1. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Member

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    Character death -then switch of P.O.V?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Writeorflight, May 23, 2017.

    The story I'm working on involves the main character dying. I want the story to be told in first person, so naturally the main character would be telling the story from his point of view. But, there's more to the story after he dies. I was wondering if it would be weird to tell the story through the MC's eyes (in first person) and then switch the narrative to the third person, following the life of other characters, after his death. Would this switch in pov be distracting/insensible? Or do you guys think it would work? I appreciate all advice, tips, and comments!
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2017
  2. hirundine

    hirundine Contributor Contributor

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    I've never read anything quite like what you describe, but I have read novels that switch between first and third person, and I found that it really put me off. But I've also read novels that were told in the first person from the points of view of two or more alternating characters, and when one died, the story was then taken up by one of the others. That worked for me, because the point of view had been alternating the whole time, so the switch wasn't jarring or off-putting. Could that possibly work for your story?
     
  3. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Would the switch happen after the climax? If the mc just dies at a random point and we switch to someone else I think that could be weird - you might could pull it off but it'd take some doing. But if it's in sort of the 'falling action' portion of the story, almost a (extended?) epilogue, I can see it working.

    Well, or a Lovely Bones type situation where almost the entire story is about what happens after the MC's death, but I didn't get the impression that that's what you're going for.

    I really think the key thing here is time: how much is spent with the mc vs how much is spent with other characters afterwards. It depends on what you want to focus on. Is it - like The Lovely Bones - more about how people deal with his death and move on? Then more time and focus on that part. Is it about him and the events leading up to his death? More time and focus on that. You don't want to dawdle on whichever thing isn't the focus, so if it's only like 5% at the end with other folks, that's probably workable.
     
  4. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Member

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    I thought about that! Writing the whole story in first person from multiple character perspectives. However, I like the immediate closeness of having one main character to connect to. Hence my different idea of changing narratives. If I can pull it off, I'm hoping the change from first to third person would sort of signify that the character is officially dead. But like you said, it could be really choppy and awkward to read.
     
  5. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    I'd try to set a secondary character up real good, have the reader care about him/her, have him there or a stake in the MC's dead. Then it mightn't feel so weird—I can see it working. Good luck :)
     
  6. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Member

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    Yeah, it would be more like the last one you mentioned. Most of the story would be in first person with the MC, while after the climax and into the 'falling action', would switch to the third person with the perspective of the MC's family.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I am going to say the same thing, that I have come to understand
    (and have been told by a few).

    Jumping from first to third is a big no no, in the majority of cases.
    The only time I have found that it works to any degree without
    coming off as jarring or too bizarre, is in the context of limited
    third and first for diary entries by the same MC.

    Theoretically you could make the switch by having a Part 1/Part 2
    type story all in the same book. Changing as the first part is over,
    and moves into the second.
    Or you could do the transition in an epilogue, so it is still attached
    to the main story, but being told from the new perspective (mini
    story after the main, if you will).

    But for practicality, based on what I have been taught is to pick one
    or the other, not both. It is much more accepted for it to be told entirely
    in first or third, so decide which will be better for the story as a whole,
    not just based on who will be speaking and when.

    IDK, this just seems awkward a question for me. :D
     
  8. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    Ideally the death should be at the end of your book. The death of a main character is mentally, physically, and emotionally rough on a reader. Though if you can make it work and not have a percentage of readers put down the book when it happens, go for it.
     
    Rosacrvx likes this.
  9. Comatoran

    Comatoran New Member

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    First off, you absolutely can make a shift from first to third work. It's been done many times. It's also been failed many times. You might find you have to rewrite decently large portions of the story.

    One strategy: Sprinkle in third person sections throughout the story. Get readers acclimatized early. Has the added bonus of letting the readers know important things that the MC doesn't.

    Another strategy: Add a framing device. Make it so that your MC is telling the story to an in-universe character.
    This could be done by bookending the first-person section with third-person sections: So-and-so is on their deathbead. How did we get to this point? asks what's-his-bucket. This is how, says so-and-so. (Insert first-person story) Then so-and-so died, and what's-his-bucket was sad, and did other things.
    This could also be done more subtly. Sprinkle in some second-person sentences throughout the first-person narrative, then end off the first-person with something along the lines of "And then you came in and asked what happened."
    Or you have the narrative interrupted from time to time by conversations and asides coming out of the framing device.
    If your story has supernatural/spiritual elements, you might even consider having the frame be them talking to whomever's guiding them to the afterlife.

    Another Strategy: Ditch the third-person, and instead switch to the perspective of the next most important surviving character: After Hamlet dies, move the audience inside the brain of Horatio.

    Yet another strategy: Just go for it. If the readers are all shook up from the character's death, they might not even notice the extra shaking. Obviously, though, you need to have a back-up strategy if it's not working.

    Still another strategy: cram as much of the post-death stuff as you can into a single moment, such as the funeral or wake, and write it as a not-too-long epilogue. Abandon the rest of your ideas for what happens after their death.
     
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