Choosing a Voice

#manuscriptmonday #storytelling

I’m sure most writers prefer to write in a certain style of voice when telling a story. You can write in first person, third person, etc. First person narratives are limited because they are one dimensional perspectives on an entire story, but that if that’s your purpose, then that’s fine. And one positive aspect of this kind of voice is that you can really delve into a character, become that character, as if you’re writing a diary of his or her life. It allows you to adopt their mannerisms, style of speaking or writing or both, their views on life and their surroundings, their feelings and thought process. I personally like it because you’re able to assume another identity completely and become someone else for awhile.

Third person writing is a bit more tricky because you are giving a bird’s eye view on a story. It is a more accurate telling of the whole thing and you are able to include so much more. But to me, the depth of the narrative is a bit more difficult to express. When I write in third person, I find myself leaning toward a character’s perspective, even though that isn’t what I’m trying to do. Third person – in my opinion – is something that needs to be practiced a lot. It’s easy to sit down and write a diary entry, but it’s not so easy to do it in third person. Third person forces you to go outside of your vision of the characters and become almost like God.

One of the first books that I read and realized I was reading a first person, multiple narrator story, all written in first person, was the book My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. This book told the story of a young girl who was conceived to become the bone marrow donor for her critically ill older sister. It is a beautiful story that addresses so many parts of family life and the relationships within them, but it’s also highly educational on the matter of Leukemia and legal emancipation for minors. This book was written with each chapter serving as a different character’s narration about what was going on in order to tell the entire story. Each character had a unique voice and perspective about everything that was happening around them. I thought it was a very interesting way to tell a story – you combine the depth of first person character development with the rounding-out of total storytelling by showing so many different observations, which is usually best served by third person.

There is now a TV series on Showtime, called The Affair, that tells the show like this. Each episode has two parts of each main character’s perspectives on what is happening. It shows the subtle differences in which we all view the same exact situation happening. It’s fascinating storytelling but while the truth is the truth, it’s like real life: you don’t really ever know the whole truth.

I wrote Scout’s Honor in first person with multiple narrators because I felt that it was the best way to tell this particular story. I wanted to add more depth to the otherwise perceived “bad guys” in order to show that life is really a bit more complicated than “good” person “bad” person. For the characters that I wanted to be perceived as one dimensional, they were written within a narrator’s perspective. They don’t really have their own voice. For example, one of my “bad guys” is written within Scout’s perspective so the reader will only see him as Scout sees him. Later, the reader will see a small observation about him in Scout’s daughter’s perspective, just to give the reader a small insight at a critical time.

I hope you find what works for you when telling your story.

-Dori  


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