Fight Scene Point of View

I’m currently reading The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons, and I’m getting closer to the end.  This book has been taking me a long time to read.  It’s a dense book.  In this book, as with Endymion, the title character is the narrator.  In scenes involving him, it’s in first person point of view, while it’s in third person when it doesn’t involve him.  However, there are some scenes that take present tense, which is explained by Raul Endymion in the book as he directly addresses the reader.  It’s a rather interesting style of writing, which I’ll touch upon when I write the review.

Now, I read a fight scene in the book tonight, and I was blown away with how intense it was.  First person point of view in present tense gives it an incredible sense of being there.  I’ve previously read a novella which used this same POV and tense, but it didn’t work for me.  However, in The Rise of Endymion, it’s working remarkably well.  I just loved the fight scene.  I felt drawn into the battle, like I was a part of Raul Endymion.  I became him.  How did Simmons do that so well?

Most novels I read are in third person point of view using past tense.  That’s how I write, as well.  But sometimes, first person is very effective, and if done correctly, present tense can make you a part of the story.

Have you read any novels that use both first person and present tense effectively?

8 thoughts on “Fight Scene Point of View”

    1. Thanks for the comment. It’s rare that it works, but when it does, like in the book I’m reading now, it works remarkably well. However, I prefer past tense.

  1. To me, first person present tense doesn’t feel natural; present tense of any sort feels unnatural. That’s why the only novels I’ve read where that viewpoint actually ADDS something to the story (rather than merely not detracting — which is still uncommon, in my opinion) are the ones that use it when an ‘unnatural’ feeling is exactly what the author is going for. Charles de Lint, for example, uses first person present tense sometimes for characters’ dreams or for thing that happen to them in some variant of ‘Faerie.’ I like first person narration in PAST tense well enough, but I have never seen an entire novel written in first person present tense that made me think, ‘Yes, this novel is better this way than if it had been written in past tense.’

    1. The only book I’ve read that does first person present tense for the entire book didn’t do it well. It was unnatural. In The Rise of Endymion, he keeps switching between present and past, but it’s explained why, and it makes sense.

      But I agree, first person present seems so strange. I’m not the character, and I don’t listen to people’s stories in present tense. It is unnatural, because we aren’t the narrator.

  2. I find first person narrative pretty trite, myself. I think it’s lazy and unimaginative. I’ve never seen anyone say “I can’t write first-person, it’s too hard,” but I have seen the inverse said – and it’s usually coming from the mouths of the inexperienced. I would prefer third-person limited over anything else (because third-person omniscient also reads lazy to me – a telltale sign that an author usually doesn’t know how to control the flow of the story without dipping into unimportant characters’ conscious. Tch).

    But that’s just me. :]

    1. I also prefer third person limited. I’d rather read from one character’s point of view. I don’t need to know everyone’s thoughts. But I’ve seen some good books that use omniscient. Most don’t. It’s a difficult thing to do well.

  3. That’s an interesting approach–although your description of the book as “dense” is telling. I’ve heard all sorts of declarations regarding 1st person present POV. Some writers I respect even say it’s wrong to use it. I think that’s silly. My winning Writers of the Future story used it to quickly build intimacy. My novel based on the story does as well, and for the same reason it was used to such good effect in The Hunger Games.

    The dichotomy you describe is a harder sell, but I see nothing wrong with it if extremely well and appropriately done.

    1. I agree. If it’s done well, no problem. Go for it. I don’t think there is a rule. I personally feel more comfortable writing in third person POV, but first person works in many ways. Present tense is risky, but if it can be done correctly, it can work well.

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