Choosing a narrative style.

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!

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About lechaise
An unpublished, unrepresented author, I've so far self published my first book to Top 20 Amazon Humour chart success, and a slightly less amateurish first draft of my second book. The third book is now being written after which I'll edit my second book then think about completing editing on my first. Or maybe I'll skip all that and start writing my fourth, or just say sod it and go to the pub.

4 Responses to Choosing a narrative style.

  1. Håkan says:

    I prefer third person when it comes to both reading and writing (although I haven’t really written anything to talk about). I very rarely enjoy a book written in first person. If it deals a lot with with the thoughts and emotions of the person; that it’s mainly a psychological or philosophical story, first person works very well but if it is an action-driven story, a first person perspective usually just annoys me. A lot of writers just don’t manage to get away with writing first person without accidentally breaking the spell now and then. I would say that third person is more forgiving.

  2. I have to agree with Hakan. Third person is much more flexible.

  3. rambledon says:

    I dont write, well not much anyway, but i do read….alot.
    I enjoy reading books where you can believe you are a character within the book, but i mostly enjoy reading books which have the story line coming from two or more characters. Normally done with a chapter each.
    I like to feel like i know the characters, and can visualise them, this is probably why i dont like movies that are based on books, the imagination is more wild than a movie, at least mine is. Having a book writen in Third person, gives someone the ability to build their own vision and images, which helps you believe you are part of the story as you see it as though you are present.

  4. I usually have one character that I follow most of the story, then 2-3 others who I can change to in order to give other perspectives and give insight on the story that the main character wouldn’t necessary know of. In third person, of course. It is very confusing when authors switch characters in first person. I have written a few stories in first person, but with them, the main character has to be very interesting and a very strong personality or it gets tedious being inside their thoughts for a whole novel.
    Point of view is so basic that I think it’s almost impossible to switch halfway through, although you can modify it a little (e.g. throw in other points of view, instead of just one).

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