Monday, March 28, 2016

Narrator

There are many people that think that first person is a great way to tell a story. There are stories that are told very well in first person. If you think about it, many modern day stories make the protagonist the narrator. How good of a story teller is your protagonist? If they are not the talkative type, you wouldn’t get much of a story out of them. If they are the talkative type, you may not get to the story. So, I do not personally like the idea of the protagonist telling the story unless they are normal. The problem with normal is that it’s boring.


Sherlock Holmes is indeed written in the first person as well as Frankenstein and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The narrator in these are not the protagonist, but another character closely associated with the protagonist. To me, this makes more sense. A person of action or of special ability may not have the ability or the willingness to tell their own tale. This also makes them interesting. Can you imagine Holmes willing to tell his own tale? Surely not. He always has other things to consider. That’s what makes Holmes Holmes.


You might say that all these tales are from a bygone era, and today we live in a self promoting world. I say people are still people, and characters are still characters. Take Batman for example. If you want to write a first person story on Batman, can you really imagine Bruce Wayne telling the story? No. That doesn’t make any sense because he’s a man of secrets. The obvious character to be the narrator is Alfred, and that in confidence.


Young adult books (YA) are written in first person. This is to lend believability to the young readers. There are also a set of rules authors of YA have to abide by. That does not make it easy.


What does this all mean? Well, I say don’t be too quick to jump into a first person narration because everybody else is doing it. Think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. How does it fit with your characters? How can it fit in with your story? What is the effect to the reader? Prove your assumptions. First person narration is a much more complicated matter than third person narration and should be handled with care.

So far, I’ve only written one story in first person. That was Letters to Olivia. That story was also experimental for me. It was in a set framework, emails which amounted to texts. I had to apply my knowledge of software engineering, space travel, and space communication in order to make the circumstances for the emails in a future setting believable. I think it worked out, though the story line may have suffered.