I’m excited about my current work in progress, Fraternal Scourge, a zombie story set in my Deals with the Dead mythos. I am 19k into the story and saw a perfect place to stop and switch from the boyfriend to the separated girlfriend’s POV. I’ve really enjoyed using the first person POV for the guy’s POV, but for some reason felt like the girl’s should be third person POV. I’ve only just started her part, and plan to test both first and third POV for her, but I decided to bring the question to my writer and reader friends. One more thing to note is that I could publish this first part as its own story, and serialize the larger story. I plan to connect the events in this story to my main character from Small Town Scourge. I’m not sure if that makes any difference to your recommendation, but the questions are:
If I wrote the guy’s POV in 1st person, should I write her’s in 1st as well? (The novelette, Small Town Scourge was a single, 3rd person, POV, which I’ve thought about making 1st person, and the sequel, which will tie into this storyline, is starting out 1st person.)
Now, for a more generalized question, since the above may just be answered, “Do whatever you want:” What are the potential problems or advantages of writing his as 1st person POV, and hers as 3rd person POV?
A little more background on their relationship: their relationship is failing because he cheated on her a while back, and she thinks he has returned to his past (which he denies); when a zombie outbreak hits their college town, they get separated and he is alone with an attractive female; his character change/arc at the end of part one makes him an antihero; and the greater arc will be if they get back together because if they don’t she might be the only one to stop him.
I alternated from 1st to 3rd person/present twice because there were a few things I could not show in Ocilla’s 1st person/present POV, but felt the reader needed. Also, because I wanted to challenged the norm by rocking the boat of imaginary “rules” of writing. I am a rebel at heart.
Honestly, I ducked out of first person to third occasionally because I find first person to be a little claustrophobic at times. And also, I needed opportunities to show certain characters through something other than my protagonist’s continually-disgusted filter. If I want readers to like certain secondary characters eventually, I can’t only show them from the POV of someone who is always annoyed by them, you know?
(Of course he doesn’t, Lane loves talking about his book. )
Would you share how you decided on which type of POV person (1st or 3rd) to use for Forgive Me, Alex?
When I first started writing Forgive Me, Alex, I did so in a 3rd-person POV. However, after completing about 100 pages, I felt it wasn’t quite punching at the emotional level, so I decided to try it in 1st-person. Presto! Then, I discovered that I needed to take it a step further, because I needed to take the reader deep inside the head of not just my protagonist, but my antagonist too. Thus, I told their parts of the story in their own, individual voice.
Were you concerned about including two 1st person POV’s in FMA, and how did you make sure to keep it clear to the reader (including switching from past to present)?
The simplest way to keep the reader clear on who was narrating, and when, was to use the chapter headers to identify both. I carried it much further than that, however, giving each of the two primary narrators a distinctive voice, using catchphrases and colloquialisms unique to each narrative voice. As to the time shifts, that was as much about keeping the story moving in a clear, concise manner, as anything else.
Did you consider one 1st and the other 3rd? Have you read any books like that? My friend, Dave, said that having one 1st person POV and the other 3rd POV can create a disconnect with the 3rd person POV character. Do you agree, and if so, in what way could that be used to the author’s advantage?
If you have two primary narrative voices, best to keep them consistent in the 1st-person (both) or 3rd-person (both). I think splitting a story into both a 1st-person and 3rd-person narrative only makes sense for a couple reasons: (1) You have one primary character, probably the protagonist, whose heart, mind and soul you want to share deeply with the reader, but you have critical segments that the protagonist (1st-person narrator) wasn’t a part of, involving many other characters. Since the main 1st-person narrative would violate POV rules in those instances, you can’t use it. (2) You have segments that are critical to the story, but that the character-narrator wasn’t a part of. In such a case, you really need more of an omniscient view, although you may keep it tighter. I did this in Forgive Me, Alex, using “News Reports” as the primary narrative mechanism.
As a publisher and editor, where there any times where you told someone to switch from 3rd to 1st, or vice versa?
Some authors are just plain better at one than the other, in which case they should play to their strength. I believe a well-crafted 1st-person narrative creates a sense of intimacy that’s harder to create with a 3rd-person narrative. However, not all stories require such a deep look inside, as it were, and it’s a mistake to try to force the issue. Also, 1st-person narratives tend to be all “I, I, I, I, I.” This makes for difficult reading. The reason that traditional publishing has, in recent years, discouraged 1st-person narratives, is that writers have tended to fall into the “I” trap, and spend all their time TELLING rather than SHOWING. A 1st-person narrative is harder to pull off, in my opinion, but when accomplished, it can be quite compelling.
Do you have any advice for someone trying to determine which person POV to use, and whether or not to switch between 1st and 3rd?
Frankly, I’d go with 3rd-person as the default, and switch to 1st-person ONLY if you find you’re not able to create the necessary emotional link otherwise. And then, scour your manuscript for “I,” and change every single sentence you can to cut back on them. You’ll still have a bunch, but if you end up with an average of 6 per paragraph, you’re toast. Be sure to convey the story through the narrators eyes (that means you must focus on the object, not the subject), and be sure to keep us firmly in the character-narrator’s mind. Otherwise, there’s no reason to break from 3rd-person.
Thanks for the advice, everybody. So, audience, what do you think? I’m sure these hard-working authors wouldn’t mind if you checked out their books and saw for yourself how they did it.