Choosing a narrative style.
December 10, 2012 4 Comments
This is actually one post where I would like people to comment below on their thoughts. I encourage comments anyway, but this time I will not reply as the comments should be your opinions with no comeback from anyone else, there as a “Hmm, I hadn’t looked at it that way” sort of thing.
When coming up with a project to work on, one of the things I’ve been trying to figure out is the best approach when it comes to narration. For example, the first book I wrote was written completely from the main character’s point of view. This brought benefits and limitations; the benefits being that I could give more information about how the protagonist was viewing the events around him and leaving hints as to what was really going on in the story. The limitations there were that I was restricted on how the other characters were described as most people don’t talk like “I just met Bob, a tall fat man with a penchant for silky women’s underwear, he walked with the swagger of a baby rhino and body odour to match”, if you do know someone who talks like that then, well, you know some quite unique people but I think these people are pretty thin on the ground. It also meant, as another writer pointed out to me, that you had to rely on him telling the truth.
The next book was told as a traditional “once upon a time” style story but purely following a single character along his journey from start to finish. Other characters came and went, but you were tied to this one person. It was restrictive in other ways, as the other characters came and went you were always going to be faced with a “this is what happened since you last saw me” breakdown of events. It can be a bit tedious and has to be done well to keep the reader caring about it all, also the danger is that the side characters are having a much more fun and interesting time than the main character is and your readers find themselves flicking forwards a chapter or two to find out what they’ve been up to.
It seems to me that, once you’ve chosen the approach you’re going to take, you’re stuck with it unless you’re ok with changing your mind at a later date and rewriting the whole thing to suit. If it works and you’re happy with it, then why not? My main question from all of this would be: how do you choose, and how/when do you know you’ve made the right decision on the style? Have you found yourself changing your approach halfway through a piece? If so, why and how? I’ve worded that badly, but hope you get my point. All constructive answers welcome!