll be better off sticking to third person limited. I think The Road starts with a dream sequence, and it's in third person limited.
     

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