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Death in First Person POV?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Spider, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. Spider

    Spider Sage

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    Do you think it's acceptable to write a main character's death in first person PAST tense? Sometimes when I read something written in first person past tense, I imagine the main character recounting his/her adventure to somebody. In this case, it wouldn't really work... unless the main character is a ghost.

    Not sure if I'm ever going to do this in the future, but I was just curious. Are there any books that have done this?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, there are books that do this, and do it well. I don't think there is any reason to assume a first-person narrative is necessarily a person recounting what happened to them. It's a stylistic choice.
     
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  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I agree with Steerpike but I'll add some bits for your consideration....

    Be prepared for that inevitable jarring effect on your reader. No matter how you slice it, it's going to be jarring. After all, your reader just spent how long in the head of this one character? And now the story is going to switch to another viewpoint?

    One of the best ways to handle this potential let down is to have the next character to take center stage play a major role in the story up to that point. And this next bit is key... That next POV has to be at least as interesting (if not more so) than the first.

    This isn't the only way to handle this of course, only one. Be creative & experiment.
     
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  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I agree. And I could give a great book recommendation that does exactly what you suggest here, except that the act of recommending it in the context of this discussion would be a major spoiler :)
     
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with.... Lol...never mind, I read your post wrong... Long day.
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Heh. I hear you. Looking to get out of the office soon (which I can do faster if I'm not browsing the forums!).
     
  7. Spider

    Spider Sage

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    Well now you got me curious. You must tell me what the book is. Pretty please? :)
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Heh. OK. I'll put it in spoiler tags. The book and its sequel are so good, I hate to recommend it in the context of a spoiler.

    The book is The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan. It's a great urban fantasy, and kind of at the crossroads between literature and genre fiction. A few quotes from reviews:

    "As well as being thought-provoking, it's all great fun....Duncan's writing does more than just transcend genre fiction: it creeps up on it in the dead of night, rips out its heart, then eats it." - The Guardian

    New York Times book review called the second book "a gleeful three-way between Raymond Chandler's entire oeuvre, Anne Rice's vampire novels, and Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum."

    Reviews aside, the books are well worth reading.
     
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  9. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    You know what? I was just talking with a friend about "Fallen", where in the first lines, the narrator says, "Let me tell you about the time I almost died..."

    Then, you watch the whole movie, expecting that you're in the POV of the cop. But in the end, it's the demon! And he comes back, saying, "I did say it was a tale about the time I almost died...

    SO yeah, I think it's a great concept, to play with death in first person. I don't think it would be at all jarring if you select the right narrator voice.
     
  10. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Or the opening line from Tangled: "This... is the story of how I died!"
     
  11. Gecks

    Gecks Scribe

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    In "After The First Death" by Robert Cormier, the POV switches between several main characters, though it is written in the 3rd person. It is written in the past tense. (not a fantasy book though.. it's about the terrorist hijacking of a bus full of children, told from the POV of characters from both 'sides').

    Toward the end of the book, one of the main characters dies while it is being written from her POV. If I remember correctly (I don't have the book available, and I read it about 7 years ago in school), it cuts off in the middle of one of her thoughts.

    The character (who was the bus driver, and tries to make a rescue/escape attempt and to help the children, tries very hard to be brave, and wishes or wonders if other people might consider her brave. Not an exact quote as I can't remember it exactly, but the last thing written from her POV was something along the lines of "She never got to find out if she had been br-"

    There is also a character who is already dead during the narration. He talks about having a hole in his heart (he has been shot), and he narrates in the first person. His character is also in the story still alive for a large portion of it. His first person bits are being told in the present, and happen after the story, at the time of the narration (while the story is in the past).
     
  12. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    I was thinking of Fallen too. Or there's Kick-Ass, where the narrator says "What, you thought since I was telling the story I just had to survive? Remember Sunset Boulevard, or..."

    But my most jaw-dropping moment was the time I got to hear a would-be writer say "What's the point in reading Anne Frank? You know she's going to live through it all."
     
  13. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Wow. Just wow. ._.
     
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