LET ME GET A NUMBER 1 AND A NUMBER 3

HOW TO USE FIRST-PERSON AND THIRD-PERSON TOGETHER

Few novels have been able to successfully use FP and TP. Why? Because it gets too confusing. There are essentially two people telling the story. Or it could be that your FP POV narrator is the one explaining the events as they happened to him.

Either way, this technique is possible, but great tact must be taken.

The global conflict and the immediate conflict have to be balanced so that the reader isn’t caught in an emotional typhoon where no compassion is built for anyone, ultimately meaning that no one cares.

I can’t say that I’ve ever read a novel where this is done, but RICH probably has. So my insight into the topic is based solely on books and blogs that I’ve read.

The first thing you have to ask yourself is: “Why is it more important to tell this story from FP and TP?” Think of your story? Would it be more powerful from the combined POVs? Here’s a good reason why you might want to use both FP and TP.

If you needed to show a dynamic relationship between a father and a son, but you wanted most of the story to be filtered through the eyes of the son. This could be effective. Why? Well, what if the relationship between the two of them is so strained that the father comes off like a deadbeat pig? One way to resolve this is if you were to utilize the TP POV. Then you could effectively narrate the thoughts of the father without having the father’s character be sifted through the bitterness of his son.

WATCH: [For context, David is the son. Grant is the Father.]
I couldn’t even look at Grant, that idiot-of-a-sperm-donor. Did he really think that I could forgive him for what he did to my mom – the woman he treated like a back-alley whore?

Grant was at a loss for words. His son didn’t know what really happened. But Grant couldn’t tell him either. Who wants to find out that his mother is a stripper? Grant loved Tricia. In fact he still did. But he knew that staying with a woman who now made a living servicing other men was not what his battered heart could handle. When he first found out, he didn’t eat for days. If David ever knew, that poor boy would have been ripped apart.

If we were limited to the FP, then we would have only known what David knew. The TP brings a deeper compassion for Grant that David would never have allowed. Keep in mind that this dichotomy can be done in FP or TP. But if using both accentuates things in your novel that neither FP nor TP could do alone, perhaps combining them both is the way to go.

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5 thoughts on “LET ME GET A NUMBER 1 AND A NUMBER 3

  1. inksweatandfears

    Interesting. I’m actually writing from FP and TP right now. The majority is through the POV of a 13 year old boy, with the last scene in each chapter done with the POV of the antagonist. I’m about 22K words in right now, but the challenge seems to be to keep the pacing from overlapping too soon. Thanks for the post – your suggestions and comments are quite helpful!

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      That’s pretty cool to think about. And knowing how beneficial these two perspectives can be, the reader will get both the immediate sense from the boy but the global feel from the antag.

      Reply
  2. mollyspring

    I can only think of one novel that did this. It had a few chapter in third that the otherwise narrator wasn’t present for. I loved the book, and it was received well by critics and a bestseller, but that technique still bugged me, even though I loved the book. I guess I’d sacrifice a few scenes or the immediacy of first person narration for consistency, but that’s just my opinion.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      Mollyspring. I agree with you. Something about the change from POV bugs me too. If it’s seemless, it could hardly be recongnized. I wonder if there was something choppy about the transitions that made the book less appealing to you.

      It’s hard for me to say if I like the style or not because I have not read any books that have done it.

      Reply

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