Toothless Letter NNarration. The telling of a story. Narrative. It’s how you tell a story, and every author does it, because every author is telling a story, but we all do it in different ways. It’s made up of several different parts.

Narrative Perspective aka Point of view. How does the position of the narrator (the person telling the story) relate to the story being told. First person is where a character in the book is also the narrator. “I”, “me”, “we”, are all pronouns that you would expect to see. In this point of view, you get to know the thoughts of the person you are telling the story through, which is good, but it does mean you don’t get to know anything else’s thoughts, and you can only know stuff that the character would know. Third person is where the narrator is above the people in the story. “He”, “she”, “they”, the narrator is an unspecified person who can look at everyone in the story, often at the same. Second person is the most unused out of the perspectives, because it’s a bit of a weird one in my opinion. “You” is the most common pronoun, it’s where the narrator is describing events, but as if they themselves are detached from them, emotionally removed and distant. I’ve never read a story from this perspective, but they do exist.

I naturally write in the third person. I tend to write subjectively, where I describe one or more character’s feelings and thoughts, whilst remaining in the third person (the opposite to this is objective, where no feelings or thoughts of any characters are described). The other options are omniscient or limited, depending on the knowledge of the narrator. And omniscient person knows absolutely everything about everything in the novel, whereas limited is where the narrator knows everything about a single character (or sometimes, place or object in some very unusual stories) but nothing outside of that focal point. I tend towards omniscient.

omniscient

Narrative voice is how the story is communicated. You will often here authors talking about voice, as it’s one of the things that an author needs, but it’s impossible to teach. You really do have to practice, practice and practice some more to get this one right. But there are different formats for how a book is told, which is a place to start.

The most common is the character voice. This is where a character, who may or may not be in the story, lends their voice, and they are the narrator. This can be first or third person, usually first though, and doesn’t always have to be the focal person of the story. Think of Sherlock Holmes, who although being the main character, isn’t the narrator. The stories are actually narrated by Doctor Watson. Stream of conciousness is a type of writing that tries to emulate the thought process of people. Often interior monologue, inner desires, motivations, and thoughts of the character are added into the narration, as well as action and dialogue. Epistolary voice is the posh name given to a story that uses documents, letters, journal entries, or emails to convey a story, each one reveals a little bit of action that went on and altogether makes up the story. These can be from one person, or more than one person, and arguable have no narrator, since no one is narrating the story, the author has just collected all the papers into one book. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, but I find it quite effective in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

third-person-pov-graphic1We touched on third person voices already. We can have subjective, where the narrator describes the thoughts, feelings, opinions of one or more characters (although if the story focuses on character, that can be called limited view, since we only know the thoughts of one character) and tends to be the viewpoint of most modern stories. Objective tells the story without any thoughts, feelings or opinions, giving an objective or unbiased view of the story, a neutral voice. It can also be called ‘fly on the wall’ or ‘camera lens’ viewpoint. The last one is omniscient. which is used in a lot of classical novels, and is where the narrator has the knowledge of the whole world, including what each character is thinking and feeling. The difference between thing and subjective? Omniscient is the long range, really far out, whereas subjective is more of a mid range technique, getting a little closer to the characters and action. Omniscient is great for sweeping epic fiction.

The last part of narration is the narrative time. Is the story taking place in the past, present or future. This should be fairly obvious, are you writing events as if they had happened in the past, either a long time ago or fairly recently? Is it happening right at this moment, as in the present, or is it happening in the future. The future is very rare to see in literature, and is more often than not because a character has foreknowledge, or clairvoyant powers to see flashes of the future. I don’t think that a book written entirely in the future tense exists, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Present and past tenses are much more common, and often both will be used. I stick to the present in my books, but sometimes use the past tense if something has happened ‘off screen’ as it were.

But beyond those parts, it’s up to each author to put them together in a way that is unique to the way that they tell their stories. Got any interesting perspective you’ve written or read?

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