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Old 01-15-2013, 09:21 AM   #1
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POV question

I was wanting to switch back and forth from third to first person--has that been done before?
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Old 01-15-2013, 09:28 AM   #2
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Yes. But it's a technique full of pitfalls.

Why do you want/need to do this?

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Old 01-15-2013, 09:59 AM   #3
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It has. I've seen it done successfully.
It's creative writing, you can do whatever you want. ^_^
Just do it well.
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Old 01-15-2013, 10:39 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
Yes. But it's a technique full of pitfalls.
I agree with blacbird here, but by all means try it and see if it works for you. There's nothing that says you can't.
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Old 01-15-2013, 10:41 AM   #5
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I agree with blacbird about the problems.

It always raises the question on just making is all 3rd limited? (if you're going for the 1st person "voice" a deep 3rd can do the exact same thing)


The only viable reason I've read, is that the first book in a series was written in first person, and the sequential books needed more characters and POV, so the author kept the same 1st POV to not change that, but the new POVs were 3rd. It worked out as the reader knew the 1st POV was a standard, and the changes were only directed at a single character. However, it would have worked just fine in all 3rd if the first book wasn't published in only 1st and that certain character continued throughout the series.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:44 PM   #6
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The Bartimaeus Trilogy was written switching back and forth between 1st and 3rd POV.

It remains one of my favorite books of all time, mainly because of the humor, but I do remember sighing with annoyance whenever we came back to the character who was written from the 3rd person perspective.

So the short answer is "yes", it has been done before and it can be done again...but personally I'd prefer just one type of POV throughout the book.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:48 PM   #7
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Stephen King's Christine does this. If you do it, make sure you've got a reason for it.
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Old 01-15-2013, 06:50 PM   #8
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It has been done. I think I've read exactly two books that did this (Jennifer Weiner's Little Earthquakes, and Luanne Rice's The Geometry of Sisters). And yet, there have been quite a few questions on AW about using first/third together. A rather disproportionate amount, I'd say, considering how often I come across it in the books I read.

If you're going to do it, I think you need a really good reason to do so. Usually using either third person or first person works better...
When you jump between first and third person, the reader will notice.
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Old 01-15-2013, 08:02 PM   #9
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Shotgun,

It has been done before, but you have to be able to do it well. The Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult has first and third points of view by two characters.

Go find some books that use first and third in the same story and see how it's done.
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Old 01-15-2013, 08:10 PM   #10
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I'm currently doing this for one of my projects. it has been difficult so far, but i feel that it works best for my story at least in the way i'm telling it.

Like others have said, it isn't common but there are plenty of examples of this being successfully done.
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Old 01-15-2013, 08:21 PM   #11
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Writing in 1st or 3rd, past or present -- these are tools in your toolbox. Decide which is best to build your story and build it.
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Old 01-15-2013, 08:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
I agree with blacbird about the problems.

It always raises the question on just making is all 3rd limited? (if you're going for the 1st person "voice" a deep 3rd can do the exact same thing)
Yes, there seems to be this train of thought that 1st person is the only intimate POV is that is definitely not the case. Intimacy can be achieved in any POV.
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Old 01-15-2013, 08:27 PM   #13
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I recently read a book that switched back and forth between first person and omniscient.

I loved it.

But I probably would have loved it no matter what POV it was in, because it was interesting and well-written.

So yeah, you can do it, sure. But I do agree with this totally:

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Intimacy can be achieved in any POV.
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Old 01-15-2013, 08:30 PM   #14
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It works well, and is pretty easy to do, if you do it in alternating chapters.
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Old 01-15-2013, 09:11 PM   #15
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Echoing others. It depends on how you execute it. I found The Hunger Games difficult to get into because of the 1st person present. I could never understand why the author chose it. If your readers understand the need at some level and you execute it well, then I don't see an issue.
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:40 PM   #16
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John Connolly does it in his Charlie Parker books (if you're looking for an example) I think it works well in those.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:06 PM   #17
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Echoing others. It depends on how you execute it. I found The Hunger Games difficult to get into because of the 1st person present. I could never understand why the author chose it. If your readers understand the need at some level and you execute it well, then I don't see an issue.
My extremely bookish niece assured me that once you get around the climax the first person present works best and is well done but to be quite honest, I don't think I'll make it even close to that point.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:22 PM   #18
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Echoing others. It depends on how you execute it. I found The Hunger Games difficult to get into because of the 1st person present. I could never understand why the author chose it. If your readers understand the need at some level and you execute it well, then I don't see an issue.
It took me awhile to get past the first person, present tense in Hunger Games too, but after awhile, I got used to it. Then again, I don't really care for first person past tense.

