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  1. #1
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    another first-person present POV narration question

    OK, this thought popped into my head the other day. Can a story be told in first-person present POV, but not be limited to JUST the tellers perspective? OK, maybe that's a little confusing of a question, so I'll break it down a bit.

    One of the "tellers" of my story is going to be the college-age daughter of one of my main characters. She's going to certainly tell things from her perspective. But is it unheard of or unacceptable for her to infer things going on with other characters? For example:

    I lift the vase of the table and slam it down onto the counter. As the cracks start to form along its body, he looks at me like I am crazy. He thinks I am being foolish, and wonders if it's going to fall to pieces in my hand.

    Feel me? Lemme know what'cha think!



  2. #2
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    He thinks I am being foolish, and wonders if it's going to fall to pieces in my hand.

    This is delving into mind-reading on the part of the narrator. The limiting thing about 1st person POV is that you can't get into another character's head. Your narrator can't know the above, but she can perceive it; to do this, you'd have to tweak the lines to make this clearer, e.g. I'm sure he thinks I am being foolish and/or He probably wonders if it's going to fall to pieces in my hand.

  3. #3
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    Gotcha. So, no mold-breaking allowed, eh?

  4. #4
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    Well, you can try, but I wouldn't suggest it. I can't even stand head-hopping in THIRD person.

  5. #5
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    That's one thing I hated about The Time Traveler's Wife. All the head-hopping within chapters in first person pov. Henry, Clare, Henry, Clare. Grrrr!!!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Keith .'s Avatar
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    What Jena said. Plus, agents read submissions looking for reasons to exclude. IOW, they receive so many subs they don't have the luxury or time to look for redeeming qualities so much as to look for reasons to reject. Any hint of an in-scene POV shift will probably scream rejection.
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  7. #7
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    Makes me wonder how Niffenegger got published then. Hmm. . .

  8. #8
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    Jennifer,

    There's nothing wrong with a first-person narrator inferring interior thoughts of other characters. When we read a line such as, "He thinks I am being foolish," we know that the narrator thinks he thinks she's being foolish. The problem with your example here, I think, is in how you wrote that second half of the sentence. You can fix it like Jena suggested, making sure we know that the I character is inferring. Or you can just keep the inferences tighter to your narrrator -- "...he looks at me like I'm crazy, like I'm foolish and the vase is going to fall apart in my hand."

    I disagree that POV shifts within a scene are a no-no. You can't within a first-person scene, obviously, but this is one of the powerful bits about third person. You can move out of one character's head and into another. Agreed, you have to do it well so that the reader comes along with you. And you can't write half a book in the kind of language that allows readers to be careless with your writing, then suddenly change; you have to let them know from the beginning that the prose requires attention. But you establish that from the get-go, then keep that level of attention going and your readers will pay attention and move with you. I think this sort of no-no about POV shifts stems from certain kinds of books, the kind a reader picks up knowing the reading will be easy. If you throw in-scene POV shifts at a reader expecting an easy read, you could frustrate your reader pretty quick. So, I guess I'm saying that shifts are a lot about expectations -- the genre you're writing in and how you set up your reader to approach your writing on the first page.

  9. #9
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    Most beginning writers are told not to change the POV. That's not because doing it is wrong, it's because beginners tend to "head hop," changing POV without notice and often without realizing that they've done it. A much better rule would be, "Always know what your POV is and don't change it without a good reason," or to paraphrase an old slogan from WW II, "Is this POV shift necessary?"

  10. #10
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    And, I would add to Joe's post, that readers who are not accustomed to more sophisticated styles tend to pigeon hole these bits as rules.

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