Wednesday, 18 September 2013

WHOSE VERSION DO YOU BELIEVE?


Novels have a narrator. This seems an obvious statement but the role of the narrator is not always so clear. Jack Hodgins, used the term ‘voice-print’ to describe a writer’s own distinctive voice, and ‘voice-mask’ when a writer assumes another voice to tell a story. You can imagine, for example, a father will have a very different point of view (about almost everything) from his teenage son. So when thinking about your narrator, what might appear to be a straightforward decision can be an opportunity to intrigue readers and pull them in a bit more.

Using a first person narrator  (writing in the ‘I’ voice of the character who is telling the story) doesn’t necessarily mean that the story is about the ‘I’, and you should  make it clear to readers, right from the start, whether your narrator is the protagonist or not. Your narrator could be a witness to certain events and the version the reader receives comes via his/her perceptions. Another choice will be whether your narrator is close to the center of action or a peripheral witness.

Readers understand and accept the practice that first person narrators are frequently able to remember discussions and episodes from even their distant past with an exactitude rarely found in everyday life … and this is where the fun begins.  

Despite accepting the truth of a narrator’s words, no human being is perfect,  so can any one person have full knowledge of an incident or series of  happenings?  (I can see an advantage in introducing someone with an eidetic memory – though only near the end…) Added to the mix is the question of what kind of personality does your narrator have? Do they have a tendency to exaggerate or lie? Are they crazy, a rageaholic or do they have an agenda and play more subtle games?

Revealing your narrator’s quirks and alerting the reader that all might not be as it seems requires skill. Use of interior monologue is a good way to show a contrast between the narrator’s intent and actions. Slips of the tongue, prejudices and contradictions can also reveal unreliability. Once readers realize that a narrator is unreliable, they are compelled to match the speaker’s assessment against their own  - which involves them more deeply in the story. And at some point down the line the reader discovers the truth.

A good exercise to practice putting on different voice-masks is to imagine any situation where two people are in conflict. Take the father and son from earlier having an argument because the father disapproves of his son’s friends and wants to stop him seeing them. The father’s version of events would include both protective and disapproving elements, whereas the son will naturally see his father’s actions being about parental control. The two pieces will be quite different yet both will contain elements of the truth.

Advice in how to become more expert in taking on other voice-masks is the same as that for becoming a more skilled writer…read books, study other writers, maybe take a course and most important...just keep writing. 

Writing Update:
Sometimes I’m enthusiastic and feel genuine satisfaction at my slow, steady progress (currently working on chapter 13), but at other times I really want to be writing another story. A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep and I thought, hey, I could use my insomniac nights to write the new novel and the day to edit the current one. Needless to say, I did go back to sleep without getting out of bed, but when you start dreaming or looking for any opportunity to be writing something else, I’m not sure what that says.
On the other hand, I'm very aware of a dogged resolve, that no matter what, I am going to finish this novel! 
P.S. On the off chance anyone is having a déjà vu moment, I've begun recycling my drawings (at the top of each post) as I've not found time to do any new ones.  I hope by the time I have reposted all of them, I'll have done some new ones.
P.P.S. I'm adding this to my ever-expanding to do list...but first...must finish editing...must finish editing...


Today's Haiku 
BUS HAIKU
September sun warms
the window pane – I pretend
summer is still here

Useful links:
More pointers on things we shouldn’t do...

Reading Recommendations:

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku  - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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