6

My current work is in first person. Well, it's a début so I didn't compare the benefits of first vs. third when I started writing it. I just picked the first because it was easy.

Now the plot line has become layered, and there's multiple storylines running along and there were a lot of scenes which absolutely demanded a switch in pov. That's when I started cussing. I couldn't switch the pov so I hacked my way around those. I think the tweaks came along just fine. And now I'm working on the climax and I don't want to go back and change everything from first to third.

But there's just this one scene which cannot be shown from the protagonist's pov. Just stretching a limb out. I'm planning to put it in the epilogue. It has to be in third person. can I do that? Can I write just that in third person while the rest of the script remains in first person? How about I keep the prologue and epilogue both in third person (just to even out things) and the rest remains in first person? Doable?

  • 2
    I would say it's even fine to change POV in the middle of your story, as long as it's a very deliberate choice and the switch adds to the artistic merit of your work. The Kite Runner has a great example of this. The book is in first person throughout, but at one point, the main character talks to someone important, and the POV changes from the main character to this supporting character. This effect is powerful because it makes the experiences the supporting character shares much more salient. – Kevin Jun 18 '15 at 18:04
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    The Kingkiller Chronicle does this very thing, and does it well in my opinion. The framing narrative is told in third person and switches its focus between a few characters, but the main narrative is told from the protagonist's POV. – Sam Skuce Jun 18 '15 at 21:12
  • Usually, it is the other way around but I don't see a problem with it if you can pull it off. – ShadoCat Mar 26 at 0:54
8

Sounds fine to me. The prologue and epilogue are literally before and after the story, so it's fine for them to be formatted differently or have a different POV.

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    More so, I'm sure I've seen that plenty of times in say, movies, books, comics, everywhere. Someone narrates something, then the story moves into first person. In fact, any story with a narrator probably fits this category, unless the narrator is the character, which seems less common from what I've read/seen. – phyrfox Jun 18 '15 at 21:25
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    Yes, the framing device of a narrator who only bookends the work, rather than giving running commentary. – Bradd Szonye Jun 18 '15 at 21:30
5

In a sense, this is the whole point to an epilogue --if it had the same feel as the main narrative, it would just be the last chapter. Epilogues exist solely to solve the problem of authors wanting to tell the readers things that don't --for whatever reason --fit into the main framework of the novel (and the same is true for prologues).

That doesn't necessarily mean it's always a good idea. The beloved classic The Secret Garden has an epilogue so universally hated that it's actually omitted in most modern editions of the book.

NOTE: According to the comments below, it's possible that the "epilogue" I remember might actually have been a late addition by another author.

  • I guess I must have a modern edition, since I don't remember any epilogue. What happens? – supercat Jun 18 '15 at 23:10
  • @supercat - It's horrible really, Mary and Colin get married and Dickon dies in the war. I think I ended up tearing the last page out of the edition I had that included it. – Chris Sunami Jun 19 '15 at 1:30
  • The Wiki page mentions nothing of the epilogue being in the novel; a google search yields a forum post indicating that a movie adaptation included an epilogue, but there's no indication the novel did so. Since the text is in the public domain, however, a publisher wishing for some reason to include such an epilogue would need not need Mrs. Burnett's permission to do so. – supercat Jun 19 '15 at 15:14
  • @supercat - I'd prefer to believe Ms. Burnett didn't write it, it didn't fit with the rest of the book at all. It doesn't make sense to me, however, that a publisher would just append their own addition to a well-known work. I suppose it could have been a special edition to tie in with the '87 movie, which appears to be the one that includes that ending, but I'm relatively sure my edition of the book was older than that. – Chris Sunami Jun 19 '15 at 15:31
  • Someone who takes a public domain work and adds something to it can then claim copyright on the modified work, though doing so would not affect the public domain status of the original work. If you have the book, I'd be curious what the copyright page has to say. The work lapsed into the public domain in 1987 (presumably January 1); the Hallmark movie was shown in November of that year. I don't know the writing/production schedule, but it would be at least theoretically possible that a publisher did a "movie edition", or that the screenwriters... – supercat Jun 19 '15 at 15:40
3

I think everything is doable, if the reader gets the feeling it is fitting. I see no problem in the approach to have the book in first person and switch to third for the finale.

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