Andrewbee's picture
Andrewbee from Chicago is reading some YA book, most likely October 7, 2015 - 7:28pm

I have a story that I'd really like to tell in the first person. It revolves around one main character, and is even named after her. However, there are essential plot points that the viewpoint character couldn't possibly know. I have to communicate those somehow, as they are essential for the sequel. Can I feasibly write much of the book in the first person, and then switch to third for a while?

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami October 7, 2015 - 8:26pm

One way I approached was first person multiple perspective. Which is where each chapter is essentially a different first person perspective, therefore carefully withholding some information for the reader into a crucial point in the book.

Maybe that might help you?^^

Anna Gutmann's picture
Anna Gutmann from Ohio is reading American Gods October 8, 2015 - 5:39am

General guidance is to stick with one POV and not shift out of it. I've never heard of a book where 1st person shifts into 3rd. Still, I'd try googling for books that do this before you take this advice, and if you find any read them to see how the author pulled it off successfully. Honestly, there is only one time I have seen a drastic POV shift work and that was in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Rowling has to shift from 3rd person limited to 3rd person omniscient during the Quidditch scene, and even then it reads a little weird to me.

I've been stuck in the same position as you before, where a character is awesome in 1st person but the structure is better executed in 3rd. Sadly I had to bite the bullet and just do the whole thing in 3rd. There could be some creative ways to incorporate both POVs though, like adding in snippets of found journal entries or giving the omniscient narrator a notable attitude of some kind.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 8, 2015 - 7:42am

I've seen it done where most chapters are in first, some are in third for someone else. It might not be easy, but if the story/plot/whatever is running smoothly enough I bet you could pull it off.

What I predict would be jarring is if 90+% of the book is in 1st, and only one or two chapters go into third. 

OtterMan's picture
OtterMan from New Jersey, near Philadelphia USA is reading Ringworlds Children October 8, 2015 - 1:06pm

Couldn't you just introduce a character with knowledge of these hidden events and use a first person account from his perspective?

Andrewbee's picture
Andrewbee from Chicago is reading some YA book, most likely October 8, 2015 - 1:34pm

That would solve the problem of switching views. But, I think it would jar the reader badly to lose the connection they've made with the MC by suddenly being inside someone else's head. Honestly, I've had this story bursting to come out of my head so badly that I just started writing it. I got over 2000 words since I posted this! I'll figure something out for revealing the other part. I guess she won't know the full details of how those things came to pass, but we can feed her enough info to know that just when she thought she was home and dry, her goose is going to be cooked. Thanks for your input, everyone.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 8, 2015 - 2:49pm

I'd say switching to a third would be a lot less jarring than switching to a different first unless you do it consistently, like an every-other-chapter switch.

Or maybe if it were in episolary form you could pull it off?

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 8, 2015 - 5:33pm

Yes, go for it. Or don't.

Some readers don't even mind being jarred. It can work in music & movies as well as in books.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated October 8, 2015 - 6:06pm

Can yes. Can is not should.

L. L. Lehmann's picture
L. L. Lehmann from São Paulo is reading The Quantity Theory of Insanity October 9, 2015 - 6:56am

Depending on how much information you need to convey, maybe there could be an introduction in 3° containing hints or simply giving the reader what they need to know. Sort of creating a "cumplicity" between the reader and the "presenter" - if you will. Then you could start the actual story in the first person.

I've never done that before, but it was something that occurred while I was reading the previous posts.What do you guys think??

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 9, 2015 - 8:30am

To expound: There's no general reason not to change point of view in a work of fiction. People might not like it, but they also might not like a visceral description of violence. They might find it jarring. They might not like use of the f-word. They might find it jarring. A structural abnormality shouldn't be discouraged any more than anything else in a work of literature which might be considered abnormal, or should it?

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 9, 2015 - 8:30am

I think he has to convey the information in the middle of the story, though, not with a throw-away style viewpoint at the beginning of a book.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 9, 2015 - 8:33am

I think it would depend on the specifics.

Andrewbee's picture
Andrewbee from Chicago is reading some YA book, most likely October 9, 2015 - 10:47am

Correct. It's information that's revealed shortly before the end. It's totally confidential, which doesn't help matters from a FPV standpoint. I don't know. Maybe I'll just screw jarring the reader (as others have said). If they read that far, they won't stop because of it.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 9, 2015 - 11:15am

Might ruin the book for them though...

