All narration is in first person

When you think about it (and you really ought to think about such things), all narration is in first person.

If you treat your narrator as an unseen character (which I think you must if you are serious about this business of writing fiction), he or she is really telling the story in first person, even if the word “I” is never used. (I’ve discussed this here and here.)

And if you don’t treat your narrator as an unseen character (or you don’t care to add this layer to your story telling), it is you who is telling the tale, so it is again in the first person, you just don’t happen to bring in your presence overtly.

The mysterious narrator of Iris Murdoch’s novel The Philosopher’s Pupil is a curious example. This is a true first-person narrated story, but a hundred pages can pass with a third-person omniscient voice (even relating to us the thoughts of a dog in the story), and then the narrator will become an active character, joining in action and conversation with the other characters.

The point of this observation is merely to emphasize how important it is to maintain voice in the story telling. Who exactly is relating your story to your reader? You must have this thought through and fixed in your mind even if you are the only one sharing drinks with your narrator, listening (and scribbling down) as he or she tells you the story of your protagonist.

Explore posts in the same categories: Rants and ruminations

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