1. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Narrative Voice

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by outsider, Mar 26, 2014.

    Hi people, I'm in the throes of hammering out my first draft of my current WIP which is my first attempt at a novel. It is set in my home town in the early part of this century and at the moment flits between predominately third person omniscient narrative and (for one character) first person narrative.
    When I started, my initial inclination was to write it entirely in the first person, although this would alternate between different character's POV. It would however, for the large part be the principle protagonist's POV.
    After reading some advice, I decided to err on the side of caution and go with largely third person narrative. There were a few reasons for this, chiefly my research indicated that this would be the preference of most publishers and it was the 'safest' option.
    Now that I'm some 50-60,000 words into the work, I really feel that that I may have been right initially.
    I want to be able to make astute, political and philosophical statements and observations which would really lend themselves to the story, being as it is not 'genre' fiction as such and focuses on the mundanity of working class life interspersed with snippets of drama and tragedy, love and loss.
    I don't think it is within my remit currently as the third person narrator to make such comments, that is to impart my thoughts onto the page as some sort of commentary. However, if I put myself directly into the chief protagonist's head so that I effectively become him (or him, I) it enables me to do so as a sort of internal monologue.
    I think I've made my mind up and it will give me a load more work but I think it's what I have to do to get this right.
    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Mackers
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    Mackers Contributing Member

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    I can appreciate the sort of dilemma you're in. 3rd person narratives are so much more disciplined in that you can't just simply interject whenever you want and offer some sort of opinion. By it's nature it's more detached (and harder to pull off imo)

    I think you'll just have to go with your instinct on this one, whichever POV in your opinion will produce the better book. It might depend on how much of this commentary you want to indulge in. If it's a lot, then the first person POV may be better
     
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  3. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is difficult to convey exactly what I mean but for instance, it just wouldn't work shoehorning such opinions into the MC's dialogue or even thoughts. Perhaps, on occasion it would work but not consistently through the novel. It would be far easier (and aesthetically pleasing) if I was directly communicating with the reader in the first person.
    Lesson to be learned here folks, your first instinct is usually the one to go with.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I know the feeling. I wrote one book in third felt it wasn't enough - switched to first did a few polishing drafts before realizing third was best. Months and months of work. Ai-yi-yi.

    How will it effect narrowing your view with the rest of your scenes?

    The problem I had with first person was the now narrowed view - everything essentially becomes opinion/speculation filtered through the mc's biased view. Also everything that is to be made known has to come through him. That's difficult if you have a lot of characters that exist in different scenes/settings or a lot of different components to your novel. Components like spanning different class-cultures or something.

    Inner commentary can be a good thing and a bad thing. If over indulged ( and I'm speaking from experience here ) the mc can erect a giant soapbox and bore the crap out of a reader with every rant he can think of while in third a well placed comment or gesture can cover all the trite mindworkings and better.

    But like Mackers says - you have to go with instinct. You'll never be satisfied until you go and find out.
     
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  5. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    I reckon much of this can be solved with first person POV retelling of scenes/occurences.

    I think as the story culminates and characters' stories interweave there may need to be some third person narration. I've seen this done though and know it can work if done correctly. I suppose I'm really trying to formulate a clear idea of what I'm doing from here on in going forward. What's been written thus far, should be salvageable with some tinkering though inevitably some of it won't. I've pretty much made the call I think.
     
  6. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    My first thought was that I would like to see a sample of these observations. Here's why: It's one thing for you to regard your political and philosophical observations as astute. It's another thing for readers to set them in that light. Whether you're writing in first person or third, polemics have an amazing capacity to turn readers away. It depends on the content of the polemics, of course ... hence my desire to see a sample.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm feeling the desire for an example of a first-person sentence/paragraph/page that you feel couldn't have been third person. My feeling is that a very close third person view can express a character's thoughts as thoroughly as first person.
     
  8. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @outsider An idea: you can try to "dramatize" your ideas :)

    What I mean is that by grasping the "objective" tone for your narration you get an opportunity to distance yourself from one strict world-view, however firmly you believe in it (as an author), and try to convey the idea through both dialogue between characters with opposed mindsets, and by "showing" the effects, causes, fallacies etc of both. This is akin to, say, Dostoyevski's approach in his "novels of ideas": take "Karamazovs" for example, where Alyosha, Mitya and Ivan each represent a distinct voice, opposed in some ways to one another, to the point where through their conversations and relationships Dostoyevski gives hints to his own views on certain problems. Or, to take it a step further, you have the continuing dialogues (through conversations and through actions) of Settembrini and Naphta, Peeperkorn and Chauchat, Castorp and Ziemseen in Mann's "Magic Mountain". Each character takes his own view on this and that subject, not necessarily opposed or complementary to Mann's own views.

    Now, you can always, of course (like Tolstoy in "War&Peace"), step out of the shadow and speak your mind directly to the reader, and still remain pretty objective in the 3rd person parts of the narrative (the narrative parts of the narrative), but this may, and probably will put some readers off (keep in mind that some, maybe even the majority of your readers won't mind :)) But perhaps giving your own thoughts a "personalized" shape through your characters might be a lot more beneficial to the story...
     
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  9. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are so far removed contextually, from any sociopolitical observations I may inject to this cultural setting as to be irrelevant almost entirely. You'll forgive me then if I don't feel like posting examples for your perusal. Your condescension is expected, if not appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2014
  10. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    And another one goes on ignore. Two within a few hours. The bats are surely flying tonight! o_O
     
  11. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    A win-win situation, I think they call it. :)
     

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