[Not a native english speaker]

I am currently writing a novel, told from the 3rd-person POV, with several characters being followed in different scenes.

Will the following confuse the readers?

Scene 11: POV-Character Joe, in the scene, the reader can see/hear/smell etc. everything that Joe does. But to his thoughts and emotions, they are only made visible via face/body/talk reactions.


Joe entered the bank. In the middle of the foyer, behind a huge desk, the receptionist waited. Joe could see her eyes scanning him, while he walked towards the desk. "Joe Smith?" A Voice from behind. Joe flinched, his right Eyebrow started twitching. He just stood there, and did not turn around.

Scene 32: POV-Character Joe, in this scene, the readers experiences everything Joe does, including his inner thoughts/reactions.


Joe entered the bank. The foyer reminded him of the entry hall of the Conneticut Corretion Facility, and the huge desk right in the middle of it brought unwelcome memories of a courtroom.
The eyes of the receptionist seemed to scan his whole body. Joe forced himself to keep walking. He wondered if these staring eyes could read his mind.
"Joe Smith?" A Voice from behind.
Joe flinched. His felt the twitch of his right eyebrow again. Had they caught up to him? What had given him away? There was no way he could run from this.

EDIT: THE SCENES IN MY BOOK ARE NOT THE SAME, they are only the same here for emphasis on point-of-view-intimacy. The second type occurs generally later in the story.

I am doing it to withhold information or to create a mysterious air about the character.

Could this use of perspective lead to problems in your opinion?

  • If Joe is the PoV character in the scene and the reader knows his experiences (senses etc) but only guesses at his thoughts due to the observation of another - who is this other?
    – Rasdashan
    Apr 20, 2019 at 3:43
  • He is the pov character, and I describe his outer appearance and actions (he himself does not fully experience). The other would be the (invisible) narrator, I guess. I sense that this might be the core of the problem :)
    – user13402
    Apr 20, 2019 at 10:56
  • I will add examples to clarify.
    – user13402
    Apr 20, 2019 at 10:56
  • Why not weld them together for a suggestive paragraph at the start? Give the reader less information than paragraph 2 but more information than paragraph 1, leaving the reason for joe’s flinch and refusal to turn around an obscure mystery? wouldn’t this withhold information and create an air of mystery, if that’s what you’re going for
    – Hisham
    Apr 20, 2019 at 18:24

2 Answers 2


No, this will, probably, not confuse the reader.

Sometimes a narrator can be unreliable. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. A narrator may know everything about the scene, including the POV characters thoughts, but he doesn't need to divulge everything. This technique would be a good way to keep your character mysterious until the narrator decides reveal his motivation and intentions.

It might become more confusing if you are switching back and forth between the two methods, or using it with several different characters. But, if you keep it subtle, it should work.


To answer your question directly, possibly yes.

If I understand correctly, you have the same scene occurring at two different times during the story, with a change in how much we're told in the scene?

To me, it could make sense to show the same scene twice, and the second time reveal something that was before unknown. I believe this is done often in storytelling, especially when the author seeks to create a feeling of mystery.


However, when following the same POV-character both times, I would perhaps feel somewhat 'cheated', when I didn't get the full insight the first time.


Now, I do not know your story, so I will suggest multiple ways you could go about this, which would make ME feel less "cheated"...

The following suggestions involve the use of another character and their perception of the scene.

1: Include another character whose POV we follow, and show the first occurrence of the scene from that POV-character's perspective.

This only makes sense, if you have multiple POV-characters in your story. If you haven't, you could consider implementing it. If you are already certain that you will not have such, the second suggestion could be better.

2: Let us hear about the scene, from another character's perspective through, for instance, dialogue.

In order for this to make sense, the character witnessing the scene has to interact with another POV-character, OR at least someone who interacts with the POV-character Joe in some way.

In either case, it then makes sense that we do not know the thoughts of the POV-character Joe the first time we come across the scene.

Bonus-suggestion: If these other-characters-present-suggestions do not make sense in your story, you could have the POV-character Joe think back on the scene when talking to someone, and then later show the scene in a flashback-line manner, which you seem to be doing in your second example.

If this is to work with the feel of mystery, it would make sense that Joe is talking to someone that he doesn't trust well enough to share the full truth about the scene with. If you can't make the 'lack of trust' work in your story, perhaps 'wanting to protect someone' would make sense instead, which is often why people do not share the full truth with people they otherwise trust.

  • Sorry, that was a misunderstanding. The later scene has NOT the same contenct as the first, I just chose the same scene for emphasis on differences
    – user13402
    Apr 21, 2019 at 20:44
  • Well, I guess my answer doesn't make sense here then. Oh well - Here's to hoping someone finds it of use at some point anyway (:
    – storbror
    Apr 23, 2019 at 21:12

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