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I am writing a story in the 3rd person and i would like to switch the narrator for one of the main characters half way through so that the reader can read how he perceives the story. does anybody have any suggestions on how this can be done without confusing the reader (about who the narrator is)?

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Stephen King did it in Christine. See what he did and learn from that. –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 6 '11 at 11:16
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To see this done well, I suggest reading Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction, which starts with an omniscient narrator who at a point in the book actually becomes the first-person narrator, actually made flesh as a character in the book. It is a kind of god-the-father/god-the-son parallel, and very funny in context. A great use of voice and POV shift. –  Robusto Jun 6 '11 at 14:18
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Some options to consider:

  • As Shan suggests, try linking the previous chapter/segment that's written in the third person to the one that's in the first person.
  • If switching to the first person is something you want to do regularly, establish a switch in viewpoint early on, so that the reader knows that you plan on doing this switch on occasion. By establishing this convention early, it makes it much easier for the reader to follow the story, especially if the first person narration is always from one particular character.
  • If you are only going to switch narration to first person this once (and then switch back to third person), then I would say you should question whether or not it's actually necessary to use this switch. Changes in narration should have fairly strong justifications for doing so, so you should ask what you achieve from the switch, and whether or not you could achieve the same from the style you've been using. If you're doing third-person semi-omniscient narration, then there is no reason why you cannot show how that character perceives the story by sticking with that narration style, rather than switching to first person.

Update:

  • Another option you could try is to use some trait/feature of the character to immediately indicate who is speaking in the first person. For example, maybe you showed that the character has a wooden leg, and so you could open the first-person narration with the character saying something like, "My wooden leg was chafing horribly." Or maybe he suffers from hay-fever, so you could have him moaning about that ... use anything that is unique to that particular character that the reader should already know.
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I'm not quite sure why you think a switch is necessary. Or exactly what kind of switch you're proposing. The title of your question mentions switching from 3rd to 1st, but then the text of your question is more about POV characters, and you can have different POV characters without switching from third to first.

Given that you're mentioning a narrator as if there's an independent voice, I assume that most of the story is written in omniscient third? It's quite possible to 'zoom in' from omniscient to close third (see the Harry Potter stories for an example of someone doing this quite effectively), and you can zoom in to different characters at different times. If you want to make it clear that you're zooming in on someone new, I think the best way to do that is to zoom back out for a little omniscient narration, and then zoom in on your new target.

A VERY rough example:

Jane carefully returned the goblet to the table. There was obviously more going on here than she was aware of, and she didn't want to take any chances until she had it all figured out. [close third POV, zoomed on Jane]

She wasn't the only one looking for more information, although her intentions were certainly more innocent than those of others. While Jane was handling antiques and old ladies, her nemesis was still dealing with Banshees and Necromancers. [omniscient third - and also, total drivel!]

"Get the corpses into the boxes, now!" Dorfman was not a patient man, and one more iteration of the idea that the dead were in no hurry was going to be enough to make him start adding new corpses to the waiting pile. [close third POV, zoomed on Dorfman]

This example is a bit heavy-handed (the modern equivalent of 'meanwhile, back at the ranch'), but hopefully it gives you the idea, and as I said, you can find more subtle examples in Harry Potter and elsewhere.

Is this what you're asking, though? It's a way to switch POV characters, but it doesn't switch to first person. I just don't think it's generally necessary to make that sort of change...

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I assume you want to move from 3rd to 1st person. Is this correct?

You could have an incident in the 3rd person, like the hero goes to a bank to check his balance and later meet his girlfriend Suzy. Briefly have the hero making plans about this in the 3rd person:

"He was thinking of going to the bank, so he could withdraw some money to take his girlfriend out to that fancy 5 star hotel."

Then you could switch to 1st person in the next chapter:

"I walked into the bank. It wasnt too busy, which was great, as it meant I could spend more time with Suzy later"

This way the reader will know you are talking about the same character, you have just moved from 3rd to 1st person.

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