I'm wrestling with ideas for a new novel. I have three of them, each very different from the others. When we think of novels, we often talk about plot and we often talk about character. But the key cornerstone for me - the thing that I need to settle on for the story to have enough strength to stand - is the narrative voice.
Narrative voice is to some extent determined by plot and to an even greater extent by character. But it is a thing in itself. In its turn it influences the characters and the plot.
Back to my three story ideas. Which one shall I go with? However good the stories are, the truth is I will almost certainly go for the one which speaks to me first. The one that shows me a narrative voice that will work. Once I can hear that voice in my head, the rest will follow.
People sometimes talk about the relationship between narrative voice and the voice of the point-of-view character. In a first-person novel, they are clearly one and the same. But in a third person novel, there is still a relationship between them. A hazy relationship. That area of ambiguity is rich with possibilities.