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The narrator as a character?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Queshire, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Would you do it? Either by having them be an actual character in universe (and not the main character like with first person stories) in universe or by just giving them enough personality of their own that they might as well be a character. If you're familiar with the "A Series of Unfortunate Events," I'm thinking something like that.

    Have you done it? Would you do it? And what do you think some pros or cons would be?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Like the Sherlock Holmes stories? I think it works just fine if the author does it well.
     
  3. I think that's called 1st person narration. Literally what 1st person narration is.
     
  4. And a 1st person POV character doesn't have to be the main character (though that's the usual thing)
     
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think that Orson Card's division of characters distinguishes between the protagonist (ex., Sherlock Holmes) and the POV character (Watson), but maybe the division is hero and POV character. And wasn't "main character" the one who hurts the most? Something like that.

    But I wonder if Queshire meant something along the lines of an omniscient 3rd in which the narrator is a storyteller who also happens to be in the fictional universe — but perhaps not in the story itself. To be in the story, it'd almost have to be in 1st person or at least maybe include a parenthetical like "When David met Bob (that is, me)..." and that would be very weird if nothing else is in 1st.

    I suppose you could have a 1st person narrator who is relating a tale about others, but a tale in which he didn't participate. "Let me tell you the tale of Gortor the Brave. I met him only once but did not know at the time what he would become." The majority of the tale would be about Gortor and would resemble a third-omniscient, with occasional self-references (asides) from the narrator.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016
  6. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

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    Maybe. I've done it with a few short stories, but my story now is in 3rd person. That's my style and I personally favor it. If I was bored, I could try a novel that way, would be a challenge.
     
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I just checked out the previews for some of the books in "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which I've never read, and I think it's like the last approach I mentioned above. There's a 1st person narrator telling a tale about others, who will speak directly to the reader ("you") as well as say things like, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but that is how the story goes."

    Sure, this should work? It seems almost like the old, traditional format, where a tale-teller stands in front of an audience and tells a story.
     
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  8. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    The Redwall books usually had a short prologue in which a story teller was introduced, then we got the story - not that the story reflected that (i.e. straight up 3rd person with no narrative comments).
     
  9. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I narrate my series from the POV of someone who has been there. I never drop into first person, but I tell it as if I've been there to see it myself, occasionally using present tense to describe places and customs that still exist as they did at the time the series took place. Apparently it adds considerably to the suspension of disbelief; I would guess that's because most readers don't (at least my beta readers didn't) notice. One of my ARC reviewers is only halfway through but shot me an email gushing about how real and believable the world is (EDIT: and still either not noticing, or not commenting on, the use of present tense in descriptions, which may mean I did it subtly enough), and advising me that if the book takes off I should brace for a flood of emails from readers demanding that I tell them how to get there.

    Damned right.

    I worked to develop the narrative style of sitting in your living room with a drink in my hand, or telling you all this over a pitcher of beer and some wings. (I don't care if it's dated. It's my thing. And I ****ing hate tight third. Cope.)

    Also, there is a planned character a few books in who may or may not be the author; I will neither confirm nor deny. :cool:
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016
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  10. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Malik, I like that style too :)

    Omni is fun, and I LOVE the way it is done in Unfortunate Events. I love when the narrator breaks the "wall" and speaks directly to the reader as the storyteller. So fun!

    The BEST way I have seen this done is in Galapagos (I have brought this book up a lot lately! I highly suggest the read if you haven't). So in Galapagos, the narrator is 'telling' the story, though he is not the MC. He is not actually involved in the story at all. In fact, as you read on you find out that the narrator is actually the ghost of a man who was killed building a ship a few years earlier and so has been an invisible bystander to the events of the story the entire time. It is SO interesting.
     
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  11. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Both Douglas Adams and William Goldman broke the fourth wall to astonishing effect, as well. I just put Galapagos on my list. Thanks!
     
  12. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

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    In my WIP I have a narrator who is a secondary character with the ability to observe most things from afar and read minds through a mechanism not revealed until book 3 of 5. He does some puppet mastering along the way and is the undisclosed father of the MC who is not revealed until the revelation of the mechanism. Though he stays in the background 95% of the time.

    It's a complicated choice, I know, but does anybody have advice on what I should or shouldn't do with it.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I agree that Galapagos is a good book. Vonnegut makes a habit of breaking the 4th wall. I also enjoyed House of Leaves, which breaks it and is generally unconventional in its approach to story.
     
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