1. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    Possibility of writing elsewhere happenings in first person - thoughts?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Noya Desherbanté, Oct 30, 2010.

    One of my WiP's is written, as the title suggests, in first person. But I need to describe events my narrator hasn't witnessed - and by need, I mean I would so much rather dramatise these scenes than use expository dialogue, leave hints or similar. And I think I've got around the dilemma, I would just like feedback as to how you guys might react to it, as readers (would you feel cheated somehow?) and writers (would you see it as contrived and see it as a serious weakness?):

    Basically, the book is treated very loosely as the journal of my narrator. She finds an old notebook one day, and starts writing events from her past in it, as a kind of diary of her youth as she remembers it. But her past catches up to her, and she writes events in the diary as they unfold. Suddenly there is a chapter, written in the third person, or a different narrator (haven't decided), which describes events happening elsewhere but still important to the plot. Later my main narrator describes bumping into a guy and dropping the journal she's writing in; this seems a triviality. Another couple of chapters with a different narrator pop up between 'normal' ones. And near the end of the book, my narrator relates her discovering that when she bumped into this person, pages from his own journal got mixed up with hers. The book is therefore 'reproduced' exactly as is. (Does that make sense?)

    Would you feel cheated? Does it seem a very forced device? Or - is it one of those cases where, it doesn't matter what I write, as long as I write it well? ;)
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Truth be told, yes. I would feel that the writer had made use of a bit of a cheat to make it possible to tell things outside of the 1st person POV.

    I'm picky like that.

    Could you instead have the information given to the narrator and have the narrator tell us something like:

    Thomas was distressed. His agitated state was obvious from the way he fidgeted and refused to sit still.

    He said to me, "Something happened last night. I need to get it off me chest." He breathed heavily through flared nostrils. "You're not going to like what I have to say."

    I steeled myself, of course, to little avail. "Go ahead. Tell me."

    What he said was this:

    blah blah blah, stuff that the narrator never saw or experienced but which Thomas is now telling her/him and then they tell to us, the reader....


    Obviously just an example of place and dialogue that I plucked out of the air, but....
     
  3. Egil1Eye
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    Egil1Eye Member

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    I tend to agree with Wreybies, that would feel like a cheat, sort of slipping information in that, yes the reader should know about, not only because it advances the plot, but it is more than likely vital to the advancement of the main character itself.

    I'm not sure of the time period of your story, but another way of introducing said info would be in the finding of a scrap of newspaper, overhearing a conversation between two people in a cafe setting, or an overzealous cab driver, one that feels it is in his best interest to tell his fares all the juicy little pieces of gossip he hears throughout the day.
     
  4. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    Yes, I can see where you're both coming from... now I'm thinking I could lead into a new chapter as you suggested, Wreybies, and have those 'elsewhere' events narrated as dialogue by a terrified character who seeks out the narrator to relate what they stumbled into/overheard, et cetera. It strikes me as a good way to give other characters more of a voice, so the narrator doesn't make the book all self-absorbed...

    I actually was going to use a monologue chapter to fill in another character's back story, but now you've opened up my mind a bit I'll try applying it to me elsewhere happenings and see how that goes :) I can see it giving things a particular tint of horror to have an unwitting bystander see things unfold, which considering my plot might be a distinct advantage! ;) Thank you!
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes

    yes
    no, it isn't and it will matter, regardless of how well written it might be...
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you use some other tool. Like a newspaper clipping she added later?
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Herman Melville and his innumerable fans beg to differ.

    Literary critics refer to what you are trying to do as the impersonal narrative voice, and it is a valid mode of narration, appearing in best-selling novels and literary classics, not just experimental fiction. So if you think it will help you tell the story better, don't be afraid of it.

    Writing is not reality and need not resemble it.
     
  8. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I had a similar issue with the rough draft I just finished. Initially, I wanted to try and do the whole book from the MC's first person POV. However, as the book unfolded, there were scenes that I felt were necessary in which the MC wasn't present. (In revision I might decide that such isn't the case and get back to pure first person.) In these instances, I did a scene break and wrote those scenes in the third person. However, with your story, you are having to use a device to get it in. In mine, I just switched POV's to give the reader a better idea of what was going on.

    Didn't want to at the time really, but I'll see how it reads.
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I don't see why people think switching POV's isn't "cheating" but an omniscient 1st person POV is. Neither are realistic, which seems to be the complaint against using the impersonal narrative voice. Neither are natural, both rely on artificial external narrators. If want omniscient first person narration, write it. It's no different to any other unrealistic mode of narration (read: all of them).
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with aaron. Why can't the narrator describe the events in question in the third person without explaining how she came to know about them? As long as it's reasonable that she could have known about them, I don't see a problem.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    For what it's worth, Elizabeth Peters wrote her Amelia Peabody books on the premise that the author had found a cache of various papers and materials, and was compiling them into books.

    So Amelia's sections are in first person from Amelia's diary, and Ramses' chapters were in third person - I think that we're supposed to assume that the author gathered material from a variety of sources and wrote the Ramses material in third-person narrative, biographer-style. (She may have said that in so many words; I don't have any of the books at hand.)

    This was, I think, essential for the Ramses sections, because that particular character would never dream of admitting to his emotions, so a lot of information would have been missing if his sections were first person. In addition, there was an occasional letter from another character, and I seem to vaguely recall the occasional long story spoken by a character.

    This works, though it's my opinion that Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels has a whole lot of skill at getting a reader to accept what she wants them to accept - for example, I normally won't go near a romance novel, but I quite contentedly gobble up even her most conventionally-romance-style books.

    ChickenFeak
     

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