1. Matt Z
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    Matt Z New Member

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    Swapping from 3rd Person to 1st Person.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Matt Z, May 15, 2013.

    During the first part of my story, the main character is in an unconscious state, yet there are important things going on around him that have relevance later in the story.

    I wondered about leaving out the 'beginning' and just waiting for the main character 'discover' it later, but I feel that this is likely to make everything before it incredibly confusing - and not in a good way. A prologue seems to be the best option.

    What do you think about starting off in 3rd person so that the situation can be explained to the reader and then switching to 1st person for the rest of the story? I definitely want to use 1st person for the majority - largely because I've already written a lot of it already and I'm happy with how it's working out. I'm just unsure about this beginning part.

    Does anyone have any examples of where something like this has been done before? Does it work?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I think you should try figure a way out for the character to discover it later. It sounds better, it's more interesting and will allow consistency in terms of the POV. A lot of first person books have done it, so you could read a bit of action orientated (maybe fantasy too?) first person novels and see how they do it.
    Also, prologues are mainly looked down upon as they're just a goldmine for writers to info dump...most readers want to drive straight into a story and look for back story later.

    It could work and I'm sure the 3rd person prologue thing has been done (Can't name any books from the top of my head, sorry) but I just personally think it'll be less interesting for the reader.

    I hope this helped...
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In "The Novel", Michener did the opposite - he started out in first person and then went to third. The story was divided into four roughly equal segments - writer, editor, agent and critic, with the writer segment being in first person. The first person character appeared in the later segments, but the whole thing worked very well.

    The problem I see is that the 3rd person segment will be relatively short, and will only happen once. So, unless you come up with an arresting device for it, it will read like an infodump prologue. And I would avoid using a prologue in this situation in any event, as you want whatever happens to be an integral part of the story.

    I would suggest using a supporting character's POV in third person limited, but not just at the beginning - use it at a few points throughout the novel. Then the switching of POVs will be more natural. You may also find that your MC's segments are also better done in third person limited. Tom Clancy is a good example of a writer who switches POV regularly throughout his novels in 3rd limited.
     
  4. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I would rather read a bit mysterious beginning than reading an everything-clearly-explained beginnings. Of course, mystery doesn't mean confusing the readers. It is good that you know readers might get confuse. That's actually a right step. Now, identify where might the readers can get confuse, than search for a way out without major changes like switching of POVs or using prologue to info-dump.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I had a chuckle this weekend, looking at a book of general fiction written by a very recently published author, which has just sold out at the bookstore I was visiting. It has a prologue ...but the author didn't call it that. She just wrote several unheaded pages to go in front of Chapter One. It's certainly not an info-dump, but a very engaging scene that alerts us to the protagonist's view of a certain subject, before the start of the actual story.

    So ...if you decide to write a prologue in third person, don't tell anybody! Just write it and put it there. Sneaky—but effective against Prologue-prejudice. I'm not saying this is the best way to handle this particular problem, but no reason you can't, if it works.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Never "explain" to the reader.
     
  7. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    After reading an article (which I can't remember the name or author of) on prologues, I've developed a respect for them when used properly. However, it continues to hang over my head that a published author said she never reads prologues, no matter what. The thought horrifies me but it really opened my eyes. Regardless, I'm very curious about what this book is. I'd like to take a look and see this technique in action!

    Personally, I would opt for letting my MC discover the information as the story progresses. If you use a prologue, it could easily come off as an info dump. The same applies to using another character to explain stuff. Also, if you use another character's PoV and don't again any other time, it really comes off as an info dump.

    Consider this, though. You chose to write this story in first person for a reason. You're focusing on that character and their experiences. If s/he is unconscious when certain information is being transmitted, s/he won't know what's going on. One of the strengths and weaknesses of first person is that the readers know only what the narrator knows. Let the readers discover the information along with your main character. If confusion is a potential problem (and I agree that it's commendable you recognize this is a possibility), you may have more of an underlying issue. The reader is going to find out information at the same time as your main character. If it could be confusing for the reader, how will it not be confusing for the character?

    I hope that's coherent. It feels very disjointed to me but I'm too tired to know how to fix it. I'll try again if that doesn't make any sense. :)
     
  8. Matt Z
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    Matt Z New Member

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    That's given me a lot of helpful advice to think about, thanks.
     
  9. ketamineman
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    ketamineman Member

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    you want to read a good prologue, try The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

    as far as your situation, the reader does not need to know anything before the guy in a coma wakes up. In fact, make it a rule that you cannot give any info before he wakes up. Rules encourage creativity and originality. You are doing a first person and you want the reader to be just as confused as the protagonist. that is what is great about 1st person.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Confusing is fine. Confusing is good. Discovering realisty along with the character is great. Skip the third-person part. That's my vote, anyway.
     
  11. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    In this situation, confusing is only good if the main character is also confused about what's going on. As an author, acknowledging a "problem" in your writing shows your readers that you understand things are weird and it was done intentionally. If you've built a good rapport up until then, they should be able to just let go, sit back, and wait for you to bestow them with answers.
     
  12. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    A long time ago I had intense debates, er-- discussions, about whether one is allowed to switch between third and first person. The consensus was, "What? No! That's unusual and therefore bad! Unorthodoxy? Pish-posh! Herumph!"
    So I say, "Yes, go for it!"
    I have never read a book that switched between perspectives and thought, "Well, I'm just gonna stop reading this, then! How dare they do something that's not confusing or odd, but is uncommon!"

    The best thing you can do is write the prologue, then switch to first person, then ask some people to read it to determine whether they consider it confusing or disorienting.
    I would like, in fact, to read it myself.


    Edit: Upon further consideration, I have decided that this could be downright grand if done properly!
     

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