1. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    886
    Likes Received:
    673
    Location:
    San Diego

    Narrators knowledge in first person.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Thundair, Oct 10, 2019.

    I recently got a comment about my MC having knowledge prior to the event.
    My question is... Would the narration in first person be like a biography of telling the story?
    Here is the questionable line...
    I was only fifteen when my father killed her for adultery. A thunder storm rolled in to wake me, and through the clashes of thunder I heard my mother’s muffled cry as my father had put a pillow over her face.

    His critique was...How did she know it was for adultery? What say you?
     
  2. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    569
    Location:
    The middle of the UK
    It looks fine to me. I'd assume she knew why her father murdered her mother. Like, how would she not? How would it not have come up in court or the like?
     
    Odile_Blud likes this.
  3. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,325
    Likes Received:
    8,886
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    I was only fifteen when my father killed her for adultery. A thunder storm rolled in to wake me, and through the clashes of thunder I heard my mother’s muffled cry as my father had put a pillow over her face.

    Or you might write it front to back ways?

    D1
    Once again I counted the beams across the ceiling. Ships timbers, possibly sailed against Bonaparte, I wondered, and I wondered when would mother purchase me the age appropriate pyjamas for which I yearned. I turned the pillow, my head against the cool side when a crash of thunder roused me to my senses.

    Muffled, cries and moans. Downstairs - Daddy and that bitch - fighting once again, I assumed.

    Then the storm passed, and the cacophony of our domestic discord relented. I heard Daddy ascend to relieve his bladder, and I slept soundly.

    Next morning my cornflakes remained securely squared in their cupboard.
     
    unencumbered likes this.
  4. Tralala

    Tralala Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2019
    Messages:
    204
    Likes Received:
    209
    Tend to agree with the feedback. There's a slightly odd tension between the first line and what follows.

    Your opening line is a state-of-my-life / overview kind of opening.

    But you're also trying to make it function as the intro to a scene. Therefore, we feel we are in a scene and start to wonder things like how could he know about the adultery. I even wondered, how could he know it was murder?

    I'd go wholeheartedly with being in the scene, and discovering with the boy what the sounds next door mean.
     
    matwoolf likes this.
  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,325
    Likes Received:
    8,886
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    I suppose there's context?

    I checked the freezer cabinet, and there she was again, grinning from the crystals. I was only fifteen when my father killed her for adultery. A thunder storm rolled in to wake me, and through the clashes of thunder I heard my mother’s muffled cry as my father had put a pillow over her face. I lifted a bag of peas from her foot.
     
    Tralala likes this.
  6. Richach

    Richach Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2019
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    86
    Location:
    Birmingham Uk
    The only thing I would change is 'A thunder storm had rolled in to wake me.'

    There seems to be a conflict between past and present tense as it reads?
     
    Tralala likes this.
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    12,856
    Likes Received:
    14,817
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    I think its fine - your narrator is telling the story in past tense , so looking back they'd know why their father killed their mother
     
  8. Richach

    Richach Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2019
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    86
    Location:
    Birmingham Uk
    Thats all well and good, I have not written first person yet. Guess it shows!:agreed:
     
    Thundair and Tralala like this.
  9. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,261
    Likes Received:
    4,180
    I say your reader was having a dumb moment.
     
    Thundair and Tralala like this.
  10. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2019
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    32
    You said 'I was'. That's pretty clear that you are talking about something that happened in the past so it makes sense that the narrator would know why. If it was 'I am 15 and daddy just killed mommy for sleeping around' that would be a little odd. But if the narrator knew about the cheating it would be reasonable for them to assume that was why their father killed her.

    So I'd say the critique was just a personal qualm vs an issue.
    '
     
    Thundair, deadrats and Tralala like this.
  11. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    886
    Likes Received:
    673
    Location:
    San Diego
    I left out one small detail that she is standing on a dock in Haiti reflecting on her life on the farm.
    @Thorn Cylenchar @Mckk @big soft moose
     
    Tralala likes this.
  12. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,261
    Likes Received:
    4,180
    Your reader? Or your narrator? How does this make it not a dumb moment, if it's your reader? And if it's your narrator, I don't see how this context causes any misunderstanding when there's nothing wrong in your sentence...
     
