Experiments in Writing - Changing the Viewpoint and Tense of "Replay"

Deciding the viewpoint that you are presenting and the tense that you are presenting it in is a big decision. To a large extent I don't really think about it, I just go with whatever feels right, but that is probably not the best way to do it. Today I am going to play with changing the viewpoint and tense of the beginning of Replay by Ken Grimwood. Let's see how it goes.


Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died.

The first line is just amazing, I love it. It is in third person past tense. I am not even sure I can write in third person omniscient, so third person is third person limited for me. I haven't read Dune, but I know a lot of people like it and that it is in third person omniscient. Maybe I will experiment with it at some point. Let's see what happens here though.

First Person Past
I was on the phone with my wife when I died.

That is a very interesting perspective, I like it.

Second Person Past
You were on the phone with your wife when you died.

Choose your own adventure stories are cool, but they have very limited uses.

Third Person Present
Jeff Winston is on the phone with his wife while he is dying. - or - Jeff Winston is on the phone with his wife as he is dying.

That has an eerie feel to it.

First Person Present
I am on the phone with my wife while I am dying. - or - I am on the phone with my wife as I am dying.

That seems like a pretty intense memoir.

Second Person Present
You are on the phone with your wife while you are dying. - or - You are on the phone with your wife as you are dying.

That seems like a crazy choose your own adventure story.

Third Person Future
Jeff Winston will be on the phone with his wife when he dies.

This is very ominous. It sounds like someone is foretelling the future.

First Person Future
I will be on the phone with my wife when I die.

How does this guy know this? Does he just talk on the phone with his wife that much? Is she just that boring?

Second Person Future
You will be on the phone with your wife when you die.

That sounds like either a warning or a threat.

Wow, that was just the first sentence. It is very interesting to see the differences, to feel the differences. Let's see what a slightly larger paragraph is like.

"We need--" she'd said, and he never heard her say just what it was they needed, because something heavy seemed to slam against his chest, crushing the breath out of him. The phone fell from his hand and cracked the glass paperweight on his desk.

First Person Past
"We need--" she'd said, and I never heard her say just what it was we needed, because something heavy seemed to slam against my chest, crushing the breath out of me. The phone fell from my hand and cracked the glass paperweight on my desk.

Second Person Past
"We need--" she'd said, and you never heard her say just what it was you needed, because something heavy seemed to slam against your chest, crushing the breath out of you. The phone fell from your hand and cracked the glass paperweight on your desk.

Third Person Present
"We need--" she says, and he doesn't hear her say just what it is they need, because something heavy seems to slam against his chest, crushing the breath out of him. The phone falls from his hand and cracks the glass paperweight on his desk.

First Person Present
"We need--" she says, and I am not hearing her say just what it is we need, because something heavy seems to slam against my chest, crushing the breath out of me. The phone falls from my hand and cracks the glass paperweight on my desk.

Second Person Present
"We need--" she says, and you are not hearing her say just what it is you need, because something heavy seems to slam against your chest, crushing the breath out of you. The phone falls from your hand and cracks the glass paperweight on your desk.

Third Person Future
"We need--" she will say, and he won't hear her say just what it is they need, because something heavy will seem to slam against his chest, crushing the breath out of him. The phone will fall from his hand and crack the glass paperweight on his desk.

First Person Future
"We need--" she will say, and I won't hear her say just what it is we need, because something heavy will seem to slam against my chest, crushing the breath out of me. The phone will fall from my hand and crack the glass paperweight on my desk.

Second Person Future
"We need--" she will say, and you won't hear her say just what it is you need, because something heavy will seem to slam against your chest, crushing the breath out of you. The phone will fall from your hand and crack the glass paperweight on your desk.

Alright, alright! I am going to stop it right there because that is really weird to write. Imagine if I tried to include all of the viewpoints and tenses, because there are even more, it would seem insane. 

It is very interesting though to see that most of these can work, they would just have to be used in very different contexts. Maybe in the future I will play with this some more, but just change it to one other viewpoint and/or tense and work with a little bit larger piece. We shall see. You are welcome to join me at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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