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So I'm momentarily writing a fictional story for a class I'm taking, and I've run into a problem. I have one main character, but there is a scene where that character passes out. Is it possible to switch to a supporting character's point of view?

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  • This is not a duplicate. The other question is about a novel, this question is about a short story. Novels and short stories follow different rules and conventions and what works in one doesn't necessarily work in the other.
    – Ben
    Nov 28, 2023 at 6:55
  • Really? This is a duplicate of a duplicate, rather than a duplicate of the original that the previous duplicate was a duplicate of? Was the previous duplicate really a duplicate, then?
    – Divizna
    Nov 28, 2023 at 22:29

3 Answers 3

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There are a few ways you can narrate what happens when your POV character passes out:

  1. Narrate the whole story in third person perspective.
    a. Narrate the whole story in third person omniscient.
    b. Switch from third person limited to third person omniscient.
  2. Narrate the whole story, including the unconscious moment, in first person perspective.
    a. Narrate the whole story in first person omniscient.
    b. Narrate the whole story as past events (i.e. the narrator has later learned what happened).
    c. Switch from first person limited to first person omniscient. ("People where hovering over me while I was lying there, unaware.")
  3. Switch to another POV once.
    a. Switch to another character's POV.
    b. Switch to a third person non-character POV.
  4. Narrate the whole story from multiple POVs.
  5. Skip the unconsciousness and let the POV character learn what happened after they woke up.
    a. Other characters explain what happened when he or she wakes up.
    b. The POV character infers what happened from clues (and might make wrong assumptions).

I am sure there are more options.

I can imagine a use case for each of these options. For example, switching to another character's POV, you could reveal that what the protagonist had until then told the readers was in some way wrong, e.g. a lie or self-delusional.

The questions you have to ask yourself to know which option is the best for your story is:

  • In what way is how you present what happens while your POV charcter is unconscious important for your story?
  • How do the different options change the narrative?
  • What do they mean?
  • Which options follow more naturally from the internal story logic, which feel wrong to you?

Recommendations

I would only switch to another POV if a short summary by another character to the protagonist of what happened (e.g. "You passed out and we took you to the hospital.") isn't sufficient for your narrative.

If you need to narrate the events while the protagonist is unconscious with more detail than a brief summary can provide, only switch of another character's POV if that POV serves a specific purpose that a third person narration cannot fullfil, e.g. revealing something that is visible only from the perspective of that person like their emotions or knowledge.

Otherwise switch to a third person perspective. Third person is the most common, normal and neutral narrative perspective and therefore the least obtrusive. There are many famous published examples where the narration switches between first limited and third omniscient narration, among them Bleak House by Charles Dickens and Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

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Unless your plan is to consistenly have this new POV alternate between your original one from the halway point of the story, or from the very beginning, I wouldn't suggest it. If there's suddenly a new POV that readers get excited about and then you never use the character's POV again, it'll throw readers off.

Instead, could you possibly have a character tell the main character about what happened after he woke up? Or have the main character find out about what happened later, even if it's not through dialogue?

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Why yes, of course it's possible.

It is also perfectly allowed by the laws of all countries and tenets of all religions I can think of.

Really, there's no rule about how you have to or mustn't write your story.

Whether it's a good idea for that specific story, though, is something I can't tell. It may be, or it might not.

You may want to peek at this question (it does say "novel", but what's discussed there applies to all fiction) and give a thought to the points that Standback raises in their detailed answer. It could help you to figure out for yourself.

If you have the option, you may also want a beta-reader to have a look at your work and tell you what they think.

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