Can you write a story using both third-person and first-person point of view? Will the POV cops arrest you if you do? Will you confuse your readers?
Sanhita posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Sir, I have recently written a short story christened ‘Remembered’. In this story I wrote initially in third person about a family with a missing mother, then after putting three asterisks I wrote about what actually happened to the mother in first person.
Critics say that since I was writing the fiction in third person, I should not have changed it to first person.
Is it necessary to write the whole story in either third or first person? I am now in a fix whether to change it to third person or not. Kindly help.
Also I have put the story about the mother in such a way that she, at first, tells how she left her home and why(in past tense) and then (in present tense) commits suicide. Some of the critics have commented that since she is dead she can’t be telling the story.
Kindly guide me whether and how to change the story. I would highly appreciate if you kindly spare a few minutes to read it. I will be awaiting your reply. Thanks.
Randy sez: I don’t know who your critics are, but they are wrong. There is no rule that says that all parts of a story must be written in the same POV.
Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling novel Dragonfly in Amber mixed first person and third person POV throughout the story. The reader was never confused.
And that’s what matters — you want your reader to never be confused. If you execute your story well, you can switch between first person and third person smoothly.
The second part of the question was whether a dead person can narrate a story. Sanhita’s critics say he can’t do that.
I say he can. Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel The Lovely Bones tells the story of a 14-year-old girl, Susie Salmon, who is raped and murdered in Chapter 1. The rest of the novel is narrated by Susie from heaven. Nobody is confused by this. Not one reader ever said, “Wow, that can’t happen because, you know, Susie’s dead.”
Readers are generally pretty smart. They aren’t confused by dead narrators, omniscient narrators, or for that matter, cat narrators.
This highlights an important question that all writers should constantly keep in mind: Should you take advice from just anyone?
I’ve phrased the question in a way that makes it obvious that the answer is no.
Be careful in taking advice. Not all critiquers are created equal. And some of them, even when they are giving sound advice, don’t know how to make it clear just how certain they are of being correct.
I often hear novice novelists complain about the “rules.” These “rules” are allegedly fixed in stone and nobody can violate them.
That just isn’t true. There are very few unbreakable rules in fiction writing. There are many rules of thumb. Some of them work so well and so often that you should be wary of ignoring them.
But most of these “rules” can be broken, if you know what you’re doing. You’ll know when you can break one of the “rules” after you’ve learned them so well that you can follow them without thinking.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.