Let me ask you- just how necessary is it to show this 3rd person style instead of having it revealed when your narrator learns it? 

Jimothy Scott's picture
Jimothy Scott from Canada is reading The Anatomy of Story by John Truby October 9, 2015 - 7:59pm

The martian does this and it worked really well for it

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 10, 2015 - 9:23am

^

Whoa, elaborate?

Anna Gutmann's picture
Anna Gutmann from Ohio is reading American Gods October 10, 2015 - 4:54pm

I've read lots of books that shift between different narrators but stay in the same POV ... for instance, I have read a book in 1st person with multiple characters (this is done by labeling every third chapter with the character's name and the whole book is considered a transcription of a recording). I've also read a book in third person limited with multiple narratives (can't remember the name but it was set in wartime in Japan). So it can be done ... I have just never heard of first and third being combined. But still, I have to believe there is a right way to do it out there somewhere. It is just a matter of playing around with how it's set up in the plot line up!

Jimothy Scott's picture
Jimothy Scott from Canada is reading The Anatomy of Story by John Truby October 10, 2015 - 10:12pm

@ Thuggish

In the martian you have the first person entries of Mark Watney

Then everyone back on earth and on the Hermes spacecraft is written in third.

There is even a chapter from that follows a sheet of Hab canvas

The novel mixes all these together to what I thought was great effect

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb October 11, 2015 - 4:56am

I'm writing a book where I switch POV, and I've seen it work well in other books. 1st and 3rd person in the same book is something I actually like. Transition by Iain Banks is a good example. Complicity (same author) also uses a switch between 2nd and 1st person. A much older book with narrative/POV switches is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and it's a brilliant read.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 11, 2015 - 11:04am

@ Anna- would you consider that recorded transcription book epistolary?

@ Jimothy- aha! they're also mixing in epistolary!

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 11, 2015 - 11:05am

Oh, but I'm still noticing that these things seem to be worked in consistently, not just 80% of the way through or whatever, bam, new random viewpoint.

Anna Gutmann's picture
Anna Gutmann from Ohio is reading American Gods October 11, 2015 - 12:54pm

@Thuggish - I wouldn't quite call it epistolary in its full format, although I suppose it could be considered that as a general way to describe it. A majority of it involved the characters narrating the story word-for-word in a very traditional narrative; if a random reader flipped to the middle and began to read, they'd have no way to tell it's meant to be a recording. But there were short sections at the beginning and end that were formatted like an actual transcript being relayed from a voice recorder in order to lead into the character's opposing narratives. It was actually a piece of MG fiction that I like referencing to people trying to learn about shifting POVs because it's formatted so simply and it's very clear where the characters or viewpoints change!

In regards to what you said about a majority of the examples being given working the POV shifts in consistently, I very much agree. I feel that sticking with one viewpoint throughout the entire novel and then suddenly shifting to another for only one or two chapters would be too jarring to read ... kind of like that HP reference I first made. The whole book is third limited and then a few paragraphs of 3rd omniscient are thrown in. Whenever I read it back I can't help but feel that it's awkward and out of place!

Andrewbee's picture
Andrewbee from Chicago is reading some YA book, most likely October 11, 2015 - 3:35pm

I'd forgotten about The Martian. Yes, he does mix views very well. Proof that it can be done at least. (I'm also writing in the exact same genre as that book: hard science fiction.)

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 11, 2015 - 8:06pm

Hmm, I think you can do 3rd omniscients easier, but usually if it's at the beginning of a chapter. Maybe the end, but in my experience an omniscient at the end is just a cheap end-of-chapter-hook.

Anyway, I think we should expand epistolary in this modern era to anything a main character might have written at any length. Blog posts (check out this little gem: http://www.tor.com/2011/08/31/wikihistory/)

I think we're digressing now, did we generally settle on an answer for the OP?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated October 12, 2015 - 8:42pm

Just have her write them. You don't have to explain how she knows them.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Tana French! October 14, 2015 - 7:28am

Penny Dreadful by Will Christopher Baer mixes first person with close third exceptionally well. Technically it only has three chapters (one for each day in the story) but it indicates change of POV by having character names above said sections. 

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 20, 2015 - 5:47am