The narrator said what?

We’re exposed to it during every televised sports event: the omnipresent sportscaster relating the every moment of the action we can see plainly onscreen, plus, at times, a little more—exactly what he or she thinks about a player, team, coach or just some random thought going through his or her mind. While this works out just fine for television, in writing it can cause the reader some headaches depending on the chosen POV.

Imagine being enthralled in a great scene and suddenly it’s interrupted by what the narrator actually thinks of it. An omnipotent narrator is the last entity a reader wants to hear from, after all this individual is not supposed to have an opinion; its sole purpose is to describe the scene and the character’s feelings about it. A lively narrator is one thing, one that begins to speak like one of the characters can breed confusion because the reader can mistake it as part of the actual narration. Such commentary can take a reader out of the story and enough of it can make a reader give up on the entire book if they are subjected to an invisible, opinionated voice. One major exception to this is first person.

If you’re the kind of writer that really likes to put yourself in the story, comments and all, then first person is the POV for you. Here you can air your thoughts without them being mistaken as some disembodied being with a bone to pick. There are still general limits to this use, however. First, it has to be kept in context; if the main character is supposed to be a kind, benevolent person his or her inner voice cannot take a turn down crazy lane if he or she is not having a mental breakdown or some other change for the worst (or better). And in line with the first limitation, commentary can be kept in check by writing in a voice you can stand—this means not writing in that benevolent voice is you’d prefer your character have a violent streak. Also, if this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde play is part of your character then make sure your readers know it.

Finally, consistency is important to any narrator POV you decide to go with. The easiest way to cut down on unnecessary commentary is to know the voice you want your narrator to speak in. It sounds simple, yes, but you have to admit there have been situations when you’ve wished you had written in one POV and not another. When it all boils down, if you’ve gone through so much work putting a story together and praying for it to sell, why give someone a reason to wish they hadn’t bought it?

This post courtesy of Keisa Burrell – Secret Cravings Publishing Editor and Proofreader


Posted on October 27, 2011, in Mechanics, New introduction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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