From first to third Person

by Katie

Question: In fiction novels, does it usually seem strange to switch from first to third person, chapters by chapters, if the change is clear? How about if the first person is present tense (I am, I do), and the third person is past tense (He was, he did)? Does this seem confusing or interesting? Thank you.

Answer: You need to be clear about why you are doing this.

For instance, it's fine if your main character is describing his/her experience in first person present narration, if you want the immediacy and intimacy that mode creates.

But who is telling the story when you switch to third person past? Because perhaps now you're telling the story from the perspective of someone who is not part of the story world and for whom these events have already concluded? In other words, this is more the writer's perspective.

Sometimes this is fine. For instance, if you want to create dramatic irony (where the reader knows more than the main character), you might switch from the main character's perspective to let the reader in on a few things the main character doesn't know.

Or maybe you don't want the reader to identify too closely with the main character, so stepping back sometimes creates a little distance between them.

Or maybe you want part of the story told by a character who is part of the story world and tells the story years after the events have happened, perhaps because this character can frame things in a way the main character can't.

But again, you should have a reason why both these perspectives matter -- why each makes an important contribution to the telling of the story. And that should be clear to the person reading the story.

Otherwise, you should probably stick with one perspective.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Genre Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero