Hello, I could really use a little advice on a couple big POV dilemmas I can't seem to think through on my own.

The mystery/thriller story I'm writing starts off with my Main Character at his lowest point, locked up awaiting execution, narrating in first person (past tense) the events that got him there. The act of narration is crucial for him to understand what is really going on, and for him to have the epiphany that will allow him to emerge from the climax victorious.

The end of his narration is not the end of the story, though; it's only about 3/4 in. So I'm debating how to go about writing the story after we catch up to the MC's present. I could go 1st person present tense, but I have a hard time justifying a continued narration of current events on his part. 3rd person present tense just seems odd to me. I could go 3rd person past tense, but I'm worried that might be jarring after spending the first 3/4s of the story in 1st person…

The second and more immediate problem I'm wrestling with is how to introduce a second POV throughout the story. I need another character's perspective on the events the MC is narrating because:

  1. The MC can't physically be in all the crucial scenes for plot reasons,
  2. It would be a nice contrast to the MC's perceptions, and help show that the MC is not entirely reliable,
  3. I could use this other POV character to give the readers nuggets of information that the MC doesn't know (I intend for this to be a true mystery: solvable by the attentive reader.)
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I'm thinking every other chapter or so could be dedicated to this Second Character's POV.

I could have the SC's chapters in 3rd person past tense, but the question then is: who is narrating?

  • The MC: If the MC is telling the SC’s parts of the story, I lose the SC's unique perspective because it would be filtered through the MC’s, and I also lose the opportunity to reveal to the reader things that the MC doesn't know.
  • No one: Wouldn’t it be weird to go from a chapter where a character purposefully narrates his own story to the next chapter where another character doesn’t narrate anything at all? How would I stop the reader from assuming that the MC is narrating the SC chapters? And how would I show that the SC scenes are happening not in the characters' present but in the past, close or simultaneous to when the MC is talking about?

I guess I could find a reason to justify the SC narrating his own chapters in 1st person past tense, but I worry about confusing the reader with all the “I”’s… And then I would have the same problem: will I switch to 3rd person past tense or 1st person present when we catch up to the SC’s present? Switching both POVs to different tenses/pronouns could be extra jarring, or feel repetitive…

So… How would you go about pulling this off? Am I overthinking it? Am I overlooking a simple solution that would clear all this up? I'm sure I'm far from the first person to have wrestled with this and I would really appreciate any examples of books that have multiple 1st person narrators, or a mix of 1st and 3rd person, or narrators who stop narrating before the end of the story.

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Thanks! Sorry for the long post, I hope I've laid the problem out clearly enough.

Source: reddit post


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