First vs. third person narrative

I recommend that writers stick to writing in third person during the early part of their careers. In general, only experienced novelists can write effectively in first person, because with a prodigious amount of writing under their belts, they understand the clear distinction that must be made between a fictional narrator and the author himself.

For example, in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which I consider to be the first modern novel, the narrator is introduced to us from the beginning as someone who has a point of view distinct from the author’s. He debates the spelling of Quixote’s name, but remarks that it is ultimately unimportant to his story, “…providing that in the telling of it we do not depart one iota from the truth.”

First person storytelling only works if the storyteller is himself clearly fictional. The storyteller must be a character in the book, explicitly or implicitly, with his own clearly defined point of view. It must be obvious to the reader that this is not the author doing the talking. This is trickier than it may sound. New writers often struggle with the nuances of “voice” in their novels. This is one technique that’s better left for a later phase of your career.

Buy How to Publish Your Novel on Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment