Writer’s Presence – How We Tell Our Stories

Hiya everyone,

I started thinking about it the other day, and I began to wonder just how much of a writer’s personality starts to show through in their writing.

There are the obvious cases where a writer actually puts part of their personality into characters.  I would say that most writers do this to some extent no matter what, because we are, after all, supposed to write what we know.  On the other hand, I’ve also read that it is a bad idea to model a character completely after ourselves.

However, what I’m referring to in this article is more than just making a character like them.  And here some of you may or may not think I’m a bit on the crazy side, but novels themselves have personalities.

picard-incredulous

I’m serious.

spock-skeptical

Stop looking at me like that.

oneil-wacko….

Think about it, though.  Those of you who read dozens of novels or more per year probably know what I’m talking about.  One novel can be very cerebral, make you focus a lot on the technical aspects, or focus on how things happen in them.  How a person walks.  How an exosuit walks.  How a warrior fights.

Others might focus more on the emotional aspect.  The the primary purpose of actions are to create emotional reactions in the characters and the readers.

There are countless variations, and so just like people, countless ‘personality types’ for novels.  Not to mention a writer’s style can have a big impact on how all of this is presented and ‘feels’ in a story.  Short, bursts of sentences, or long, drawn out sentences?  Choosing 1st person vs. 3rd person PoV.

How much of this is a reflection of the writer’s personality?  How much of it is their voice?

The Narrator as a Character

It’s easy to identify most of the characters in a novel.  They usually have dialogue, descriptions of their actions and reactions, and most importantly, goals and desires, something to drive them forward.

…but what of the narrator?  In a 1st person PoV, that’s easy, it is whomever the PoV is from.  But in 3rd person, we often forget about the narrator.  It’s just text describing what’s going on, right?

I used to think so.  Until I started practicing for recording an audio book.  And as I have now read through the prologue of The Sword of Dragons about a dozen times, I’ve come to realize that the narrator IS a character.  He or she has their own voice, their own syntax and cadence, most often very different from when the characters speak dialogue.

And it’s funny that we forget about it, because if you think about it, their voice is the most important voice in the story.  The narrator is the one telling us what is going on, who is doing what, and why, and where it is taking place.  They are the ones telling us about these characters.

campfire-story-tellingThink about it.  You’re sitting around a campfire somewhere, and someone starts to tell a story.  Of course, whether or not the story is interesting might be debatable.  But how the person tells that story will ultimately determine if everyone else will listen or not, and whether or not they will enjoy the experience.  Perhaps a tradition that goes back thousands of years, to when the hunter-gatherers sat around fires describing how they caught that evening’s dinner.

So to all of my fellow writers out there, I challenge you to think about this, and to even read your own stories out loud, even if it is only to the wall, or your dog or cat or bird.  Listen to how you read the narrator’s lines.  What voice is it you hear when you read it silently?  Is it the same voice when you read it out loud?

And is that voice yours?

To all of the novel readers out there, let me ask you a similar question: do you hear a separate voice in your head when you read narration in a novel?  Is it yours?  Read it out loud, and then tell me what you hear.  Is it different?  Or is it as unique as one of the other characters?

In this light, I truly now believe that the narrator is their own character.  Perhaps we as writers should focus more attention on that.

Just a thought :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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