1. Argle
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    Argle Member

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    Narrative Viewpoint

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Argle, Jan 29, 2011.

    I hope this is the right place for this. If not, please let me know, and I'll work on contacting the right person to move it. Thanks.

    So, recently started writing what I hope will become a full-length novel. The problem is that there are three different character/story threads going on for the first half of the book, but I enjoy writing in first person. I also think that the story is best presented in first person by the different characters.

    My question is this: Do you think that it would be too confusing to have three different first person accounts (indicated by chapter sub-headers that would literally say the character's name, different settings/stories, and slight changes in writing voice) switching within a book?

    Also: Have you ever read anything with multiple first person accounts? (the closest I've seen was a mix between third person and first person indicated by the changes I mentioned as well as a change in font--but the font thing doesn't work in eBooks)

    The alternative is to have one character in first person and the other two in third which I imagine is the safer and more conventional way of doing it, but I like risk and change. I just want to avoid a risk or change that would be impossible to follow.
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is hard to pull of, but if you pull it of you pull it of. I think you need experince as a writer to do it. How much fiction have you written so far in your life? 100 pages, a few hundred pages? More?
     
  3. Argle
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    Argle Member

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    Somewhere between 50 - 100 pages (if a page is approximately defined as 12pt, double-spaced, Times or Garamond, 8.5x11 -- I couldn't say based on a 250 or 350 word approximation). I'm asking this now before I get too far into the writing of this potential novel.

    Another thing that should be mentioned is that I prefer trying something big and failing big to learn big rather than starting small and working up using the safe route. But I don't want to start too unreasonably big. :)

    I think what would help me most would be to read a published book (successful or unsuccessful) that tried this concept. I just don't know of any. I've read plenty of either style...
     
  4. N@asha
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    N@asha Member

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    I think one of the best examples of literature using multiple first person accounts is 'My Name Is Red' by Orhan Pamuk.

    I'll give you a taste of his chapter titles and a little taste of how he introduces each narrator:

    I AM A CORPSE

    'I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well.'

    I AM CALLED BLACK

    'After an absence of twelve years I entered Istanbul like a sleep-walker.'

    I AM A DOG

    'As you can doubtless tell, dear friends, my canines are so long and pointed they barely fit into my mouth.'

    I WILL BE CALLED A MURDERER

    'Nay, I wouldn't have believed I could take anyone's life, even if I'd been told so moments before I murdered that fool; and thus, my offense at times recedes from me like a foreign galleon disappearing on the horizon.

    I AM YOUR BELOVED UNCLE

    I am Black's maternal uncle, his enishte, but others also call me "Enishte."

    I AM AN ORPHAN

    Black asked: "Have they indeed killed him?"

    I AM ESTHER

    'All of you, I know, are wondering what Shekure penned in that letter I presented to Black.'

    I, SHEKURE

    'Oh why was I there at the window just when Black rode by on his white steed? Why did I open the shutters intuitively at that exact moment and......

    I AM A TREE

    'I am a tree and I am quite lonely.'

    Other narrators include:

    I AM CALLED 'BUTTERFLY'
    I AM CALLED 'STORK'
    I AM CALLED 'OLIVE'
    I AM A GOLD COIN
    I AM DEATH
    I AM RED


    Most charcters have more than one chapter each, but I wanted to show that multiple first person can be done, and done well enough to earn the author the Nobel Laurete.

    I loved this book until about 3/4 of the way through. At that point I faced a 'put it down or work it out' moment. I had to work hard as a reader, but it educated me and I've never read anything like it.

    Overall it is a murder-mystery but in telling that story, he looks at Istanbul in the 16th century, Islam, western society, art, the philosophy of art and writing about art.

    For a study on literary techniques, how to craft a story and use multiple view points, this is spectacular.

    Another author who uses multiple first person was William Faulkner...who also won a Nobel prize...

    Maybe you're onto something :D

    Good luck
     
  5. Argle
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    Thanks! I'll look into that. It's good to hear that you lasted 3/4 of the book even with that many different perspectives. :) It gives me hope for only having three perspectives, and I'm also thinking about possibly switching to one primary narrator when all the character's stories connect.
     
  6. N@asha
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    N@asha Member

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    Oh, I actually really enjoyed all of the perspectives, and I think it worked really well! Your plot needs to be watertight to do this, and not confuse the reader.

    I'm ashamed to say that it was the description of...well I suppose, of how art is described...especially in the 16th century that I started to struggle with! :)

    It's a tough book, but taking the 'ok...i get it but...erm...i'm not sure i really understand it fully...google is your friend' out of the last parts, I think it's possibly the best example of multiple narration I've read.

    Hope to read some of your work soon :)
     
  7. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Godbody by Theodore Sturgeon.

    See a description here. "Each chapter is told first-person from a different viewpoint, and this technique is handled exquisitely."
     
  8. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Lots of books have been written in multiple first person, The Pigman by Paul Zindell is one of them, but don't even think of mixing person in your narratives. That is, don't have part in third person and part in first person, that would simply be absurd.

    Good luck.
     
  9. Argle
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    Thank you! I'll definitely look into that.

    I'm still curious as to whether anyone has done only a few different characters (rather than changing every chapter).
     
  10. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well Elizabeth Moon did it well in "The Speed of Dark" when main of the viewpoint characters is autistic, and this different mindset partly is represented by him telling the story in first person perspective, and the other characters story is in third person.

    But this was a special case done really well. At times you can brake the rules if you really -really- know that your doing. Moon was an experienced already award winning writer with an autistic child of her own when she wrote this book.

    Edit: And "The Speed of Dark" did win that years Nebula award for best novel AND the Aurthur C Clark award.
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis is the best example of this I've read, but as others have said, it isn't all that uncommon.
     

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