Switching POVs = manuscript death?

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casnow
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Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by casnow » January 24th, 2010, 11:22 am

So, in a novel that I've finished (I'm going to do a major rewrite to up the stakes of it), I currently switch back and forth between 1st person POV for the main character and 3rd person limited POV for ancillary characters (50% of the book is the first person protagonist, 45% is 3rd person for other protagonist, and 5% is 3rd person for the villain, who really doesn't appear without the two protagonists until near the very end.

I've not seen many books that alternate between first person and third person, and was wondering if this would be a deal breaker in the eyes of agents and editors? Do people prefer to stick with either first or third person?

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taylormillgirl
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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by taylormillgirl » January 24th, 2010, 11:36 am

Diana Gabaldon does this. Claire Fraser's scenes are written in first person, and everyone else is third person. It doesn't bother me at all, but I don't know if it would make an agent or editor squeamish. I hate that there are so many little "rules" to avoid manuscript death (I like your term, by the way).
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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by poptart » January 24th, 2010, 11:41 am

Depends on whether you can make it work. Write it well enough and no one will notice!
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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by tameson » January 24th, 2010, 11:54 am

The first three books in the Otori series do that. When my husband and I were discussing third vs first person, he didn't even realize it had both. He was too engaged in the story. The last of the Otori books, though, are in 3rd person with lots of viewpoints and it drives me nuts. I thought the author told the story from the wrong viewpoint character and had too many perspectives to work well.

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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by beacon22 » January 24th, 2010, 12:48 pm

I agree...you can make it work if you do it well. A rule that I follow with multiple POVs or characters is to make sure everyone of them is interesting in their own way. I've read books where multiple characters narrate and I find one (or more) of the story lines not interesting. I've sped through things, so I can get back to a character I like. I think that's an important thing to remember...each character (regardless of POV) needs to make your reader want to come back to them and stay to hear their side of the story. Good luck!
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casnow
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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by casnow » January 24th, 2010, 3:35 pm

A little background on this novel. I wrote it, sent out some queries, got requests for partials and got a lot of "just not rights", but nothing really critical on why it wasn't right. Then I printed it out and read it hardcopy for the first time, and aside from a few typos here and there, I realized that the story was missing something - tension. The stakes were too low for the characters, so I've decided on a rewrite (a very major rewrite... I think if you read the v2.0 manuscript you wouldn't even recognize it except for being the same broad plot).

But the thing I haven't been able to decide on, since there are two protagonists, is whether or not to treat them both in third person or stick with my first person POV for my favorite character and the third person POV or switch both to third person. Doing the latter would be pretty easy, but trying to go with first person only would be impossible given the intertwined plot lines (well, not impossible, just very difficult and different).

Anyhow, I'll see if I can check out one of the books you guys mentioned to see how others have treated this.

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Holly
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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by Holly » January 24th, 2010, 6:26 pm

casnow wrote:So, in a novel that I've finished (I'm going to do a major rewrite to up the stakes of it), I currently switch back and forth between 1st person POV for the main character and 3rd person limited POV for ancillary characters (50% of the book is the first person protagonist, 45% is 3rd person for other protagonist, and 5% is 3rd person for the villain, who really doesn't appear without the two protagonists until near the very end.

I've not seen many books that alternate between first person and third person, and was wondering if this would be a deal breaker in the eyes of agents and editors? Do people prefer to stick with either first or third person?
Stephen King swung back and forth between lst and 3rd person in CHRISTINE.

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JustineDell
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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by JustineDell » January 24th, 2010, 8:46 pm

I don't think I have ever read book written in both 1st and 3rd person. I don't know if I personally would like it. When I read a story, I don't mind POV changes (head-hopping) in third person narrative, but I've read that significant POV changes in certain genres is a no-no. Several best selling authors do this, but I like to think they have earned the right to excessively head-hop. One thing is certain, POV changes need to be done for a reason, not just because you want to hop all over the place. A change in perspective during an important scene, a different scene all together, etc. From podcast and editoral interviews I have read, it's a standard message for new authors; "be careful with POV changes". Personally, I think they can be an important part of the story when done correctly, but not over the top. I have problem correlating between the two, so I best of luck to you.

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Jaime
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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by Jaime » January 26th, 2010, 7:23 am

taylormillgirl wrote:Diana Gabaldon does this. Claire Fraser's scenes are written in first person, and everyone else is third person. It doesn't bother me at all, but I don't know if it would make an agent or editor squeamish. I hate that there are so many little "rules" to avoid manuscript death (I like your term, by the way).
Oh man! Taylormillgirl, you totally beat me to it!

Gabaldon's first book in the series didn't do this. She started in the second book, and it didn't throw me at all. In fact, I appreciated it. Because of the circumstances, we would have had no idea what was happening to Jamie Fraser if Diana hadn't gone into third person.

Personally, I have written my manuscript from two points of view, and my readers have followed it really well. I would love to add a third person perspective for one of my minor characters in my sequel, but I'm not sure if I can pull it off yet.

As others have said, if it's well written and easy to follow - and if it will boost your story - then I'd go right ahead. It's your manuscript! :)

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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by linguista » January 27th, 2010, 1:35 am

I think first and third can work together. After all, isn't that how life is?

I don't think you should try to do 2 "firsts" though. I've read a couple books like that, and it was difficult to adjust my brain from I= Character 1 to I= Character 2. I think the first person could lead the audience to cling to that character more than the others. If that's what you want, then great. If it isn't maybe you should consider 3rd all around.

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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by Anavaz » January 29th, 2010, 11:40 am

I've read many books that are in 1st & 3rd POV and personally I prefer them to just 1st POV. As a reader I get bored if there's only one POV. It has to be a very good plot for it to keep my attention. But that's just me.

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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by FawnNeun » February 6th, 2010, 10:57 pm

I see this done all the time. Just don't do it in the middle of a scene. :)

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Re: Switching POVs = manuscript death?

Post by vacuumqueen » February 8th, 2010, 4:21 pm

I did that with my first draft of my MG ms. I decided that it was too much for 9-12 year olds to follow. I think it actually worked, but I went back and moved it all into 1st person. Wasn't an easy task. I'm still working on it, since there's a lot of revising going on too. I think it will be better now. More age appropriate. Tough decision though...makes a completely different book. You still have to get it read via query before you can impress an agent, so just make it good now and then spend just as much time on the query.

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