Tuesday 13 March 2012

I'm looking for some opinions...

The first chapter of my novel begins "On a clear spring morning an old man shuffles along a once elegant street of overgrown gardens and uneven pavements." and continues in the present tense. The rest of the book is in third person omniscient. This has always bothered me.

The reason the first chapter is like that is that when I wrote the original description of the old man (based on a man I actually saw), it seemed to be right for the event. Since then I have often thought of changing it to third person but haven't, mainly because I couldn't write a replacement I liked. However, I have now found a way of opening the chapter in the third person.

So, I am looking for any ideas, guidance, suggestions on the merits of first person versus third person narrating.




  1. Well, to state the obvious it would make a lot of sense if the old man is shuffling around in the present tense and the rest of the chapters take place in the past, ie before that moment. That is always a great way to anchor the tense.

    But if you're just shifting from one tense to another with the same sequence of events it could get a bit strange. Might be better in that case to change the tense of the first chapter like you've suggested.

    Unless you're trying to do something consistently fluctuating with the sense of time on purpose, but that would have to be planned out and executed throughout the entire story.

  2. Anonymous15/3/12 06:58

    The main thing I can think of is that first person gives you immediacy, a chance to really get into the character's brain.

    However, third person allows the reader to see/know things the main character wouldn't and to get a bigger sense of picture...

  3. I'd also add that pacing is influenced by narrator choice. Generally speaking, third person lends itself to a much faster paced story than first person.

    Also, unless more of the book is in first person, I'm not sure it would be effective to start the first chapter in first and then skip back to third.


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