Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mixing First Person and Third Person POVs in A Novel

Mixing POVs is a technique most often used by an experienced and established writer. The reasons to do this can be varied, but the reason is also purposeful and not just one of an author’s fancy to do something different.

1. To focus a story on a single major character, an author might use First Person POV and then used Third Person for all other characters even though they have major roles in the story. What this does is allow the reader to feel a deeper kinship with the "I" character. It allows a more intimate relationship and keeps the reader focus on the character who has the most at stake in the novel. While other characters POV is shared through Third Person, the reader is well aware that everything that they do and say relates back to the "I" character. This is also the job of the author to see to it that the story line stays focused on the singular character. This is a popular style in women’s fiction when the book deals with four friends, for example, but one is the prominent character.

2. To contract the present from the past, written in flashback style, the story could be written in either First Person or Third to reflect the present and use the opposite to show the past. This is not needed in a story where a single or rare scene is presented in a flashback style, and as I’ve said before, flashbacks are most effective from writers with a great deal of experience, otherwise they can fall flat. When a story is a blend of past and present, think of the latest version of the movie Titanic which opens in present day and ends in present day while the middle is set in the past, this could work well. Or a novel that opens up with an older character reflecting on her past and moves back and forth between the past and present, the First Person/Third Person technique might work.

3. A suspense novel might include the villain in First Person while the other characters are in Third Person to keep the villain identity hidden. It is easier when using the pronoun "I" to avoid using a character name. Author Marlo Schalesky used this technique in her novel, Veil of Fire.

If you have no specific purpose for using both First and Third Person in a novel, other than doing it to be different, you will be wiser to forget the technique and save it for a time when it will enhance your novel rather than confuse an editor as to why you have chosen to do this.


Lisa said...

I just wanted to thank you for this blog. It really helps get the wheels turning. I've studied a lot of this type of information before, but it has been a long time since I was in school. I have a completed manuscript. I use the term loosely because I know it needs a lot of cleaning up. A lot of my POV comes through in dialogue (maybe, too much) but I also have a "mystery narrator" which I'm going to have to look at again to see how that is working out. Thanks for all you do for the beginners and wanna-be writers.

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Lisa - You are so welcome. I'm pleased to know that all the effort to write these blogs are helpful to writers. No matter what stage of writing we're in, contiued learning is important. We can all use a reminder once in a while of all the techniques we have on hand for our use.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for making this clear. I've been writing using both POV's to separate characters. The third person POV is being narrated by the character who is telling the story in first POV, but it's not clarified until halfway in the novel. It felt natural to me, and it makes sense now. Thank you so much!

resume writing said...

Very interesting post! Thanks.