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halloween_john

Mixing first person tense and third person?

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Do many books do this? Would it seem very out of place if the opening and final chapters were written from a first person perspective and all the between chapters were third person?

 

(reason being the opening and ending chapters are set in the present while everything in between is set in the past and from different people’s perspectives).

 

Any thoughts?

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The first book which springs to mind that I've found this in is Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men".

 

The majority of the narrative is in the third person, but introducing each section are the musings of Sherriff Bell, the Old Man of the title, which are in the first person.

 

It works quite well as a method of giving the reader extra insight into one of the story's main characters.

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The first book which springs to mind that I've found this in is Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men".

 

Ah, that's good to know. I must confess only watching the film of No Country For Old Men, so I didn't know the book did it that way.

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Not quite on the money, but Complicity by Iain Banks does a wonderful job of alternating first and second person narratives. The second person narratives are damned creepy too, as well as making the reader more...complicit in the story.

 

Similar is Mohsin Hamid's Mothsmoke, with the mix of alternating second and third person narratives.

 

I'd say use them wisely and would make a cooking analogy: don't try and make lobster thermidor until you can cook an egg.

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Dickens also does this. Bleak House alternates between third person narration and first person through the character of Esther. It's extremely effective, taking us out of Dickens' more playful, satirical and judgemental narrative voice into the perspective of a kind and sensitive participant in the story.

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Mixing the first person and the third person pronoun and viewpoint is not such an uncommon fictional device. It's done of course every time a letter or a diary is presented by the narrator and is an essential part of characterisation. In Bleak House, though, it's alternative chapters. What is quite tricky and often ovedone is to move inside from a third to a first person narrative, when the intensity of the action increases to the point where 'he' or 'she' becmes 'I'.

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A lot of third person narratives are almost the same as first person in that they only tell the story from one person's perspective. They explain that person's feelings, understanding of situations, motivations, etc.. only explain other characters as they effect the main character and don't describe any action that takes place when the main character is not present.

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