Author Topic: Telling a story from First Person - only there are TWO main characters...  (Read 2001 times)

Offline mfarraday

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I am writing a story from the first person perspective. The person discovers, after a bonk on the head, that he can't identify himself anymore in mirrors. I want the reader to experience his horror first hand, so I want to write it in 1st person.

But then he starts to bother an astrophysicist - he has a strange, convoluted reason, but he believes that a scientific experiment is to blame for his problem. I want to switch and tell the story from the scientist's point of view at this point in the story.

Should I remain in the 1st person? I think I should, because the 2nd character will experience his own horror eventually...The two characters are from the same place - Midwestern Illinois - but have different educations, since one is an astrophysicist. But basically their manner of speaking will be the same.

Should I just circumvent all this, and tell it in 3rd, and make the POV switch clear when it happens? 

Offline Don

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Madeleine - Changing POV from character to character is key, whether the story is told in 1st person or third. If the transition isn't clear and the reader is pulled out of the story to backtrack and figure it out, you may lose them for good.

The condition you refer to has a name. You can read about prosopagnosia here. You may also want to read Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat as research. It prominently features this condition. Good luck with this.  -Don
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Offline Matt Walker

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As Don has said, when you change POV you must make it as clear as possible to avoid confusing readers. This usually requires a scene-break, continuing the story from the new POV. If at all possible you want to avoid jumping into another person's thoughts just for a moment before switching back to your original POV - it can be done with careful paragraphing, but often looks and feels unnatural if not done well.

As for 1st/3rd person, you really need to go with what feels the most natural. I changed from 3rd to 1st a little way in to my current WIP (and I think I may rewrite one of my earliest children's novels in 1st person present). I've seen it done in every combination. 3rd person is most usual, but I've also seen 1st person POV change to 3rd person, and two characters told both in 1st person. The latter usually involves naming each chapter by the POV character's name (Noughts & Crosses, Chaos Walking Trilogy...)
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2nd pov would be a great reflected voice of a person unsure who he is. It tends to distance automatically. So prior the accident you can have him in first, and then switch to 2nd. As for the scientist you can bring his opinion in close with 3rd if you try. It is not only his words but his actions that attach him to your reader.

If you never had experience writing in 2nd, or reading 2nd, there are some out on the internet, or examples if you googlify.

Sounds interesting, have fun. :)

Offline mfarraday

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I did read some of the Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat... back in high school, for a class. I don't think we read the entire thing, but it was fascinating. In my story, I want my character to be suffering from something called Cotard's Delusion, or Walking Corpse Syndrome, where they think they're ceased to exist, or that they've died.

I started writing this in 3rd last night, just in case I couldn't handle it in 1st - and I'm really not sure I could do this in 2nd, having never tried that before - but anyway, it seems to be going well. The problem is that I want there to be a twist at the end, a la 'Sixth Sense' but...if the guy is going to be talking to all sorts of people all the way through, I'm not sure it makes sense to have him turn up as dead, after all, at the end. Doesn't make sense at all. So I'm left back at square one. May need to throw out what I've written so far and start over...

Offline mfarraday

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I'm starting to think that, if I want to insert a twist at the end, then the only answer is to tell the story from the scientist's POV. Anything else will not work...

Offline bpalmerlee

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Switching POV without warning is not something I would recommend. Author's quite frequently have multiple points of view written into their story, you just have to be consistant with your structure; an author's honesty should never come into question.

It's fine to switch perspective, just do it as a part of an established and consistant theme.
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Allow me to reappear for a moment to answer your question: use both.

Write in first person for the first character, and then write in third person for the scientist. In this way, there will be no confusion between the PoVs. I also recommend you break each PoV into separate chapters just in case.

I must warn you. This requires a deft hand to do, but it has been done and done well. If you need an example, King did this with Christine. More recently is Barry's The Lace Reader and more than a few crime novels have their protagonists in third while the antagonist's PoV was in first.

Good luck.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2013, 10:30:41 AM by Wolfe »

Offline ed

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Some authors prefer to keep POV changes to individual chapters i. chapter 1 - dave, chapter 2 - mike

Others change POV in a chapter using a clear break. ( I do that more than individual chapters )

Offline CJBlane175

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Consider switching back and fourth between chapters in the third person rather than the first; its more natural for readers to follow