PDA

View Full Version : Ending the Story - Does 1st Person Get Jipped?


SFFWorld.com
Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum


Pages : [1] 2 3 4

TheEarCollector
May 10th, 2005, 05:35 PM
Well there are many ways to end stories, characters die, characters live happy ever after, and everything in between... But you really don't have infinite options depending on what kind of perspective you chose to tell that story from.
You can't tell a first person in the past tense if the narrator (main character) is going to die at the end. Period. You just can't (and don't say you can, just think about it for two seconds).
Telling a first person story in the present tense is a much different story because everything is happening at the moment. 'All Quiet on the Western Front,' is actually a pretty good example of this if I remember correctly. The character can't directly acknowledge his death but another point of view is used to address it.

If you are using a third person point of view there is really no problem at all, you have free range to do what you please as far as an ending is concerned.

So, does first person get the jipp, or are there other, more creative ways, to try to end a story?

Wildeblood
May 10th, 2005, 08:16 PM
You can't tell a first person in the past tense if the narrator (main character) is going to die at the end. Period. You just can't (and don't say you can, just think about it for two seconds).
Of course you can. Agatha Christie did it at least once. Don't quote me but I think it was called The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Anything else you reckon can't be done?

Expendable
May 10th, 2005, 08:42 PM
There's always Sunset Boulevard, a great film noir where the narrator is the recently deceased. William Holden, Gloria Swanson, 1950.

michaelS0620
May 10th, 2005, 10:40 PM
Another way to do it is to sort of pull a Nick Carroway. The narrator although important, isn't necessarily the most important or intriguing character to the reader.

So the main (e.g. important) character whose fate the reader is most interested incould die, while the 1st person POV character is still alive to narrate.

Michael

TheEarCollector
May 11th, 2005, 12:30 AM
Telling a story in the past tense from the point of a person who is already dead is blasphemy unless it is a story about the supernatural. Interesting idea about having a first person story focus on someone else though... Kind of strange, I think I might feel cheated but I really have no idea.

Wildeblood
May 11th, 2005, 02:32 AM
Telling a story in the past tense from the point of a person who is already dead is blasphemy unless it is a story about the supernatural.
Ain't no supernatural elements in Agatha Christie. And the villian weren't already dead. You asked about a story where the first person narrator dies at the end. Christie's villain describes the crime and investigation, takes what he knows will be a fatal dose of poison, then writes the final chapter of the story - his confession and suicide note - while he waits to die.

TheEarCollector
May 11th, 2005, 08:46 AM
Wouldn't that technically make it a first person story in the present then? The fact that he is referring to events in the past doesn't change the fact that everything is happening pre-death.

-------story---------narrator tells story (this is still part of the story)--death (you can't have the story here because... well there is nobody to tell it)

As my primitive timeline shows, the narrator is telling the story pre-death. I was referring to having a third person where you say, "And then Bob died, but everyone continued to go on their business and lived happily ever after," since you are mentioning what happens afterwards. I meant it's supernatural to have a first person past tense story end with, "And then I died, but even though I was dead my people kept fighting blah blah blah." Maybe that clears up what I am trying to say.
A narrator speaking in past tense, just like a character speaking past tense, doesn't necessarily make the story as a whole past tense

KatG
May 11th, 2005, 09:47 AM
Ear, what you're trying to get at is rather confusing, here, for me anyway.

Most, but not all fiction, is written in past tense, whether it's first person, revolving first person, first person semi-omniscient or omniscient, third person limited, third person omniscient, second person or a mixed format. Sometimes an author will mix past and present tense for effect. Occasionally, a writer will write entirely in present tense, again as a stylistic decision.

The reason most fiction is written in past tense, certainly longer fiction like novels, is that it is easier for the audience to read. But a scene presented in past tense is still experienced by the reader as if it is happening right then. First person narration creates the effect of the narrator having a conversation with the readers. Sometimes this effect is deliberately presented, with the narrator specifically addressing the audience -- "Dear Reader..." etc. Othertimes, it is just an impression of first person narration -- the narrator is not actually narrating to us but simply thinking and observing and we're along in his mind for the ride.

So essentially, past tense does not mean that all related in the story happened in the past. First person narration does not necessarily mean that the narrating character is talking to the audience about events in the past unless the author establishes this through the narrator. So you can have a first person narrator written in past tense die at the very end of the story, giving us the experience of fading consciousness, and it's fine. :) Now you may not like it if an author does it, may feel he hasn't pulled it off, but you can't really forbid him from doing it if he wants.

But what you seem to be talking about is having a first person narrating character die, not at the end of the story but at the nearly end, and then wanting to convey further information after the death event that the narrating character, being dead and no longer conscious, couldn't know. Whether the narrative was in past or present tense, you would still have this problem.

Authors have in the past used first person narrators as ghosts, able to continue the story and relate info about events after the narrator's death in first person. Or, they've used a mixed format and switched to another first person narrator (revolving first,) or to third person using other narrating characters or an omniscient narrator. But that has nothing to do with past and present tense.

Every viewpoint format has structural limitations and features it offers that other formats do not. Often the structural limitations of a format act as a plus. For instance, a lot of mystery writers like first person because then they can effectively limit what the audience knows to what the detective narrator finds and knows. With a format, you're picking what viewpoints you want to use and how you want to use them and present info to the audience for different effects. I don't see that as jipping anybody. Or am I missing what you're trying to look at?

Michael B
May 11th, 2005, 11:57 AM
You can't tell a first person in the past tense if the narrator (main character) is going to die at the end. Period. You just can't (and don't say you can, just think about it for two seconds).

There is no reason why you can not end the story in the knowledge that the narrator is going to be dead just after the end.

This is done in "I, Judas" by Taylor Caldwell and Jess Stearn. It is clear that Judas is going to hang himself just after he has said his final words.

Michael B

SubZero61992
May 11th, 2005, 03:07 PM
Well, there is one way that would be heroic.
Say they described everything as they were dying to save the world or somebody and at the end tell them you made sure 'It' died before you let go yourself.

"I knew I couldn't let go, if I did ____ and ____ would die, and I made damn sure they won't."

But in most ways, yes 1st person does get jipped.