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Narrative style – Finding Your Voice

Originally published on http://highway-ya.blogspot.com/
There are many obstacles to overcome when writing your first book, few of which you actually realise until you put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, as we do now. As authors, we stumble, we fall, we brush ourselves off and we get back up again, because as any writer will know, we cannot silence the voice inside. Our stories need to be written.
When I first embarked on my writing journey I gave a lot of thought to plot and character description, to the book title and pivotal scenes that would unfold as my book progressed. Dialogue and time frame, chapter length and word count, all of these things were well-thought out and seriously deliberated. This took me at least forty minutes. Then I sat down and started typing. Strangely enough, not once did I consider which narrative mode I should use. It never even occurred to me, and yet the story unravelled in the first person. This style came naturally to me, and rather than work against it, I used it to my advantage.
The main benefit in using this style of writing is that the reader feels an emotional attachment to the narrator, which in my case, is the protagonist. The internal thoughts, emotions and perceptions of the protagonist are able to be conveyed to the reader and this makes for fantastic character development.
I have often wondered if I am perhaps doing my secondary characters a dis-service in writing from the first-person point of view, as one of the drawbacks of this particular writing style is that it does not always allow the reader to connect with the other characters’ thoughts and feelings. It can also limit plot, as we become aware of events primarily through the narrator’s eyes. Loosely put, if it doesn’t happen to, or around your protagonist, it doesn’t happen. The third-person narrative is far more flexible and consequently, the most frequently used model.
There are ways to get around these pitfalls of first-person narration. The narrator may refer to information they have heard from other characters in order to deliver a broader point of view. Memories of the past are also useful in providing insight that is reliable. I make use of secondary-character dialogue to ensure that the reader is always informed as to what is going on “behind the scenes” so to speak.  A popular trend at the moment is the alternating point of view, whereby there is more than one narrator. Personally, I find that this style can become confusing and the character transitions need to be handled carefully so that the reader doesn’t become frustrated.
For me, I prefer to stick with what comes naturally. I like to invoke a connection between reader and protagonist, which I feel is best done when the reader can understand and identify with the main character and “live” that character during the course of reading the book. It is more emotive and if done properly, the first-person narrative can present a powerful “voice”.
Like any true writer, I like to challenge myself, and one of my personal writing goals is to try and complete a novel in a different narrative mode – which would obviously be the third-person narrative, given that the second should really be reserved only for song writing and “Choose your own Adventure Stories”.
Finding your voice is an exciting step in your writing journey, but I don’t think it is a conscious choice. It will come as easily as breathing, and if you listen to it rather than fight it, the end result will be all the better for it.

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