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I have written a story that is being told through the thoughts of the main character.  In a few paragraphs some supporting character's thoughts and words are included. To make it a little more difficult in the second half of the story the identity of the main character changes with the shift of time.  The story is now told through a new character's thoughts.  Also I have incorporated the voice of a narrator to tell brief overviews.

My guestions are:

Right now I have the narrator written in italics.  The thoughts of the characters are in normal text. Is this acceptable?
I have included an example.

[are in italics]The rest is normal text.

Example:  [With a swift brush of her hand Marcy wipes her cheek dry before Paul is close enough to see the wet trail lingering on her face.  It is then that Marcy turns to Paul as she hears his approaching footsteps in the sand.]

[Paul smiles as Marcy turns to greet him.]  
Marcy hears me coming towards her and slowly turns her face in my direction.  I offer her the rose, and tell her I have two glasses of wine on the porch table waiting for us to enjoy.  She looks distant but agrees that the wine..

Also the begining section of the following sentence sounds odd to is written correctly?

   It is then that Marcy turns to Paul as she  hears his approaching footsteps in the sand.

Thank you for your help.

Hello Susan!

Whether or not such an arrangement would be acceptable is a question for your editor. I have no way of telling what another editor would accept or reject. But I would reject it, unless:

 You have three or four books on the market with the same arrangement, and they are selling well.
 Your publisher told you to do this, or that she would accept this.
 You were Ted Bundy or Pres.Bush and couldn't tell your story any other way.

If you are a beginner - and I suspect you are, or you would be answering this question instead of asking it - and you want your book to be published someday, your best bet is to FOLLOW ALL THE RULES UNTIL YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT WRITING TO KNOW WHEN YOU CAN BREAK THEM AND GET AWAY WITH IT.

The rules are: pick one character, the one who changes the most and learns the most through the course of the story, get in his/er head and stay there. This is called "3rd Person Limited Point of View"). That is the most acceptable POV for the reader - that's how we live our lives, after all! (of course if you change times, you can use another character. But don't do this too often, or your reader may toss the book down the laundry chute). Whatever the other characters are thinking must be conveyed to the main character through dialogue or action. You're not allowed in anyone else's head.

I don't know what you mean by first person. None of your examples are first person.

Lose the narrator. All a narrator does is remove the reader one step from the action. Whatever information the narrator has can be conveyed to the reader in a dozen other ways.

There is nothing wrong with your last sentence that can't be fixed by removing "It is then." Such words are deadwood - they accomplish nothing, they're like big rocks in the road. Wherever you meet them, take them out. Whenever you can cut a word, do so. You can use them all in your next book!

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 260+ questions.

And the best of good luck with your book!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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