    Thundair likes this.
  13. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,602
    Likes Received:
    2,713
    I agree that it's fine. It's past tense and first person. There is nothing wrong with a first person narrator knowing the whole story (when in past tense) and revealing it in pieces. I would ignore the critique you got about there being a problem here. It sounds like more of a problem with the person giving the critique than your writing.
     
    Thundair and matwoolf like this.
  14. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,325
    Likes Received:
    8,886
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    BUT I SPENT ALL DAY ON THIS WEBSITE!
     
    deadrats likes this.
  15. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    886
    Likes Received:
    673
    Location:
    San Diego
    @matwoolf …I must have pissed you off somewhere. Let me apologise.
     
    matwoolf likes this.
  16. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,325
    Likes Received:
    8,886
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    Not at all :) - I was kidding coz @Deadrat said there was something wrong with the 'critiquer'...I've enjoyed your thread.
     
    Thundair and deadrats like this.
  17. Hammer

    Hammer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2018
    Messages:
    878
    Likes Received:
    1,817
    Location:
    UK
    I agree with most posters above that it is fine to know what happened when talking about this historical event so instead I will take issue with "clashing" - thunder doesn't really clash in my humble opinion - it may crash or boom, but clash feels off, and I will also take issue with your past perfect - again in my humble onion - the suffocation should be past and the listening child should be past perfect; "through the crashes of thunder I had heard my mother’s muffled cry as my father put a pillow over her face"

    </thread_drift>
     
  18. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    886
    Likes Received:
    673
    Location:
    San Diego
    I’m still learning my craft. I had to look up past perfect. Shows what I know. But I get your point and I like it.

    I just told the misses when I finish (WIP) Sting of the WASP and No Retreat. I’m going to take up art—it’s more subjective. I’m still searching for something I can do well.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019 at 7:44 PM
  19. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    356
    Likes Received:
    267
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    FWIW - I disagree with past perfect in this case. The hearing happens simultaneously with the suffocation. Past perfect should be used when the first action (hearing) happens before the second (suffocation).
     
  20. Rzero

    Rzero Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2018
    Messages:
    637
    Likes Received:
    968
    Location:
    Texas
    This establishes that time has passed, presumably years. It's highly likely, almost certain, in fact, that the narrator would have learned quite a few things about the incident by now. Ignore that note entirely unless this is a jumping off point from which you plan to stay in the past for the remainder of the story, never letting on what is to come or what will be learned until it unfolds in the natural course of storytelling.

    Both are valid ways to write a novel, but either you're writing it from a perspective of looking back or "in the moment" past tense. There's probably a name for "in the moment" past tense, but I'm not looking that up. Historical past tense is full of stuff like what you have here as well as phrases like, "I would soon find out..." and "This would later prove to be..." and classics to the effect of, "Had I known that was the last conversation we'd ever have..." Careful with these though. Giving away bits of the story can serve to heighten tension, mercifully dampen overly-harsh blows or, conversely, ruin surprises. It's a tricky thing. I give this advice more as an avid reader than as a writer. Sometimes it's a wonderfully implemented storytelling device; sometimes it ruins climaxes.
     
    Tralala and Thundair like this.
  21. Tralala

    Tralala Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2019
    Messages:
    204
    Likes Received:
    209
    Sorry to hear you're jumping ship!
     
    Thundair likes this.
  22. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,094
    Likes Received:
    15,623
    Location:
    Scotland
    I agree with the feedback here. Lots of stuff happens to a narrator that they don't understand AT THE TIME, but they can certainly look back on an event and understand it better later on.

    The problem would only come if the narrator knows something they can't know. In this case, if you were telling the story from the point of view of your young narrator, who wakes up and hears his mother being attacked, but doesn't (yet) know adultery was involved. Maybe doesn't even know what adultery is. All that youngster would hear would be the noises.

