Whos Speaking: Choosing A Narrators Voice

By: Scott Lindsay

Have you given much thought to the voice of your narrator? Perhaps you assumed the narrator in your novel should remain neutral. Many writers believe that the narrator should have little in the way of identity and the use of a narrator is essentially a necessary means of moving the story from one scene to the next.

It may come as a surprise to learn that your narrator can, and SHOULD, have a distinctive voice. The narrator should be used to do more than simply take the reader on a guided tour of your story.

The technique used to add life to your narrator is called 'Voice'. How you ultimately choose to define the character of your narrator can add a new dimension to your work. By adding a unique personality to your narrator the reader has a chance to visualize the story through the eyes of someone that intrigues them. They may not particularly like the narrator, but the voice you choose help the reader find a new facet of interest in your story.

Your narrator could have a strained relationship with the main character and might make occasionally negative comments as they unfold the story. The reason for the animosity could be explained and resolved as the story unfolds.

The Disney movie "Emperor's New Groove" was narrated by the main character who interjected humor, sarcasm and arrogance that allowed the viewer to gain a clearer picture of the primary character, the conflict his actions created, and the ultimate need for him to lose some of his pride. What is interesting is the narrator’s voice also allowed the viewer to actually enjoy the Emperor’s character even more.

In western fiction the narrator often provides range-hardened wisdom during the course of the narrative that leaves you feeling as if you've saddled up a horse and are paired up an agreeable partner that has much to teach you.

Some writing intentionally portrays the narrator as distant and rather formal in their story telling. In this case the writer does not wish to have the narrator play a significant role in the storyline and only wishes them to fill in the blanks with no commentary or personality showing through.

Determining the voice of your narrator can be an important element in the development of your story. Choosing the 'voice' of your narrator may be best achieved early in the story-writing process to avoid needless rewriting.

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