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Thread: 1st person present/3rd person limited past POVs in one novel

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW meowzbark's Avatar
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    1st person present/3rd person limited past POVs in one novel

    In my WIP, I have two POV characters. POV1 ends up "possessing" POV2's body. When POV1 possesses POV2's body, she receives POV2's memories...and so POV2 is written in the past, while POV1 happens in the present. But because I arrange the story chronologically, the POV switches happen prior to the body merging, though POV1 doesn't "know" POV2 until the merge.

    It feels natural for me to write POV1 as first person present and I'm not sure how feasible it is to write her POV as third when she does "switch" bodies with multiple existing characters. POV2 I currently have as third person limited. Both POVs are needed to tell the story properly.

    Should I rewrite one of the POVs to make the book either entirely present tense or past tense?

    Basically

    POV1 : first person present
    POV2: third person limited past

    EDIT: I could feasibly write both POVs from first person POV, but I can't write both from third person POV.
    Last edited by meowzbark; 12-27-2012 at 04:39 PM.
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  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    I've never seen the use in switching tenses to show flashbacks... seems more like a gimmick to me.

    I hate present tense (unless done extremely well). Some people might be the other way around. If you have a book with one tense and the reader is enjoying it, and switch on us... we might not like it any longer. Stephen King did this on me...

    I also have to press that not all people have even one tense down to effectively write in it, so switching might create more problems. (Though if you understand the basics, its down to vocabulary).

    I also don't like when books switch narratives on me. Unless the there is a really, really good reason for having 1st and 3rd together, I would like to see either multiple 3rd or a single 1st.

    That's just staying consistent so you're not throwing the reader around. If you change one thing, the reader feels on edge for the rest of the story, expecting something else to change at any moment.


    But then, why can't your character just "switch" into first and we (the reader) would know that she's in a different body? If you make that clear that she's inside someone else, you can keep your single 1st present tense.

    Or, or... use 1st omni during the flashbacks, and keep it present tense! It sounds just like it sounds. Have her enter the flashbacks and watch the person in 3rd, but keep within the 1st person narration. The narrator will be able to pull up thoughts and knowledge from the possessed girl. (Oh boy, this might be very hard though). Tricky.

    Do what you wish, how you wish. If done well, I'd have no complaints.
    Last edited by WillSauger; 12-27-2012 at 05:01 PM. Reason: Lare nighr, you forger rhe "R"
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  3. #3
    _ SomethingOrOther's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meowzbark View Post
    Should I rewrite one of the POVs to make the book either entirely present tense or past tense?
    No. You should do what you want to do. Your original setup is fine.
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  4. #4
    Tyrant King jeffo20's Avatar
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    Agree with SomethingOrOther on this one. I've seen plenty of books with POVs that switch like this (I'm reading one now) that work just fine. Go with what feels right.
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW meowzbark's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice!
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    I've read one book I can think of that was partially in third person past, partially in first person present: Ilium by Dan Simmons. Simmons also goes all over the place with tense and point of view in Hyperion, and I found it worked in both books.

  7. #7
    NEVER give up!!!! Danalynn's Avatar
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    Smile

    I agree, I think your original set up will work just fine. Go with what feels right to you. Your beta readers will be able to tell you for sure how well it works from a readers perspective.

    * That's a point well put, and a timely suggestion that we'll bring up at the very
    next board meeting a week from Tuesday . . . I don't know why, it's just policy *


  8. #8
    figuring it all out BlankWhitePage's Avatar
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    I don't see anything wrong with your current setup. Stick with what you feel works best, you can always revise it in the next draft.

  9. #9
    all the feels, ALL OF THEM itsaplane's Avatar
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    Do what you feel feels right! That's the way to go, always.
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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW flapperphilosopher's Avatar
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    I've certainly read books that do this. The Blind Assasin, by Margaret Atwood, has first person present tense, first person past tense, and third person past tense, depending on the POV. It won a Booker. I'm all for "if it feels right, go for it"-- your subconcious can be very clever.
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  11. #11
    Friendly Neighborhood Mustelidae The Otter's Avatar
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    I once wrote a novel where flashbacks were done in present tense and the present was written in past tense. Counter-intuitive, maybe, but it worked for me and for my beta. There are lots of books that switch tenses and POVs. It can be confusing if you're not careful, but if it feels right, then go with it; if there are issues, you can iron them out in the edits.

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