Thursday, April 18, 2013

Know why your narrator needs to tell the tale

There are  reasons why I love to go back over my writing book library.
The story I am working on at the moment is a non-HQN project and is in the first person because it seems to write like this.
But a small problem for me is that I have never written first person before. What I am doing is reworking a story I wrote a few years ago because well there were certain things I loved about it but it wasn't quite right.
Anyway, I remembered that Orson Scott Card has a section on First Person narrator in his wonderful book Characters and Viewpoint. In that he discusses the why of choosing narrator, particularly when the story is told in first person. For example with Sherlock Holmes, Watson is by far the best choice as Sherlock is far too knowing.
What he does mention as well and it really resonated with me last night is to make sure you understand why the character needs to tell the story. And that the character is the sort of person who would feel comfortable in telling the story. In other words, tale-telling has to be part of the character if you choose that character to be the vehicle or vessel to tell the tale. An emotionally closed character without a compelling reason to put the story down may not be the best choice even if they are the protagonist or driving the story. You also have to know who the narrator is telling the tale to. Is it the tale for general consumption (aka memoirs) , a journal (so ultimately for their later self) or for someone else entirely.If you are going to use first person, you have to know. it affects the choices you make in telling the tale.
This is less of a problem with 3rd person limited because it is more like the reader is watching a film.
Anyway, I found it interesting and it has given me insight into my narrator.


Unknown said...

Michelle it's a very good point. My second book which comes out next month was written in 3rd person for the first 25 rewrite then I knew with astounding clarity it had to be in first person but I had never written in first person. My instinct was right. Me heroine needed to tell the story directly to the reader...but for the next book I'm back into 3rd...

Good luck with the new/old story.

Michelle Styles said...

I will look forward to reading your next book.

I think sometimes stories are just like that. Because everything I have done until now has been more of a HQN slant, I have kept to 3rd person limited. But this story needs to be told in a different way.