Here are the show notes from our third episode which aired live July 28, 2018 at 9 a.m. EDT on MakeThePointRadio.com and 100.7 The Point FM local to Columbia, S.C.
Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer
Preston Taylor Stone, fiction writer, poet
*Today is my wedding anniversary and our Nana and Papa’s wedding anniversary, so a quick shout out about that.*
Theme for the day
Narrator, Point of View, and the story’s voice
- Who we are and why we’re here — Episodes 1 & 2 recaps
- The topic for the week: Narration
- Types of narration, questions that determine the POV
- Book discussion — currently reading and its analysis through the lens of the topic
- Craft book discussion — Stephen King’s On Writing
So, previously on Write on SC…
In Episode 1, we covered Planning and Pantsing.
Planning is … going in with a detailed plan
Pantsing is … going in following a character’s voice
They are both DRAFTING techniques that lead to revision.
Then in Episode 2, we covered exposition
We’re delivering exposition right now. Let’s try not to make it painful.
We suggested fiction writers use any number of devices to deliver painless exposition:
- Through dialogue
- Through thoughts a character has about his or her life
- Through character introduction
- Letters, newspaper clippings, medical bills (other written evidence)
And we talked about some of our favorite techniques used by the likes of John Green, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and Nick Hornby.
Okay, we’re all caught up.
Narration is the primary voice of the story. It’s the primary point of view. It’s the lens through which the story is told.
There are three (mostly) kinds:
- First Person — a single narrator in whose head we are living, usually the story’s protagonist (with some notable exceptions)
- Third close — a narrator that refers to the main character as he/she but stays close enough to that character that we know what’s in the protagonist’s head
- Third person — a narrator that can provide the viewpoints of multiple characters, usually separating those viewpoints by sections of the book (such as chapters)
Pros: intimate knowledge of protagonist (thoughts, decision-making), empathetic to the protagonist, narrows the scope
Cons: narrows the scope of the story (whatever this character doesn’t know, the reader cannot know), delivery of exposition becomes complicated; can be exhausting; first person must be relatable, interesting, and redeeming
Pros: limit to a single experience, still excluding the non-essential story elements, not being “stuck” in the first person’s head; focus on the story, secondary characters are not seen through the protagonist’s lens;
Cons: less empathy than first person; access to the story is limited by the single character’s POV
Pros: you are not required to look through the narrow access of a “close” third character, you have visibility to multiple character’s third person.
Cons: less empathy than first person
Special or niche narrators:
- Omniscient — a classic attempt by Henry James and others to impose a God-like presence, observing and making judgements of what’s happening; more modern “omniscient” narrators are like bad third person texts — where they head hop and tell multiple people’s stories without a defined protagonist or a specific point of view.
- Collective first — The Virgin Suicides, The Shakespeare Sisters
- Second — The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid; Choose Your Own Adventure books
Why would you choose each of these?
First person narratives must first understand the answers to the questions: To whom is this story being told? Why is this story being told? These answers help to create urgency rather than the story being an outpouring of word vomit
Why not just do first person? What is the benefit of having a third person close? Maybe it’s the benefit of not having everything the person knows/feels/thinks? We can’t obscure the person’s intentions in a first person narrator, but we can obscure them in a third person close. In the 3rd person close, the author determines the distance we have from the main character. We don’t have to experience the anxiety of Harry learning the ins and outs of the wizarding world because we have some distance from Harry with the third person lens.
What questions would you ask to determine which POV is best?
What information does the reader have to have in order to 1) empathize with the protagonist, and 2) hang in there for the entire novel?
Can that information be delivered by a single point of view?
If so, do we need a safe distance a la Harry Potter? Or can we be right in the thick of it?
Back to the “Getting Started” nature of these first few episodes
What we’re reading this week
Preston: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
Kasie: Like a Dog by Tara Jepson such a great example of a first person narrative where the narrator continually tangents and drifts and you have to really be invested in Paloma to keep reading.