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While writing a first-person singular novel, is the MC all-knowing? How do we handle plots which do not include the MC, like something happening with others but not including MC? Will it be taken as granted that as the story has already happened MC knows it all.

Edit:

In my novel, the characters are playing an online game, how does my MC know what is happing in the game while she is not playing sometimes. Can my character narrate the story of what happened a game when she was not present or she was not told in the story what happened.

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TL;DR: First-person protagonists are never all-knowing, but if they're telling the story after the fact, they can know things they haven't been told yet.

First-person narratives come in two flavours: past-tense, where the narrator is recalling events that have already happened; and present-tense, where the narrator is describing events as they happen. Past tense is more common in novels, and present tense is more common in visual novels.

In a present-tense first-person narrative, the narrator cannot possibly be all-knowing. They learn things at the exact same time as the reader - or possibly even afterwards, depending on the reader's level of perception or genre-savviness.

In a past-tense first-person narrative, the narrator has the benefit of hindsight, and will know things they shouldn't know at that point in the narrative. To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, opens with Scout and Jem arguing over the exact chain of events that led to Jem breaking his arm, something that doesn't happen until the very end of the book. But the narrator's knowledge is still limited to their own experiences, and anything they may have been told after the fact, so they're still not omniscient like a third-person narrator can be.


To address the question you edited in while I was writing this:

If you're using a past-tense narrative, you can have the narrator explain what happened during their absences, under the pretence that they were told later. If you're using a present-tense narrative, and nobody ever fills the narrator in during that narrative, then they cannot possibly know what happened during their absence and you cannot have them describe it to the reader.

  • Thank you for your answer, in my case this ->>' you can have the narrator explain what happened during their absences, under the pretense that they were told later' << holds true. So I can write what happened in the video game while she was not playing it and others were pplaying it, right? – WritingNewbie Aug 3 at 15:11
  • Yep! The assumption being that the others would have filled her in on the details at some point in time. – F1Krazy Aug 3 at 15:57
  • An excellent example of the past tense first person narrator is that the narrator for "How I met your Mother" would often talk about the scenes his present character was not in and imply it was a story one of the other characters told him. Often during this moment, he would make a pronouncement of, "Now, I wasn't there, but your Uncle/Aunt [character that was in the scene] swears this really happened..." followed by an over the top outlandish thing (such as a rival school fielding a kindergarten basketball team with four NBA sized players and "a teenwolf" against the protagonist's team.) – hszmv Aug 7 at 13:32
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No not at all. The narrative is limited to what the main character knows. If something happens off page without the MC present, the MC must learn about it either on page or off page.

Say the MC's father dies and he doesn't know. Either he discovers the body, or someone tells him.

But he is not all-knowing. He is limited to what a normal person knows. The narrative is entirely 'him.'

  • In my novel, the characters are playing an online game, how does my MC know what is happing in the game while she is not playing sometimes. Can my character narrate the story of what happened a game when she was not present or she was not told in the story what happened. – WritingNewbie Aug 3 at 14:27
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You can do head-hopping point of view if you want first person narrative but need knowledge the viewpoint character doesn't have. Hemingway and Stephen King are famous for head-hopping.

Here's a related Q&A from this site: Is head-hopping always bad?

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