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A bad POV mix?

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I'm thinking about the narrative structure of a new novel, either MG or tween.

Each chapter would be from the point of view of one of the five characters.

I would like to use first person for the main character, and close third person for the four others. This would let me tell the story with the shifting authorial distance I want. Things happen that the main, first person narrator doesn't know about and can't narrate. But for various reasons, I don't want to use first person for the other character-narrators.

But it seems to be a pitfall-prone setup. I can't think of any novels, children's or otherwise, that have such a structure. Can anyone suggest examples--or aren't there any?

I hope everyone's writing is going well.



#1 - February 28, 2014, 11:20 AM, children's creativity blog currently in development.

The only one that I can think of is like that is later books in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (it's adult). The first book is entirely in first person, but the second contains bits in close third of other characters. That trend continues throughout the rest of the series. I've seen in done in some YA too, but it's usually a only prologue or interlude that is from the POV of a character who isn't the MC.

If you're not sure, I'd try writing the main character in both first and third and see if there's a great difference or one you like better than the other. But I'd probably stick with third close for all of them unless the story absolutely has to have the first person narrator and doesn't work otherwise.
#2 - February 28, 2014, 12:24 PM

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Can you do it? It depends on how good a grasp you have on point of view. I think the more important concern is whether or not it would distance a young reader from the story, and from the main character. What you're proposing sounds confusing to me and if you confuse your readers, well you know what happens then. On the other hand, maybe you can pull it off just fine. You probably won't know unless you write a rough draft and see what you think. :grin3
#3 - February 28, 2014, 12:26 PM
A Smidgen of Sky (Harcourt 2012)
A Sliver of Sun (book #2)
 A Million Ways Home (Scholastic 2014)
Just Left of Lucky (2018)

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I love books that stand out because they are DIFFERENT in their storytelling -- like the way you propose -- BUT, the caveat of course is that it must be done well (like any writing!) and fit the story you want to tell. So I agree with Dianna -- try it!
#4 - February 28, 2014, 01:27 PM
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Zel by Donna Jo Napoli has 2 1st person POVs and 1 3rd person. I was jarred by it in the beginning, but it also gave the necessary distance she wanted, I believe. Do what the story demands.

#5 - February 28, 2014, 01:35 PM
Max & Dagny, Why in the World, Tongue-Tied, Bound, Ten Easter Eggs & 100+ bks/mags

I think the Maximum Ride series is like this--Max is 1st, the other characters are 3rd. I also had one secondary 3rd person POV in Magic Under Stone, which was largely a 1st person book. I think as long as you have a structure that makes sense it's fine!
#6 - February 28, 2014, 01:54 PM
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Have you read WONDER? Amazing MG, many POVs.

If you think this is the best approach to your story, go for it. You can evaluate how it's working in revision.
#7 - February 28, 2014, 02:17 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet

IF A TREE FALLS AT LUNCH PERIOD (Cholendko) has a first person and a third person narrator. Personally, it made me feel distanced from the 3rd person narrator, but I think that was part of the effect she was going for.

Normally, I find multiple POV distracting, but I think it worked well in WONDER. You might want to check out Sara Zarr, even though she's YA. She does multiple POV well, although I think she sticks to 1st person, dual narrators.
#8 - February 28, 2014, 08:05 PM

Thanks, everyone. These are good points to ponder.

I probably do need to just try out the setup and see how my critique partners react to it.

Best, Gatz
#9 - February 28, 2014, 10:03 PM, children's creativity blog currently in development.


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