Books that have first and third person

The first time I saw a book that was in first person and then broke for a scene that started in third, I tripped over it and fell out of the story.  The storyteller in question didn’t make a good transition between two viewpoints, starting out in way that implied that nothing would change.  So when I hit it I also immediately decided I didn’t like it.

I’m usually open to experimentation in books, especially if it’s done well and gives me something different.  I don’t mind seeing present tense (which I just typed as pleasant tense), which many readers hate outright.  Most of the time it isn’t done well, but when it is, it rocks.

Mixing third and first?  I honestly am having a hard time seeing the purpose for it. Most of the time I’ve seen this is in mystery.  No so much in fantasy.  It seems to crop up in long-term mysteries where the books have gotten a bit tired.

The reader’s perspective

In a way, it’s a form of a betrayal of what the reader is expecting.  Particularly with a long term series, I’m reading it because first person is an important part of that story and character.  I find that it fundamentally changes the characterization.  It doesn’t seem like it should, but it takes away the power from the first person POV character that’s in a pure first person book.

The writer’s perspective 

It seems like a lazy shortcut to filling in details the first person viewpoint can’t experience.  This makes me wonder if the writer cares about the story or just cares about meeting the deadline.

What’s your take on the mixing of the viewpoints?

4 thoughts on “Books that have first and third person

  1. I actually have an easier/more enjoyable time reading dual first-person narratives than mixed first and third. Viewpoint choice is such a deep part of the story’s voice, usually mixing perspectives leaves me feeling as if the novel is a collaboration. Rather than merely moving between characters as with multiple third, or even omni, it’s a constant shift of *distance.*

    But the coolest use of viewpoint I’ve read is in Lowachee’s Warchild. The opening is written in second person present tense, and it works beautifully on many levels.


    1. I’ve enjoyed multiple first person, too. I think the authors tend to make sure the voice of the character is really different and also hangs a lantern on it to make sure we know the viewpoint is changing. On the other hand, I’ve stumbled over a 1st to 3rd person change because of poor transition.


  2. I made a conscious choice in “The Reluctant Dom” to write the last chapter in first person from a different character’s POV. The rest of the book was in third POV, from only one of the main characters’ POV. Some readers didn’t like it, but most seemed to love it. I did it specifically because I wanted a very deep, personal POV observation of the two main characters and how they’d been healing, an epilogue of sorts, set a year after the events. I wanted that “outside view” of the main characters to frame the finale. Also, that character got his own book, so it was a way to “introduce” him in a close way. Normally I only write in one tense. 1st or 3rd. (I personally cannot stand 2nd, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me, personally.) But this is one of those cases where I felt I had to break the “rule” to specifically serve the story, and overall, it worked. I know I can’t please all of the readers all of the time, but I had to make a difficult choice to follow through with what I felt was the best option for this particular story at the time, and five years after originally writing it, four years after its original publication (and subsequent re-release last year with another publisher) I still stand by that call. I don’t know if I’ll ever do that again in another book, but sometimes we have to make hard decisions when writing.


Comments are closed.