Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Who Is Telling the Story?

The author, obviously -- if you want to get technical and point out the name on the cover. That's not what I'm asking though. Between the front and back covers, between the acknowledgments and the thank you's, who is telling the story?

The main character, or the all seeing narrator?

These discussions go on and on all the time. Which point of view is "right." Which one "should you use?"

The answer is always the same -- whichever feels right.

For me, it was always third person, with a little bit of omniscient in there. For me, it's because I hate to be tied down by only what my character experiences. To me, it's like playing with an unreliable narrator all the time. Also, I feel like my character is narcissistic every time they have to tell a story about themselves. In third person, I just imagine this all seeing eye as thinking this character was interesting, and wanted to tell the reader about him or her.

As for the omniscient part, that's because I am easily distracted, and I love to delve into other character's backgrounds. I like to get into their heads for a little bit. It might take away a little bit of the mystery, but at the same time, it can add to the dramatic irony.

Lately though, I've been thinking if that's right for me. Does it always work? I've heard that sometimes, no, it doesn't work. Sometimes, the point of view needs to change for the story to work. That seems like such a big deal. If you start out writing something in third person, then change your mind, you have to go through with a fine tooth come and turn every "I" into "he" or "she" or the character's name. "My" turns into "his" or "hers." Or the whole thing goes the opposite way. Seems like a lot of work, but sometimes necessary.

And also lately, I've been interested in trying to really get invested in the character. More often than not, a reader gets invested in a character when the story is told in first person, rather than third. (All I can think about there though is that with first person narrative, it's a risk to delve into other characters.)

So I pose this question to you. Nothing about "right or wrong" or "what should I do?" I simply ask for an opinion: What tense do you prefer to read? How about right? Why?


  1. I don't necessarily agree that the reader needs a first person narration to get invested in the character. In fact, if the MC's voice grates on me, then I will pull away from the book altogether. I've read a lot of books lately, especially in YA, where the first person narrator was just too whiny, snarky, or self-centered to really engage me.

    I rather like close third person. You still get the MC's voice, but you also have the ability to learn about things the MC wouldn't necessarily tell you voluntarily.

    As for tense, I know present tense is currently in fashion, but frankly, it bugs me.

  2. Thank you, Diane, for letting me know I'm not the only one with the same opinion on most first-person YA books.