Question about Voice


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  1. #1

    Question about Voice

    I'm working on a science fiction story that is told, at least so far, in first person, from the perspective of a single narrator. However, there are places where said narrator was not present and I want to use a second person's perspective. I have two choices here that I wanted some opinions on.


    First, the narrator can say "this other person told me about this" and change to a third person perspective. This has the benefit of maintaining a single narrator perspective but loses the internal monologue aspect of the story in those chapters.


    Or second, I can have the main narrator say "this other person wrote an account of these events" and maintain a first person perspective, just from another person's view. This has the advantage of keeping the internal monologue going but has the potential to be confusing to the reader as it switches back and forth.

    So what would you do in my shoes?

  2. #2
    In first person, there's no narrator. It's the main character's life. Period.

    There's no way to switch to another's perspective. If you don't want accept the limitations of first person, then put the whole thing in third. You can still mostly follow one character. J.K. Rowling did that in the Harry Potter books.

    But if you really want this in first person, then the reader learns only what the MC learns, and learns it the way the MC learns it.

    It might be important for you, as the author, to know what happened to that other character, so go ahead and write the scene. But it probably doesn't belong in the book.

  3. #3
    You can just change perspectives. I am deciding that changes in perspective are always some work for the reader, but they are done often, because they are often worth it. Unless it is short, having the main character introduce the change would just make your story seem like, well, a story.

    The book I was reading last night had two main characters, perspective switched at each chapter, and one character's perspective was told in first person and the other in third. Grisham's The Racketeer also does this. Switching from first person in one character to first person in another is just too common for me to have bothered to remember it.

    It's probably more natural to do first to first than doing one character in third, though few readers are going to notice. Wouldn't you choose the perspective that works best?
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  4. #4
    As mentioned above, just switch perspectives. Make it reaaaaaaally clear (via chapter titles or subtitles, among other things) which character is the viewpoint character for any given chapter, as you don't get to use their name as much in first person. Otherwise it should be fine. (It's what I'm doing on my current WiP.)
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by j.w.olson View Post
    As mentioned above, just switch perspectives. Make it reaaaaaaally clear (via chapter titles or subtitles, among other things) which character is the viewpoint character for any given chapter, as you don't get to use their name as much in first person. Otherwise it should be fine. (It's what I'm doing on my current WiP.)
    That was how I was leaning. I intend to start those chapters with some kind of inset "this person gave me an account of what happened" and then go into the account.

  6. #6
    I have a series of books [mockumentary] where the story is told from a variety of sources: Written journals, video journals, security footage, interviews years later, news clippings, and even the [archaeologist] editor. Each scene is marked with a header that identifies the source.

    This style of writing is actually very liberating to write. I can jump around to different styles, different voices, different perspectives. Also, changing the format for each character enables me to render that personality in a way that best suits each.

    Just a thought.

  7. #7
    Pick up some early James Patterson novels. Particularly those featuring his, Alex Cross character. In those books he mixes POV, any chapters with Cross in them are written in first person from Cross' POV, other chapters (and remember, chapters in Patterson's works are usually less than 1000 words) are written from a 3rd person POV.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I have a series of books [mockumentary] where the story is told from a variety of sources: Written journals, video journals, security footage, interviews years later, news clippings, and even the [archaeologist] editor. Each scene is marked with a header that identifies the source.

    This style of writing is actually very liberating to write. I can jump around to different styles, different voices, different perspectives. Also, changing the format for each character enables me to render that personality in a way that best suits each.

    Just a thought.
    The whole design of the book is a warning issued to others about a disaster so they can potentially avoid what happened. Therefore, it's laid out in first person from the view point of a single character who is telling the story. Of course, there are things that he couldn't have seen so I have to rely on others to provide those details, the question is just how to make it most effective.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cephus View Post
    The whole design of the book is a warning issued to others about a disaster so they can potentially avoid what happened. Therefore, it's laid out in first person from the view point of a single character who is telling the story. Of course, there are things that he couldn't have seen so I have to rely on others to provide those details, the question is just how to make it most effective.
    Basically you have another characters that will support your protagonist's role or basically those are the ones that your protagonist will have to refer some information from, right?

    So I think I would take the second option where the protagonist cites the other characters' journal like how you wrote it up there: "This other person wrote an account of these events..."

    The problem is that I think you will have to keep this short and effective as if the protagonist was citing an article. It can be longer if let's say there's an argument break out and the protagonist insists on using his source for more details to convince others.

    Now of course this wouldn't work if you are planning to write a chunky story between your protagonist, his source, and what and how he got the information he's going to tell.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Cephus View Post
    That was how I was leaning. I intend to start those chapters with some kind of inset "this person gave me an account of what happened" and then go into the account.
    What Emma said, "having the main character introduce the change would just make your story seem like, well, a story.". I reckon you should be able to differentiate the characters more subtly than that, they must have individual characteristics, 'Being a woman in a space suit is a different experience', okay, maybe not that different, but they should have individual ways of speaking, and you should be able to work some fact in that identifies them.
    Another possibility, 'I am giving you an account of what happened' Dave said, and then continued 'It was like this...' I don't think it quite as elegant, but at least it is worked in to a degree, the idea of an inset preceding the chapter I find really awkward.
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