    But if you're telling the story from the POV of an adult person, who has since found out what the motive for murder was, then that's fine.

    Sometimes readers can nitpick. If they are asked to read and give feedback, they will start immediately looking for flaws. Sometimes they are just too picky.

    But sometimes there IS something that has actually confused them. (In this case, perhaps they got the idea that the young person was doing the narrating ...maybe make it clear that this is an adult looking back on his/her life. When I was 6 I heard my mother being murdered. I didn't realise till I was 15 that she had committed adultery. (I'm not suggesting those words, but maybe to consider that approach.)

    Sometimes you can fix this ...sometimes not. But don't let one person's response derail your interest in writing. The more betas you have, the better.
     
  23. Tralala

    Tralala Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2019
    Messages:
    204
    Likes Received:
    209
    Thundair, I'd be mortified if I thought I'd contributed to your decision to stop writing!

    Please carry on!

    The issue with the opening is tiny! It could be solved by simply removing the words 'for adultery'.

    You should see my opening chapter. I'm having to completely rewrite it due to negative feedback from other writers!
     
  24. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    886
    Likes Received:
    673
    Location:
    San Diego
    I’ll be around for a while. It took me four years to finish my first novel and I’m a year and a half into my third (in final edit). We won’t talk about the autobiography that took two years as it was never meant for release. I do get discouraged sometime but not from critique. I, like others, get down on myself.
    @jannert My character is a full-grown woman standing on the dock in Haiti waiting for a ride when she reflects on her life on the farm. Here is the paragraph before the murder.

    I arrived in Haiti in the early hours before dawn. The captain anchored offshore waiting for the morning light. Awaken by the doleful cry of the seagulls screech, we headed for port. I stepped off the ship and onto the gangplank. Planting my feet on solid ground, I felt a freedom I hadn’t known for a while, a release after so much time at sea. The smell of fried tasajo and smoked fish let me know I was some place new. In the midst of fishing nets and bundles of sugar cane, the crew unloaded its cargo while I waited for my ride. I stood there on the busy dock and took a deep breath of sea air and reflected on how I had gotten to Haiti and how much my life had changed since I left the farm.
     
    matwoolf and Tralala like this.
  25. InsaneXade

    InsaneXade Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2017
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    48
    Never give up, never submit, never let depression gain the upper hand. You ARE an artist, right this very moment. You paint pictures in the minds of your readers, you sculpt worlds, you are the potter who molds characters from the clay of imagination. Without us writers trying to make our stories heard we would live in a very dull world. Imagine for a moment that tere were no books, that those who tried to ban reading actually succeeded. There would be no cookbooks to follow, no novels for readers to get lost in. No self help books, no magazines, no newspapers (for no one would be able to read them) and no computers. Whast a hellish world that would be. I'm so glad books do exist, for I would be bored silly.

    Now, I'm not saying don't become an artist. Heck I am a writer, 3d modeler and game designer, all three are my hobbies. When I feel stumped or discouraged I go on to the next hobby. What I'm saying is don't abandon writing, simply shelve your book(s) for a while and do some art, read about how to write, Rayne Hall, Mary Buckham and Judy Renner are all great writers on the kindle store that teaches their readers how to write and write well. Even if you're not writing a thriller (Renner) you can benefit from Writing a Killer Thriller. Is your scenery lacking? Mary Buckham has you covered. You want some quick help books on all writing topics from villains to book blurbs? Rayne Hall will happily instruct you. I recommend that you buy a kindle subscription to save money, for it's only 13 a month vs a couple hundred dollars to buy them outright.

    Anyhow, I hope you become a great artist and a fantastic writer. And if you feel that you don't have time to read and that your writer's craft is perfect then I feel sorry for you because everyone needs to improve and better themselves. It's called growing. With a tablet you can read anywhere, on the bus, in the dr's office, in the car as a passenger, even in the loo. So don't tell me you can't make time to read. If you want to be a great writer you must learn from other writers. Aftyer all, that's why you're here. ;)
     
    Thundair likes this.

Share This Page