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I'm attempting to write a sci-fi novel in a dystopian future baring semblance to that within 1984. I'm using third person to describe what the protagonist sees, what he feels and what he thinks, however unbeknownst to him, he is being monitored by machines, recording the aforementioned information.

Eventually, he will upload his consciousness to an android, thus granting him access to all the information that was recorded by the machines, now the main character is the same entity as what was 'narrating' in third person.

Would the transition to first person work?

If not, what perspective should I use after this point?

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That's a great idea and the viewpoint shift would not only work well but support the story.

But to give a more general answer: When you write, trust your gut.

I believe that stories aren't constructed but conceived. They grow in your unconscious and emerge from there. As Ursula Le Guin said: A story is a found thing. Only, you find it in yourself instead of outside. Your story has a logic that derives from the internal structure of your being and reflects who you are. Your story is true to you, and you can trust it.

So whenever you find that something does not work in your writing, for example, when your beta readers agree that some part of your narrative didn't work for them, don't delete what didn't work. Make it work.

In your case, if you find or someone told you that the viewpoint switch didn't work, don't abandon that switch but try to understand why it didn't work and amend that. Because often it is not that an element of your narrative is wrong, but that you didn't yet know how to make it work.

For example, often twists appear out of the blue to the reader because the writer forgot to foreshadow it, not because there should have been no twist. Or if characters behaves in an unbelievable way, it usually doesn't mean that they should behave differently, but that the writer hasn't developed the character for the reader properly.

But making it work isn't always the solution of course. Sometimes something you wrote just feels wrong. And it's not always where you think the problem is that feels wrong.

I a recent novel I wrote I had a character that I thought I had written well and a jarring plot hole I didn't know how to fill. After some feedback and a few weeks away from the text, I realized that what felt wrong to me was the character. I had changed her from my original conception to something I thought fit the target audience better, but I no longer had a connection to that character. So I rewrote her, thinking I would then attack the problem as a second problem, but to my surprise changing the character back to my original intuition made her behave in a slightly different way and dissolved the plot hole.

Just as you should trust your gut about what is right, if your gut tells you that something in your story is wrong, trust your gut.

Use your rational mind to make your story work, but follow your intuition or instinct or gut, when you develop your story.

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My first thought was that a fundamental change of viewpoint should be at a definite time and with a defining event, but you seem to have that covered.

Things to watch would be to ensure that the narration style in early chapters was similar to the first person protagonist's character in later chapters (so the reader believes it's the same person), and making the most of the opportunity to use the change to a broader viewpoint as a factor in character development.

It's also worth looking at whether the first person narrator is the only machine intelligence (or whether there are other androids), and whether the android has previously incorporated other people with other character traits - there could be significant differences between the third person narrator and the protagonist in early parts of the story, which could lead to interesting internal conflicts when these are incorporated into the same individual.

I would go with the transition. It's an interesting idea.

  • That's reassuring, the idea of an internal power struggle would befit the story quite well. Do you think the reader may deem it confusing if I were to switch between the machine being the narrator in the first half before the android integration, to third person when speaking of other characters/generally about the environment from an omnipotent type of narration perspective? – Lutro Mar 22 '18 at 8:24
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    Does the android (first person narrator) still have a broader viewpoint after loading the early protagonist's consciousness (ie. some form of omnipotence)? If so, there's continuity. If not an explanation of what has changed could avoid confusion. I'd be careful about switching to additional third person narration in the later part of the story - it's possible, but you'd be introducing another character (the new third person narrator). – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Mar 22 '18 at 8:44
  • Further thought - if there's third person narration in the later part of the story, at least some readers will think you're about to have another transfer to an android. Those who expected that would love it if it happened, but others would probably be scratching their heads. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Mar 22 '18 at 8:48
  • Hopefully this might make things somewhat clearer, I feel as though if I disassociate the new omnipotent narrator from the machines, the audience would understand.The android would have access to all the information, computing power, hundreds of cameras of the machine so there is continuity. But, the android is still a separate entity which allows the protagonist his free will, although, the machine can, at any time take over. It's a strange concept that i'm still figuring out in regard to power struggles and which would be dominant. – Lutro Mar 22 '18 at 9:39
  • @Lutro - sounds like the android first person narrator has some form of omnipotence (remote viewing) so having them look at scenes where they're not physically present shouldn't trip up too many readers. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Mar 22 '18 at 10:04

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