Does anyone have thoughts on a novel where some chapters (Protagonist) are in 1st person P. O. V., others in 3rd person?

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I think its an effective way to tell certain kinds of stories. I do it in my Grace deHaviland novels.

I think the first person voice gives the reader an intimacy with your main character you don't get with third person. By using third person POVs expands the type for stories you can tell. A thriller would be hard to tell strictly in first person for example because so much of the reading experience in them is the reader knowing things the protagonist can't know.

That said, there needs to be a reason to do it, and not just be a gimmick.

It sounds fine to me. Pretty much for the reasons David cites.

It can be done, and I've seen it done, but it has to be done well. Robert Crais has done it in a few of his later Elvis Cole novels, to great effect, but for a specific reason. The entire book has been first person, and Elvis is going into a potential shootout. Grais breaks away long enough to show us what Elvis is up against, ad that his backup is delayed, which builds suspense, as we now know things Elvis does not. he goes bck and forth a few times like tis, then abandons the third person once the technique has served its purpose.

The key is to use it or not, but never remind the reader he's reading. Keep the vivid and continuous dream alive.

I agree, for whatever that's worth.

I've read, I think, four of the James Lee Burke Billy Bob Holland books, and he takes this POV approach in all of them as I recall. But even in his hands, I always find it a little jarring to transition back and forth between the "I" character and others from a third person perspective. Something about it strikes me as inelegant. (But maybe it's just me.) At any rate I do seem to be aroused from the fictional dream Dana mentions by the technique.

Yes, but it usually works best when the change of voices occurs at the chapter breaks. And if each character is speaking in first person, the voices must be distinctively different and not those of the author. That's what's confusing, I believe. Voice and scene change together.

No Country for Old Men.  Read it.

Ya know I read that book and had no problem with the POV (unlike with the Burke books). I wonder if it's because McCarthy uses a more omniscient third person. On the other hand the first person sections were exceedingly short, and that may be it.

It is exceedingly well written.  You don't really notice the POV shifts, and I think they are separate chapters.

Yes, granted, the book is very well written (and I like McCarthy more than Burke, although both are head and shoulders above most of what I read in mystery/suspense).

I find it interesting that McCarthy wrote a screenplay of the story first and then converted it into a novel.

Thank you very much to everyone for the feedback. It's all extremely helpful.

I'm just finishing a 1st draft on a PI novel that takes place in Harvard Square circa 1970. At the same time I'm doing an outline for my third Dan Marlowe novel; that's where the dual POV's come in. After thinking about it and listening to the advice here, I think the split POV's is the way I'll go. There is some character development I think would work well this way. Also, I think I can have a lot of fun with it too. At this point, that's almost as important. After my standard 1st draft of 70,000 words, if it doesn't seem to be working, I don't think it will be difficult to rewrite into one POV.

Extra thanks to Joy, my writing group buddy. I'm not sure if I read that or not but I'll check it out for sure. The Road is one of a small number of novels I've read more than once.


My own opinion: decide whether your novel is 1st or 3rd person.  And stick with it.  In order to switch seamlessly, between the two and avoid confusing the reader, you have to be a very good writer.  You also have to be a very good writer to do 1st person all the way through a novel.  So, I stick to 3rd and ensure that my main protagonist has a foil to work with.  That's worked for quite a few authors in the past!


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