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Writing Wednesday: Narrative Mode

All right, so this post is actually more about me and my preferences, rather than what makes good writing.

Lately, I’ve read a couple (2 or 3) books that use both first person and third person narratives. In the books I’ve read, it’s been first person for the heroine, but third person for everyone else. In one of them, the third person narrator wasn’t even the hero. It was literally everyone BUT the hero. His son. His mother. His best friend. I was shocked when the cat’s narrative wasn’t among them.


In the first novel I read that had this construct, I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting experiment, but… ugh.” I firmly believe it was well done for what it was, but the transitions were jarring.

To me, it’s a lot like having too many perspectives when you haven’t written an epic. It smacks of either author hubris, or an author who doesn’t have enough plot to make it all the way through, so she has to go back and add something. Or, worse, an author who falls in love with her male lead (or other characters), but doesn’t have the ability or the desire to show us why the hero is such a great guy from the heroine’s perspective. We simply must have his perspective, too. Only, not in first person.

I think I could have handled it better if I’d had multiple first person POVs. Better than having both first and third. It’s either a clever literary device, or it’s laziness. And either way, you don’t want your readers thinking about your motives while they’re reading your book. Because that means they’re not paying attention to your story.

In the next book I read with this same construct, it was even more jarring, because the third person narrator was unclear. As in, it would start with the hero alone in a room. Okay, it will be from his perspective, right? Then, a friend of his comes in, and we get some stuff from his perspective. Is it omniscient? Uh, no. It was omniscient for about three lines, but, for the most part, it was a limited third person from a minor secondary character’s point of view.

This is for purely selfish reasons, but I beg of you: DON’T DO THIS.

I’m not saying this as a writer. Both of these authors had Big Six contracts, and I’ll be honest: sure, I’m published, but I don’t have one of those. They probably got advances, and I didn’t. This isn’t about writer jealousy or sour grapes.

This is me, Meggan Connors, the reader. DON’T DO THIS.

Both books had good stories behind them, stories I really liked. Both books are Book One in a series. Both books had a huge marketing campaign behind them (okay, there may be sour grapes about that).

But what I remember the most about them? The 1st person/3rd person crap. I wanted  to like this device, because I liked the stories. I enjoyed the first person story A LOT. I did finish both books, which says something, because, given how short my time is lately, if I loathe a book, I put it down. I wasn’t always this way–I used to finish every book I started, no matter how much I loathed it. But now, I have too much to do, and too little time to do it. It’s why I’m currently having a love affair with my crockpot. Without the crock, my family would never eat.

I don’t want my readers remembering more about a craptastic literary device I used than they do about the story.

Because I’ll be honest, I didn’t buy Book Two of either series, and I don’t really want to. Not because the stories and the world building weren’t great. They were. But because every time the story transitioned, I had issues. Every time it would start out in third person, I’d think, “Oh, no, not again.”

If you want to write in third, then write in third. If you want to write in first person, then do that. But don’t do both. Make up your mind and stick with it.

I, as your reader, will thank you.