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So I'm currently writing a story and I have two questions about it.

Is it possible to emotionally connect with your audience when your writing in third person point of view?

Secondly, I want to write the main character's (an eight-year-old girl) point of view in 1st person but I want to write her mother and other important characters in third person. Does that work?

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  • When reading books written in third person, did you feel emotionally connected? (I mean, in general the answer is yes, but it might just not be the style for you). – DM_with_secrets Dec 14 '20 at 7:01
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I do a combined POV sometimes, as I write alot of superhero novels and much of my inspiration comes from comic books, which have a first and third person narative structure.

In comics, the first persons are denoted by text boxes for the characters internal monolog and reactions while the dialog and action are third person objective and are limited to the art and dialog balloons in the panels.

To get this in a novel format, I normally do a third person objective as my main narrative voice with a first person monolog of the main character rendered by italicized first person narration, allowing the character to discuss what's in their head with the reader.

The one limitation with this format is that you must have a consistent single first person throughout the book such that if they are not in the scene they should not be given narrative cause. Comics do not have this limitation as they can use color coded text boxes to denote multiple internal narratives. For example, in the line "Superman/Batman" the titular characters team up and the dialog box narratives will often be used to show their different views on the same events. Superman's boxes are usually colored Bright, Sunny yellow while Batman's are a dark grey-blue. You can get away with your first person narrator giving comment if they are thinking about something else that is related to actions going on. I like to use this when my hero is having thoughts that are being directly contrasted by the scene in question to highlight the differences and similarities or to show the point of earlier musings in a new light.

If this doesn't work, first person with multiple narrators can be done (See the various Animorphs books and how they used first person to great effect) but if you change POV in a book, you need to only do this at each chapter break.

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  • Thank you for the advice. – Future Writer Dec 14 '20 at 20:54
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1. Connect emotionally with 3rd person

It is possible to connect emotionally with your reader using third person POV.

But it is harder for a beginning author because it's harder to stay in deep-POV. That is, writing the text as if the reader experienced it, not as if the reader was watching the character experiencing it.

Compare:

He wondered where the birds had gone.

To:

Where did the birds go?

The second sentence comes more naturally in first person but may be needed in third to keep us from seeing "him" "wondering" from the outside (more distance and more risk of less emotional impact)...

2. Mixing 1st and 3rd person

Mixing first and third person can be done, but again, it's harder.

For instance, it could be confusing as to who the POV-person is. Even if the chapter heading contains the person's name (like A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance).

That said, I'd strongly recommend against a scene where the styles are mixed, but separate scenes or even chapters would be less confusing.

On the other hand, one of the complications with first person is that only the "first person" can see anything happening. So a mix with first and third could help with that.

As long as your narrative voices are distinguishable from each other...

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    Thank you for the advice. – Future Writer Dec 14 '20 at 20:54
  • Interestingly, I just came across this article. It also lists some examples in the end. Specifically mixing third and first-person (by Atwood), so check it out: janefriedman.com/… – Erk Dec 15 '20 at 5:57
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For your first question:

Yes, your audience can emotionally connect with your characters in third-person POV. It just depends on how you write. If you are a good writer who knows how to write good characters - you should be fine.

However, you do need to watch out for passive third-person POV. Passive third-person is more of a past tense, which is less engaging than a deeper sense of third-person.

Like Erk's example comparing:

He wondered where the birds had gone.

With:

Where did the birds go?

Like the second example, you want to include lots of character thought to help provide a more concrete perspective of what your character is actually thinking and their opinions- to help the reader understand and eventually develop 'emotional bonds' with your character.

Doing the above and having strong, well-developed characters, will help your reader care about your characters.

For your second question:

It is a possible choice to have a perspective in 1st and a separate perspective in 3rd, but it is not your best option.

If you have 1st and 3rd perspectives 'switching off' it may get confusing, and your reader will end up lost and will jumble up characters. You could still do this, but just work hard to clarify things so it is 100% clear who the character is in the chapter and what perspective they are in.

A better option would be to have them both be in 1st or 3rd. Or, you could only have one perspective.

Your choice.

Good luck with your writing!

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  • Thank you for the advice. – Future Writer Dec 14 '20 at 20:54
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The way to put your reader inside a character's 3rd person POV is to slant your descriptions. Don't describe anything in a neutral way, describe it in a way that matches the POV character's personality, perceptions and mood. For example, don't say "the forest was dark," say "the forest was threatening," because that's how the character feels. Don't say "Jane didn't like Miss Gertrude," say "Miss Gertrude was an evil witch," because that's how Jane sees it. In this way, you can be inside Jane's head, even in third person.

As far as changing POV, different readers have different tastes. Generally it's safe to have multiple third-person POV characters. While it's not unheard of to have multiple first-person POV characters, many readers, such as myself, dislike that, because it ruins immersion and suspension of disbelief. It's also hard to do well. Combining a single first-person POV with multiple third-person POV is a bit in-between the two. I'm not a huge fan of it, but I think it's much less objectionable than multiple first-person POV.

It's also worth noting that you can switch back and forth between close third-person (where you are closely tied to a single character's internal perspective) and omniscient (where you have a more neutral, objective, distanced point of view on multiple characters).

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