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Thread: Change of POV question

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    Change of POV question

    Hey everyone.

    So I've just started to write down my ideas for my latest piece. And I'm slightly stuck with a switching pov problem. To switch or not too switch?


    I have read before that there are no set rules only guidelines with writing etc, but some advice from some absolute writers would be handy.

    Its probably easier if I just show it in examples.

    ok here goes.

    __

    Did you ever meet Jimmy hendrix? I'm guessing your answer is no. Well I did. I actually had a guitar battle with him. How? Well it's probably easier if I start from the beginning.

    1. Switch to third
    1967.

    There sat young James Elveran, watching in awe as....etc

    2. Stay in first.

    1967.

    There I was, watching in awe as...etc


    (This is not my real piece)


    Now over to you, What do you prefer?
    "Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight" - Johnny Cash.

  2. #2
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Stay in first. Why would you want to switch to third?

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  3. #3
    Huh. kkbe's Avatar
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    Who do you want telling this story? Which POV lends itself more to the story you have in mind? You can always write the thing in close third, really close. Or you can write from your mc's perspective, get in the guy's head, stream of consciousness, even. How comfortable are you writing third v. first? Have you written both ways?
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  4. #4
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    What blacbird said. Unless you have a good reason for switching to third?

  5. #5
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    I'll be watching this thread because I am having major issues with POV myself.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Personally, I don't like books that switch from 1st to 3rd POV, but I'm sure there are people who like it just fine.

    For me, I have a reason for using whichever POV I choose. In my current WIP, I need more than one POV character, so I've chosen to write it in 3rd.

    If I only had one POV character, I would likely write in 1st



  7. #7
    A returned visitor. TyUnglebower's Avatar
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    I would keep it in first person. Or start it in third, one or the other. But a POV shift, in my view, should be avoided when at all possible. When a shift is needed there should be an excellent reason for doing so. From what I gather here, you seem to be opening your story in the first person, and then flashing back to events that that character experienced through a third-person narrative. I haven't read the piece of course, but there seems to be little reason to make this switch.

    Just remember, any shift in a story for a reader is like a stick shift car. You can't fly down the road and shift into another gear without slowing down a bit first. Ask yourself how often, if at all, you want your reader to slow down as they read.

  8. #8
    can totally spell Brobdinrgnagrian buzhidao's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TyUnglebower View Post
    You can't fly down the road and shift into another gear without slowing down a bit first.
    You can't??

    I been doin it rong.

  9. #9
    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkSongofErrin View Post
    I have read before that there are no set rules only guidelines with writing etc, but some advice from some absolute writers would be handy.
    My experience wouldn't help you a bit. I prefer a single pov throughout, but I'd use multiple povs if there was no other way to handle the story. Your mileage my differ.
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  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin julie_a_w's Avatar
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    I am actually reading a book that switches pov right now. When they are in the present it's third, and when they go back to past it's in first. It was a little weird at first, but I see the author's reasoning behind it. Personally, I'd stay in first.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    I'd stick with either a consistent first or third. You could do a frame story in third and have the main story in first if you want (like Rothfuss did with The Name of the Wind). But randomly going into third when a character is telling his story makes no sense to me.

  12. #12
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Your example is very confusing.

    If you switch from first to third, you generally have chapter breaks or section breaks. Is that what you have in your story?

    Jodi Picoult did it well in Plain Truth, where one POV was in first person, the rest in third. It was clear because of the chapter breaks.

    Another well known writer did it horribly in a story (can't recall the name of the story), but the first person flashbacks were not broken off into sections but were in italics. It was not a good read due to this.

    Make sure your story is not confusing.
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  13. #13
    Just keep swimming... electroweakstar's Avatar
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    I've seen it work in crime/suspense once in a while, where the main characters are in 3rd (so we aren't stuck just following one of them) but the villain has the occasional first-person (or even second) diatribe to build suspense. Or when someone speaks in "first person" in a letter, but that's not really the same thing.

    I've only used it once, for a character that doesn't speak outwardly for most of the story, and I can't tell you objectively if it works or not. ;-)

    Tread lightly. Especially in the case of your example: if a book is going to set up as a narrative in first person, especially with the MC as a storyteller, I'm going to expect to follow that character in first person.
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  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW
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    Looks like I'll keep it in first.

    I'm not sure why I contemplated switching to third. Maybe because I haven't written much in first person. I started with staying in first, read over it and didn't like it so then I tried the switch and I didn't like that either. So that was when I came here.

    Thanks to everyone for the helpful advice

    Time for a coffee and to get back to writing.
    "Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight" - Johnny Cash.

  15. #15
    figuring it all out BlankWhitePage's Avatar
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    It appears too confusing to switch entirely different POVs like that... Personally I would say keep it in the first.

  16. #16
    Bending but not breaking Willow M Stevens's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkSongofErrin View Post

    Did you ever meet Jimmy hendrix? I'm guessing your answer is no. Well I did. I actually had a guitar battle with him. How? Well it's probably easier if I start from the beginning.

    ...

    2. Stay in first.

    1967.

    There I was, watching in awe as...etc
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but what you're calling first-person POV is actually second, because you are referencing the reader by using "you."

    In this example (keeping in mind that this is not your actual work), it feels like you're going for a past-tense story told by the present-tense character/narrator who lived it. Think of shows such as the Wonder Years, or movies such as the Sandlot.

    So the switch of POV was probably an unconscious attempt to "zoom in" the camera, or to differentiate your opening line/scene (in the present) from the one that follows (in the past). I know it's not the question you asked, but I would skip the first part and just jump in where the actual story starts, thereby avoiding any need to make a shift (which is, as many have said, where a reader can lose interest and stop reading).

    Second-person POV is not really "in" these days, and I don't recall any recent movies that use the grown-up-narrator-telling-about-his-childhood-days type of thing. (Again, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not exactly a movie connoisseur). Any direct reference to the reader is considered (by many) to be jarring, and most editors will not continue reading a submission if they are "jarred" out of the story for any reason.

    As for your question as to 1st vs 3rd--whichever you pick, I would encourage you to read many, many books in that POV before you attempt to write it in. If you like reading in that tense, you'll probably enjoy (and be better at) writing in that tense.

    Hope this was helpful--just gettin my feet wet here!

  17. #17
    dragon seeker CatchingADragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willow M Stevens View Post
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but what you're calling first-person POV is actually second, because you are referencing the reader by using "you."
    Still first-person, because the POV is the narrator, not the reader.

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