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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Who's Your Narrator?

   
Author Topic: Who's Your Narrator?
extrinsic
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Who's your preferred writing or reading narrator?
  • Inconscpicuous narrator?
  • Central character?
  • Dramatic persona, participating or bystanding within a narrative's setting?
  • Remote, perhaps omniscient persona?
  • Implied author: perhaps a persona a noticable degree different from author?
  • Real author?
Narrative voice?
  • First person?
  • Third person?
  • Second person?
  • Present tense?
  • Past tense?
  • Perfect tense?
  • Progressive tense?
  • Formal register?
  • Informal register?
Narrative distance?
  • Close?
  • Remote?
  • Variable?
  • Between close, closer, closest, and at times open a degree or two?
Closest to whom?
  • Central character?
  • Narrator?
  • Implied author?
  • Author?


[ July 18, 2012, 03:26 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MartinV
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Yes.
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MattLeo
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Well, that's like asking which of your children is your favorite. Different kinds of stories call for different narration, I think.

That said, I have three favorite narrative flavors I like to both read and write.

First person, past tense: In some ways this is the easiest style of narration to write consistently and cleanly, and it affords an opportunity to reinforce the protagonist's character by speaking his opinions in his voice. On top of that you can drop hints of the narrator's unreliability, both unintentional (things that are clear to the reader but not to the narrator) and intentional (narrator agenda). The big disadvantage is in generating suspense; the *narrator* has to be an engaging storyteller, otherwise we'll think "well, I know he got out of that scrape because he's here telling us about it."

Third person limited or semi-limited, past tense, variable distance: This narrative style is somewhat more difficult to write, but it offers most of the advantages of first person narration while making it easier to generate suspense. You can introduce information outside the protagonist's knowledge, either by having scenes told from different characters' POVs, or by moving closer or farther to the character (I think of this as "out of the head" and "inside the head"). When you are "outside the head" you can provide information outside the POV character's knowledge, and even drop in subtle editorial observations. The closer you get to inside the character's head, the more limited the narration has to be.

Third person omniscient, past tense, distant/ironic: This is the voice of over-the-top satire, of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. It is the voice of the fairy story or tall-tale teller. When done well, the narrator is a distinct and opinionated presence in the story. This is probably the hardest narration to pull off because I think the unrelentingly jaded narrator has to be offset by a sympathetic protagonist. The narrator of Hitchiker's Guide presents Arthur Dent as an absurd, somewhat pathetic character, but there's also something heroic in his stubborn quest for a little bit of normalcy.

I don't much like the vogue for present tense narration, although some admittedly good books have been written that way. I suspect that present tense narration may be helpful to some writers' imaginations, but I don't think it does anything magical for the reader.

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Robert Nowall
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I suppose it depends on the story itself...sometimes it's first person and a character in the story, sometimes it's third person and clearly being told by someone (who's not necessarily defined in the context of the story), and sometimes it's third person and I make the effort to make it look like it's not being told by someone.

Nearly always past tense---present-tense stories always seemed so pretentious to me---but I've made a few lapses.

(On the other hand...I've got a few from my Internet Fan Fiction period that are an odd hybrid form---movie / TV script format, but never ever intended to be filmed, but read by someone---and in that case, it's mostly present tense, and the narrator is, outright, me.)

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genevive42
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I most often use close third person on a character. Ultimately though, it depends on the story and how I want to tell it.
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extrinsic
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For maximum engagement regarding willing suspension of disbelief, secondary settings, and participation mystique, I prefer an inconspicuous narrator voice blended with foreground character voice idiosyncracies and idioms. Third person in most scenarios for its objective attitude but subjective character attitude. Immediate past-present main tense with auxiliary tenses as circumstances require, again, for objective attitude strengths.

Close narrative distance association with a central character in the moment, place, and situation of the dramatic action. Formal register for indirect discourse, informal register for conversations and thoughts mostly, free preferably, tagged as circumstances dictate, and free whenever possible direct discourse. Ample use of action and reaction attribution for tagging thoughts and speech. And ample thought reactions to external stimuli.

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JoBird
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My answers are preferences, nothing more. I often enjoy things outside of my preferred choices.

I find this question almost impossible in terms of reading. I struggled with my answers a lot more there, and something tells me I might feel very different tomorrow. I fancy many styles when reading.

***

1. Who's your preferred writing or reading narrator?

-writing: central character
-reading: inconspicuous narrator

2. Narrative voice?

Note: I single out past progressive because I think it's really easy to misuse. But I like it when it's done well.

-writing: first person; past tense; occasional past progressive, hopefully in an appropriate manner.
-reading: third person, subjective; past tense; appropriate past progressive

Note: register depends entirely on the story, it's hard to choose a preference here. It depends on where it falls in the tale so I tried to address my preference from that angle.

*Formal register -- preferred outside of dialogue in third person narratives.
*Informal register -- preferred in most dialogue whether reading or writing. Also preferred in first person narratives.

3. Narrative distance?

-writing: close
-reading: close

*Between close, closer, closest, and at times open a degree or two?
-not following what you mean here. I assumed that this is what was meant by variable, but maybe I'm mistaken?

4. Closest to whom?

-writing: narrator (central character)
-reading: central character

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by JoBird:
*Between close, closer, closest, and at times open a degree or two?
-not following what you mean here. I assumed that this is what was meant by variable, but maybe I'm mistaken?

By variable I mean varying between wide-open remote (narrator voiceover) and degrees of close (dramatic persona), mostly varying surface access to thoughts. By close, closer, closest, and at times open a degree or two I mean varying a single voice between portraying progressive degrees of internal psychic access and external stimuli.
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