The Voice of the People… or Characters

By March 7, 2013Writing about Writing

When you read a book, what’s one of the first things you notice? Is it the setting? Is it the use of concrete versus abstract details? Is it the way the writer chooses to open the story? Or is it, perhaps, the narrative voice? Whether or not the story is being told in first, second, or third person? What voice you use when writing can be the most difficult decision to make. It can effect everything within the story: how the audience feels about characters, how they understand the action, how the reader connects with the story, how the setting is described, everything.

A lot of beginning writers tend to narrate their stories in the first person. This is potentially problematic because it leads to learning writers focusing more on getting inside their main character’s head space than what is actually happening in their story. And though inner monologue can be interesting, and there are many authors who have done it successfully, we aren’t as talented as those authors when we start out and need to learn how to write a story that includes setting and action as well. The reason why so many gravitate toward writing in the first person is that its easier, since it allows the writer to pretend they are the “I” in the story. But, this isn’t now narration should be approached, since not all narrative voices are best for the story you are trying to tell.

When choosing which narrative voice to use, you should always ask yourself how you want your story to be told, or what is the best way to tell this story. It is always easier to see emotional changes the protagonist is going through if you write the story in first person since you can get inside their head. But, if you want to set a scene that contains details the main character might not be able to see or notice, you write the story in third person. If you want to be able to address the reader in the story, forcing them to bring themselves in, then you want to write in second person. And, whichever narrative voice you choose will set the tone for the rest of the story, since it will effect the level of bias the narrator has, what the reader does and doesn’t know, and how certain actions are received by the reader.

Being open to the different forms of narrative voice, rather than using only one, opens you up to being able to write more stories effectively, though most writers do have a style that they tend to use more often, or one that they always avoid. But, it’s still important to get a feel for it first. Try the different styles out, before settling on one.