Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Narrative Voice and Novel Writing

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.


Sam Hayes said...

Interesting post, Rod. In all three of my novels, I switch between first and third person, different characters' points of view, tense etc therefore altering the narrative voice. Oddly, I recently wrote an entire chapter in the first person when it should have been third...thought something was wrong when I went back over it. It took me a while to pinpoint what was wrong. Very worrying! Hope your decision making goes well. Bask in the choice! You can always write all three. Sam xx

Rod Duncan said...

Strange when that happens - you write accidentally in first person instead of third. But I'd take that as a sign that you are really into your characters - that you have placed yourself into the story. In other words, I'd take that as a sign of success.

It sometimes happens to me when I am writing a dialogue, and I get to one of those bits where it is just the words of the different characters - with no attributions, as it is obvious who is speaking. Then I come out the other side of the dialogue and find I am writing first person by mistake. Or I drop from past to present tense.