On Voice and Point of View

 Let’s say I’ve established who my main character is, and he/she also has a sidekick, someone to talk to, someone who can ask the sort of questions that the reader might want to ask.

 I have the theme of the book firmly implanted in my mind. Something like: Crime doesn’t pay, or True love knows no limits, or Evil always consumes itself in the end.

 I have the basic structure of the book — at least the start point and the ending. The middle may be a bit fuzzy.

 Now I have to decide what point of view is going to predominate, first person or third or a mixture. I have rigid rules on this. If I’m writing in the first person, I will write the whole book that way, sticking with just one narrator. To me, having some of the chapters in the first person and mixing in some third makes no sense, and I am not comfortable with first person narratives shared between two or more people.

 With a third person narrative I have the possibility of switching narrative points of view, throwing in an occasional chapter from the pov of some other character — the villain even — in order to supply the reader with some insider information that the main character doesn’t know. This is the magic of privilege subtext, and if the story can be strengthened in this way, then that’s what I will choose.

 If I choose first person point of view, then the narrator’s voice is obviously going to be the main character’s. But even if I choose third person point of view, the narrative style must reflect the attitudes and reactions of the main character. In both cases, I need a wealth of background information about the character as well as a firm grasp of the idiom and speech patterns that he/she will use.

 For example, does he/she:

  • Speak a little or a lot
  • Speak in a regional dialect
  • Use slang, contractions, expletives
  • Speak in whole sentences or grunt monosyllabically
  • Say what he/she thinks or obscure his/her thoughts
  • Stammer
  • Speak without thinking
  • Tell lies when expedient

and so on

 For further information on these topics, try The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens both by Noah Lukeman. For information on subtext, try The Story Book by David Baboulene.



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