I'm writing a story told mostly in first person point of view in present tense where the narrator alternates between two characters from chapter to chapter.

I have gotten some critics about this point of view, that it seems "wrong", which I sort of understand where it comes from, since it is a very limited point of view, but I think it is nice since I can fully show the discrepancies in the characters limited view of the world, and that is the main focus for instance.

However, I'm planning to have a third person omniscient point of view for describing important events in the future.

While I was thinking about doing it in present tense, the critics about present tense made me think it might be better to write it in past tense instead.

I do see people saying that keeping a consistent tense is better, though, but it is at the same time true that past tense should be better for the storytelling in this point of view.

Shall I keep the present tense in this point of view for the consistence (since it happens in the same timeline)? Or is it okay to switch to past tense? (is it risky if not done correctly? Or it just doesn't matter since the pov switches as well?)

  • Are you talking about third person limited? In first person, the PoV character is the narrator.
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


I don't think the problem is a "limited point of view", many good stories are told in first person; and many stories are told in third with a limited narrator: They only know the thoughts and feelings of a single character.

I think the problem is that first person makes the reader feel like they are THAT character, and switching "personalities" every chapter is alienating. One chapter I'm a shy guy, the next chapter I'm a womanizer? It feels schizophrenic, like a multiple personality disorder.

I don't think I would like it either, it sounds too disorienting. Then stack that with switching tenses whenever you feel like it -- That is also disorienting. I think it would be too confusing to follow, and I'd put it down. Books should be easy to read, when your technique gets in the way of the story, the technique detracts from the story.

I suggest you provide a narrator, NOT one of the characters, with limited omniscience; i.e. they can't see the future but do know the thoughts and feelings of everyone. Perhaps you could alternate chapters focusing on one character at a time. Tell most of the story in the immediate past tense; like everybody else; it feels like it is happening now.

If the narrator needs to give a history lesson (told in past tense), they can do that in exposition.

  • I didn't ask if you would like the story or not, though, and your answer is completely off topic
    – user37470
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 21:48
  • @user37470 I am agreeing with your critics; and answering your question, which is basically will it be accepted. No. I don't think it will. Although every rule of writing good stories might be successfully broken by some genius writer, if your own friends don't think you've been successful breaking this rule, then you haven't been successful. Maintaining reader reverie is crucial to readers enjoying the story, and what you want to do is disorienting and breaks it, so no, switching tense and POV is not okay.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 10:20

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.