Weird Tenses: Writing in First AND Third person at the same time

First: The outpouring of support and love over my last day at Pub Crawl has been heart-touching. None of you owed me anything, and the fact that so many of you went out of your way to say kind words and let me know that I’ve affected your lives was incredible, humbling, cathartic, and encouraging. I didn’t fully tear up, but it was close ;-)

Now here’s a thought from my ACORAS revision:

Recently in my revisions on the sleeping beauty story I’ve run across an interesting situation I haven’t heard of anywhere else. That’s not to say that I’m the only one, but I’m pretty sure this type of scene is rare:

I  have somehow managed to create a scene that is written in both first AND third person.

Let me explain: This is a flashback scene, aided by magic so that the MC is viewing the past through the experience of another character’s body. Therefore, she is describing what is happening in the body as ‘he’ (third person), but also viewing her past self, which she refers to as ‘I’ (first person). For example:

[Character]’s blood chilled, and my hand squeezed his tight. The golden glow surrounded me in the image, and a silver circlet appeared on my forehead.

So you see, she can sense what’s happening in his body like an omniscient narrator, but also describes her reactions as she sees them through his eyes.

I love first person because it’s so much easier to describe how someone feels, and give that emotion to the readers. I’m not the greatest at third person, and having to sprinkle the third person’s emotions with the first person’s actions only is throwing me quite a curve ball.

It may not be the first time this has ever happened, but it’s definitely new to me. Have any of you read about a situation like this in other books? I’d love to see how other writers handled it.



7 thoughts on “Weird Tenses: Writing in First AND Third person at the same time

  1. Angelica says:

    See I really like writing in third person. It allows me to jump from character to character without being limited by that one viewpoint. With that said, I have written a 50k word story in first person and I really did like the whole process.

    • Savannah Foley says:

      I’ve always been told 3rd person omniscient is really hard to pull off… to the point that I once started writing a book in 3rd person omniscient and my CP said it was absolutely never okay in modern fiction :-( I maintain that done properly it can be great, I think I’ve just accepted I’m not the writer to do it :-)

  2. Tamara Walsh says:

    I’ve written in both–my first manuscript in third and my WIP in first. I don’t have a strong preference for one over the other, although–ironically–I found myself in a situation exactly like you described. My MC is looking into the past of another character, and is seeing through her eyes as her seven year old self, while experiencing/describing both her emotions in the past and his in the present. Not surprisingly, I think it came out sounding rather disjointed and will need some work. haha. I’ll have to keep my eye out for an actual book with that situation, but I’m surprised to find another writer that’s run into it. ;)

  3. Rowenna says:

    As a unique use of language, I love it! I really enjoy when books make deliberate and beautiful switches like this–I’ve found that I choose first, third, past, present, whichever depending on what fits the story, so it makes complete sense that a special situation within the story could necessitate a switch.

    • Savannah Foley says:

      It’s definitely the ‘beautiful’ part I’m struggling with. The switch is obvious to the reader because of the plot, so now I’m just really working on making sure the strange tenses aren’t awkward, but natural and flowy.

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