1. twelveninetysix
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    twelveninetysix Member

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    Is this narrative device new/interesting?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by twelveninetysix, Jan 29, 2012.

    Okay, so whilst drafting out the start of my story, I've found something, and that is that when writing narrative I'm much more natural and confident from third person observer viewpoint, but when writing dialogue and thoughts/introspection, I'm more comfortable in first person. Obviously, I could just bite the bullet and go for one (probably third person), but what if I used both? I presume this isn't an original idea by any stretch of the imagination but I've never seen it done throughout a novel. The idea is basically that for large pieces of action with little talking I'd use an italicized 3rd person view and then the protagonist comments on his feelings in 1st person.

    A small excerpt from the first chapter:

    __________________________________________________
    The door shook. The walls shook, and the man on the threshold shook, and crumpled on the tiled hospital floor. It was funny, in that way that is called “gallows humour” by those who’ve never watched a hanging. But the eyes, ringed with tiny bloodied needles and daggers – those were not funny, not at all.

    I was that man. They tell me that I appeared, out of nowhere, and as a nobody; a regular John Doe. I don’t remember what happened, but I liked that. A dead man walking. The irony will become apparent, trust me.
    __________________________________________________

    Small sections of movement, for example, if he gets up to, I don't know, turn on the light or something, might be done in 1st person in order to keep the flow but larger sections would be done in this style. I'd add that this also makes sense a little more because the man IS actually being observed, by God, who is effectively experimenting on him.

    I like it, so I guess what I'm really asking is if it's a tired and well used trope or something relatively fresh. If it's the former, then can someone point me in the direction of some books that use it, that I can read and learn from?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You're asking the wrong question.

    Unusual narrative approaches always interfere with the story. They distract the reader away from the story itself. They are only worth doing if they give something substantial to the story in return that is not adequately conveyed by more conventional narrative techniques.

    The question you should be asking is, "What benefit does this technique imbue over traditional narrative?"

    Trying to be "different" in technique is an orange hoodie with "NOVICE" printed on the front in big green block letters.
     
  3. twelveninetysix
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    twelveninetysix Member

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    Well, that's what I am :') But thank you for your advice anyway. I have a lot to learn about what people think about writing, that's why I'm asking the question.
     
  4. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I can't think of any book that does this -- probably because it doesn't work very well.

    It does indeed distract from the story. Keep it simple. I like your small excerpts. But I don't like them together. I recommend choosing one perspective or the other.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't do it. I've only seen something similar used when for some reason it was absolutely essential to the story to present events that the viewpoint character couldn't possibly see - maybe two or three times in an entire book. And even then, it seemed awkward.

    I'd suggest instead practicing to increase your comfort level with all aspects of your chosen viewpoint. For example, your example could be rewritten entirely in first person:

    They tell me that I came out of nowhere. The door shook, the walls shook, and I appeared on the threshold and crumpled on the hospital floor. Apparently there was something clownlike about the sight; the orderly who told me the story couldn't help grinning, and then he apologized. I didn't get it but I did like the irony of the way he put it--a dead man walking. I know, I know, now you don't get it, but you will.

    (Not so good; it's just an example.)

    ChickenFreak
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all of the above... my best advice is DON'T!

    fyi, the part not in italics is NOT 'dialogue and thoughts/introspection'... it's merely more narrative, but in first person vs the italicized parts that are in third...
     

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