In regards to alternating first person and third person POV's...I think I would have a hard time reading it, but I'm sure there are others who would like it.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:09 AM   #19
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I believe I had asked a similar question a week or so ago, on this forum. I believe the general answer was that things were to be changed if needed, but could go wrong if changed too much or at inappropriate times.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:48 AM   #20
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Adding another example to the thread, Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle series is written with both third and first person viewpoints. The present is written in third person while the past (the story being told in the present) is written in the first person.
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Old 01-18-2013, 01:44 AM   #21
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Harlan Coben is another writer who does it a lot. Frankly, I hate it. I'll read first, I'll read third. But when I read them both combined my suspension of disbelief flies right out the window.

I just keep wondering to myself, 'if this MC wrote this book (as first person POV implies) then how the hell did he get those chapters from the bad guy's perspective?' I think it was Donald Maass or one of those other how-to-write-a-book writers who said that you have to have a valid reason for writing in first person. The book has to be a story that the character would tell later. I know that's not how most people do it, but it stands out to me.

So, yeah, the combination can be done and successful writers do it often, but as a reader I really can't stand it.
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Old 01-18-2013, 01:55 AM   #22
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Echoing others. It depends on how you execute it. I found The Hunger Games difficult to get into because of the 1st person present. I could never understand why the author chose it. If your readers understand the need at some level and you execute it well, then I don't see an issue.
I think the author chose it for Hunger Games because she wanted to get immediacy and intimacy on the cheap without having to bother establishing it through strong writing. But then, I'm a cynic and didn't much care for those books.

LJ Hall has it right, by my reckoning. Think hard about what first person implies, and what third person implies. Then think about why a story would be told in such a way, and if this is believable in the context of the story you're telling. Does it make sense to you? Then go for it.
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:25 PM   #23
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Shotgun, just to let you know that POV changes aren't an immediate no-no to getting a book accepted. The book I have coming out next year has just recently gone through its third round of structural edits (first agent, then publisher, now editor) The narration hops between third past, 1st person present and 2nd person present. Though the sections in 2nd person are mildly contentious, so far there have been no pushes to change to all one POV. This may change when the book goes out for reader feedback - have to wait and see about that.
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Old 01-18-2013, 06:32 PM   #24
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Harlan Coben is another writer who does it a lot. Frankly, I hate it. I'll read first, I'll read third. But when I read them both combined my suspension of disbelief flies right out the window.
The very first time I encountered it was in Diana Gabaldon's Dragonfly in Amber. I felt the same way you did -- how can she do that? How does that work?

But I got over it, because the story was so engaging and because I wanted to keep reading her books. After that first encounter, it never bothered me again. I actually have more trouble with books that have more than one first-person POV. Even if the writer goes to great lengths to make them different, I still occasionally find myself forgetting whose POV I'm in and I experience these little jolts whenever I'm abruptly reminded. Multi-third person doesn't do this to me. But first-person...the "I" perspective should belong only to one person in the book, IMO.
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Old 01-18-2013, 07:24 PM   #25
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For the OP I recently did read a book that used both and it worked just fine and I can see why he chose to write it that way.

However it did feel like gear-shifting in the early chapters when I'm used to automatic. If the readers care enough about what happens next they will keep reading regardless.

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I think the author chose it for Hunger Games because she wanted to get immediacy and intimacy on the cheap without having to bother establishing it through strong writing. But then, I'm a cynic and didn't much care for those books.
Glad to see I'm not the only one with that sentiment.

I recently picked up Yevgeny Zamyatin's We after a long absence and realized it had actually been written partially in first person present tense and partly in past tense. So it's not strictly the tense and POV that gets to me about Hunger Games.

We is a brilliant book however and if you haven't read it and like dystopian fiction I really recommend it.
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