Narrative Point of View

Icon-Writing-150I found a guide for narrative point of view that I put together when trying to decide whether a novel, that I will one day still write, should be first or second person narrative. I thought I’d share it in case it’s of use to others.

Or, better still, check out the Grammar Girl Guide.

First Person Narration

First-person narrative requires the creation of a compelling, single voice telling its own story in a way that produces a strong sense of realism. Of course, there is a great deal of artfulness and artifice in the production of this ‘realism’. Such stories use the models of personal confession, the diary, autobiography, or memoir.

Interior Monologue

The private self-communions of the character, which may be verbalised thoughts and reflections or, occasionally, diary writings;

Hurtling through the streets of London on my single speed bike, messenger bag slung across my back and the stupid radio squawking away. I know I’m bloody behind schedule! If I stop to get myself shouted at I’ll be even more behind schedule! At least this is the last drop of the day, the last stretch of weaving through traffic, avoiding suicidal pedestrians and psychopathic taxi drivers. Rabid, frothing at the mouth bastards!

Jump off the bike, no time to lock it up, run in, wait patiently for the sign-off, make sure they leave the time field empty on the form and then back outside before someone nicks my most-prized and most expensive possession, the single speed Charge Duster mountain bike. A thing of beauty but also my livelihood.

“Shahani, answer the bloody radio! Where the fuck are you?!?” the radio hollered, coming across louder than it seemed technically possible to.

“Oh Gil, sorry boss. I’m just on my way home, what’s up?”

“Oh, you’ve got a bloody cheek, Shaz! Have you done all your drops?”

“Of course boss! Done it ages ago. I was going to drop the sheets into the office tomorrow afternoon, if that’s alright?”

“Afternoon? If you wanted an afternoon shift you should have been back at the office half an hour ago. It’s an early for you tomorrow. And don’t be late!”

Silence. Blissful, empty silence that can only happen at the end of the day when the radio got turned off. Time to call Muppet, make plans for the night.

Dramatic Monologue

In which the character addresses another person or a particular audience in speech or sometimes by letter.

Detached Autobiography

In which the narrator tells about his or her past life, the passage of time enabling him or her to achieve a fairly dispassionate stance.

I’ll never forget the events of the that summer. Everything had its proper place and I was having a great time. Being a bike courier, hurtling through the streets of London on my single speed bike, a Charge Duster, may not be most people’s idea of a perfect job but it was for me. It was more lifestyle than job, as much an extreme sport as it was a low paid way of becoming a moving target for road raged taxi drivers. I lived in Camberwell with my mate Muppet and our sometimes associate, Mike. Muppet and I worked for City Deliveries while Mike, well he made his money as a purveyor of fine chemical distractions. A total prick, but he paid the rent and didn’t mind bikes and bike parts cluttering up the flat half the time.

Third Person Narration

Limited Omniscience

Where the narrator knows everything that a particular character may see, feel and know but knows nothing more about other protagonists than the character-narrator.

We knew nothing of Shahani Loganathan and her friends until after the contact event, why would we?, but we rapidly made it our business to get into their lives. I say we, but it was mostly my responsibility, a stupid little assignment that nobody thought would any problem for someone as close to retirement as me. In all fairness I thought pretty much the same as them at time, not knowing Miss Loganathan, her Guyanese friend Mark ‘Muppet’ Turpin and that drug dealer Mike Sanders would be such a necessary thorn in our side. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Omniscience

Where the narrator knows everything about the events, places and all of the characters, even things which the characters themselves may be incapable of knowing.

Not knowing what else to do, the next morning Shahani and Muppet got on their bikes and went to work. Both rode much more cautiously than they normally would, the events of the previous night making them think through every action, second-guessing ever threat, always looking for danger. There was of course no real threat in the almost hyper-real light of day that they could see. But they did not see their watcher. A middle-aged man dressed in clothes that were once expensive but were now has heavily worn as his tired, unshaven face. He had not appreciated being woken at the crack of dawn to watch some kids who had seen things they shouldn’t have.

Objective point of view

Where the narrator knows only what he or she can observe externally, as in a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary, and recounts this neutrally.

The young woman hurtles through the streets of London on her bike, a messenger bag slung across her back and her radio squawking. Weaving audaciously through traffic, she ignores the beeping of angry taxi drivers that she cuts up with her bike, a well looked-after single speed Charge Duster mountain bike.

She jumps off her bike with haste, not bothering to lock it up to save precious seconds and runs into the office building to deliver her package, waiting patiently for the sign-off. She makes sure that the receptionist leave the time field empty on the form and then runs back outside to her bike.

“Shahani, answer the bloody radio! Where the fuck are you?!?” the radio hollers, coming across louder than it seems technically possible to.

“Oh Gil, sorry boss. I’m just on my way home, what’s up?” she responds nonchalantly.

“Oh, you’ve got a bloody cheek, Shaz! Have you done all your drops?”

“Of course boss! Done it ages ago. I was going to drop the sheets into the office tomorrow afternoon, if that’s alright?”

“Afternoon? If you wanted an afternoon shift you should have been back at the office half an hour ago. It’s an early for you tomorrow. And don’t be late!”

Dismissed, Shahani switches off her radio, smiles and cycles off eastwards through the busy rush hour traffic

Other

Second Person Narration

The reader is the protagonist.

You are hurtling through the streets of London on your bike, a messenger bag slung across your back and your radio squawking.

 

Currently … Writing?

It’s a sad state of affairs when it’s worthy of a blogpost when I’m actually writing some fiction, but we are where we are. Over the weekend, intent to write something fictional-related, whether it be a character or a scene. I started to write and write and didn’t really stop all day. While the start may be shaky, it’s quite a lot of progress and seems to be currently taking a novel’s shape. I’m going to keep plugging away at it, try not to think about it took much, and I’ll certainly resist the temptation to go back, read and begin to self-editorialise and critique. There will be plenty of time for that on the next draft.

So, on the right-hand side of the front page I’ll be tracking my progress with the following snazzy charts. Currently the rough target is 50,000 and I’ll judge that was I progress. Wish me luck!

Weekly Progress

Total Progress

Good days and bad

Sometimes writing is really hard work. I don’t mean that in the sense that learning the craft and finding the inspiration is tricky. What I mean is that sometimes writing is like constipation, where I’m painfully squeezing out one word at a time before eventually realising that it’s still all shit. I hate those days.

Then there are days like today, where words flow freely and no challenge seems insurmountable. That radio play scene that was kicking my arse last night? Totally nailed it in 15 minutes on the train this morning.

In no way though would I ever use the term ‘writer’s block’ or apportion guilt to ‘my muse’. The latter has always particularly annoyed me. I know most writers who refer to their muse don’t mean this as a literal spirit of enlightenment, but I’ve never felt the need to anthropomorphise my difficulties as the act of some skittish metaphor who must be appeased by ritual and superstition.