Friday, March 5, 2010

Narrative Mode and Point of View

                I think one of the trickiest things to figure out when you’re writing a new story is who the narrator is. And once you decide who your narrator is, you have to decide whether you should put it in first person or third person or even second-person and that can be just as tricky.
                In a story, the narrator can either be nonparticipant (which would be the case in third and second person) or participant (which would be the case for first person). A nonparticipant narrator does not take part in the story and the participant narrator is an actual character in the story.
                I hate it when there is more than one perspective in the story. There is nothing worse than reading a book and each chapter is being shown by a different character than the one before it. I think this technique usually distances the reader from the characters to where you simply can’t relate to any of them because you don’t get a very good insight on any one character but instead you get little tidbits (I love this word) on each character. There are a few exceptions though like The Lord of the Rings and The Bartimaeus Trilogy. But, of course, the big difference between these two series is that The Lord of the Rings is written in third person and The Bartimaeus Trilogy is written partially in first person and partially in third person. Although, in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, I really only liked to read the chapters in which Bartimaeus narrated and that made the other parts seem awfully dull.
                 Generally, I like it when there is only one narrator and/or perspective. It gives you a one on one, up close and personal look at just one character and, if done right, you start to feel like you’re the only one who really understands him or her.
                Take Harry Potter for example. This is the best example of almost perfect narration I can think of. It’s in the third person, which can be tricky, but J.K. Rowling writes in such a way that you feel that you know Harry better than anyone else. The reader can relate to him, understand him, feel what he’s feeling and see what he’s seeing. That’s how it should be done. Some other books that are written in the third person that I like are The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Pride and Prejudice. I like how third person can be kind of mysterious and intriguing sometimes.
                But then take The Maze Runner. It’s written in third person and has only one perspective but the reader simply cannot relate to the main character (I can’t even remember his name) because it’s just not written in a way that you can really relate to him. I think that third person narration is the best if it’s done right but it rarely is.
                First person, to me, is, by far, the easiest of all of them. It’s simple, direct, allows sarcasm and humor that third person can't usually bring. Some books are just meant to be written in first person. Take The Catcher in the Rye, for example. It simply would not be The Catcher in the Rye if it were written in third or second person. Holden Caulfield is the only one who can truly explain how he feels about certain things, if someone else tried to explain it, it wouldn't be the same. Some books like that are written in third person are Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Paper Towns. One of the most famous books written in first-person was Moby Dick and I love how the narrator isn’t who the story is about but Ishmael describes the story of Captain Ahab and the whale. Writing in first-person allows the writer to be creative.
                Second-person is a hard narrative point of view to master and it is not typically used. Stories that are written in second-person use the pronoun “you.” Choose Your Own Adventure novels are a common of example this tricky narrative mode. If done the right way, a story that uses this style could be really interesting but it could also be disastrous. The narrative mode that you use can make or break your story.
                I think out of all of these, stories written in the first person with one narrator are usually the best because it's easier for the author to master but, when done correctly, third person can be the superior narrative point of view. The characters are just more down to earth and relatable and it leaves a lot of room for humor. But it’s good to experiment with all kinds of narrations until you stumble across the one that you’re best at and/or is best for your story.
                Which narrative mode do you like best? Do you like hearing from one character? Or two? Or three? Or fifty-seven?


Lizzy said...

I think that first and third person both have their awkward times- sometimes when narrated in first person, it's overdone, and you feel as if you're supposed to know this character so well that there doesn't need to be a plot. And then sometimes with third person, the characters are too distant. Then in the middle, both views meet and either one or the other is perfect for one particular book.

For what I like to read, well I stand by what I said above. I generally tend to like third person because the narration is a little more free to move from this character to that. I don't like it when the author tries to then make two main characters, though. The first person ones are always funny books-

As for for what I write, I did third person because it seemed ideal for my first ever novel. I am convinced though if it were told from my main character, it would not fit. There are just too many characters and their own journeys and paths to briefly follow that just one character can't tell the reader about.
I have to admit, humor is a challenge, but my characters help me with that. = )

Anaurora H said...

To me, first person is the best. It makes you actually get into whatever you're reading and it's easier to follow a story.

There are, though really well executed third person narrated stories that will -if they have a good story- keep you interested and connected with all the characters and not just with the main one.

Oh well, first person will always be my favourite.

You changed the background to brown!! I like it more :) It's easier to read without having to half shut my eyelids. :D

A big hug,

Tiago said...

The third person can be really weird because you have to constantly make sure you don't write stuff using "You" and "I" and it can get really annoying especially when you've never written like that a lot.

Personally I think each narrative point of view has it's own uses and I do think that the first person should be used to tell personal stories. The third person is more for scientific articles.

I agree with Anaurora though. First person is the best. It's SO much more personal and you can connect your emotions with that of the reader.

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