1. surly_lemur

    surly_lemur New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0

    Perspectives and tense shifts with chapter changes

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by surly_lemur, Feb 22, 2017.

    Hi I am writing a novel been doing it on and off for a while now. While writing this is solely just for me to enjoy, I still want to get it right.

    I am using a first person narrative for the main character in the present tense so she's describing what's happening. When I switch to the the past in some chapters I switch first person past tense.
    But I've also been switching to other characters perspectives which I then use Third person past tense.

    Is this a no go? Should all flashback chapters be in a present tense to stick with consistency?
    I want the other characters in a third person tense to distinguish them from my main character. I want my main character to be first person because I want to feel like you're experiencing the story in their boots so it makes her struggle through the whole story seem more personable while making the other characters a side point to her stories trajectory. Any help would be awesome.
     
  2. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    2,425
    Likes Received:
    3,382
    Hey there! Welcome to the forum.

    There are a couple things to keep in mind here. When you're changing tenses/POVs it's important to make sure you're signaling the reader. You can do this with a sentence at the beginning of the chapter, the chapter title, etc. It doesn't have to be much, but nothing is worse than having to go back to figure out which is the POV character.

    Another thing is to ask yourself why you're changing tense. The consensus seems to be to make sure that you're changing for a decent reason. How many flashback scenes do you have? How many characters aside from your FPPT character do you have?

    The consistency comes from the reader getting expectations from the first few chapters. If you're halfway through the book and still slinging in new POVs, then it could be a problem, but if you're alternating between three or so POVs that you've established from the beginning, I wouldn't have an issue with it.

    I think it can work wonderfully to add a new dimension to the narrative. Just calculate your decisions, have a reason for doing what you do with your narrative.
     
  3. surly_lemur

    surly_lemur New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Nice thanks for the advice. I haven't followed true to form as the secondary characters start their third person narration a little later in the story from when the main character meets them.
    The chapter heading are appropriate enough to support the change. I'm not having too many flashbacks it's more sort of inline with the journey the character around her it which has been devastated, giving juxtaposition from chaos around her with better times in her past.
     
  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    2,425
    Likes Received:
    3,382
    There's no reason you can't introduce a POV character later in the story. You just have to weigh the implications against the potential benefits. If you introduce a character later, you have less time to develop that POV. Another pitfall I've seen is sometimes I'm thoroughly engaged in the story, then we switch to another POV character, and I'm spending time with that character just wishing I was back with the other.

    Just some things to think about. :)
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,254
    Likes Received:
    13,071
    I wanted to note that you can get this same effect with close third person, which would make the other third person chapters less jarring. I'm not saying that first person is wrong, but people often believe that third person means that you can't get deep inside the character's head, and that's incorrect--you can.
     
  6. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,392
    Likes Received:
    1,975
    One of my favourite series of books is a children series by Jonathan Stroud the Bartimaeous tetralogy (it was a trilogy forever, then he up & added a 4th , a prequel, so I'm calling it tetralogy now) that does something similar.

    He has first person for the titular Bartimaeous and then in separate chapters middle distance third (possibly close third, but I'd have to reread) for Nathaniel/John.

    In the first book "Amulet of Samarkand" it also starts the third person further back in time, showing the history of Nathaniel/John & the build up leading to the present that Bartmimaeous is narrating until they're finally contemporary to one another.

    I read it when I was young (junior high maybe?) and it was comprehensible & well executed. I reread the series, and I still consider it so wonderfully written.

    So stories with changing perspectives and timelines is definitely feasible. But I think it worked in the example's case because they were clearly and unambigously distinct. First person was current time, third person was the past.

    I think having a first person present tense, the same first person narrator past tense, and a third person present is too convoluted. I think your "flashback" chapters need something more to distinguish it. Or better yet and more simply, have the "flashback chapters" as a recounting by the present tense narrator.

    Regardless it's gonna be hard to handle and keep a hold of, so good luck
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice