As a writer, you are supposed to find “your voice”. Your voice is going to be a reflect of you as a writer, as a person, as an intelligent mind telling a story, so you are supposed to show parts of your self, both directly/indirectly and consciously/unconsciously. You can call it “your style” if you wish. I would like to write a series about how to find your voice, accordingly to the different areas that it covers, starting with the Narrator.
Find your voice: The Narrator
Sometimes, I mean, most of the time, you are supposed to base your voice only on the kind of narrator you want to use on your story. However, your voice as a writer is not just related to that voice of it, but to lots of different aspects that are, for sure, tied to the story that you, as a writer, want to tell to the rest of the world.
First of all, we have to be clear about what a writer is and what a narrator is. Although they are pretty similar, they are not the same. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an author is
: a person who has written something; especially : a person who has written a book or who writes many books
On the other hand, to narrate (action done by it), in words of the same dictionary, is
: to say the words that are heard as part of (a movie, television show, etc.) and that describe what is being seen : to do the narration for (something)
Sometimes, the person that writes the story is not the person that narrates the story. For example, The Hobbit is a book written by J.R.Tolkien that has Bilbo Baggins as the narrator. In fact, most of the times, apart from autobiographical novels, the narrator is not the writer.
Knowing the use and difference between author and narrator, we can assume that the voice of the writer is not just a matter of what kind of narrator must be used, mainly if the narrator is not the actual voice of the writer.
In order to find your voice, first you have to settle your narrator. Yes, I know, it seems kind of redundant, but even though the chosen one is not the whole voice of the author, it is, for sure, a must in any story. If there is none, there will be no story to tell about.
Canonically, there are three different ones:
1st person narrator: It is the protagonist or a very close person to him/her. He/she tells the story that has lived or is living from a first person perspective, using the I or We personas. This narrator is completely included on the story, taking part on the several situations and actions of it.
2nd person narrator: This is very difficult to see but still it is considerated as another narrator. This narrator tells what a “you” person is doing throughout the story, so the narrator is almost telling the reader, if not doing so, what the proper reader is doing as a character or the protagonist.
3rd person narrator: This is the most common type, that talks about others, in third person, being away from the action in the story, an external element or voice.
Then, also canonically, there are another three types of narrators, acording to the level of knowledge they have:
Omniscient narrator: It will know and tell about everything from everybody: their actions are they are seen, their thoughts, their relationships, their feelings… The narrator knows everything about the world he/she is talking about.
Limited omniscient narrator: It is very similar to the previous one, except for the limitation of his/her knowledge. This narrator will know everything about certain characters, or will know everything about certain situations, but not everything about the characters. Anyhow, his/her knowledge about the world is cut down because of specific reasons.
Objective narrator: It will only talk about what is happening on the story, what can be seen; he/she will avoid feelings and thoughts and any element that cannot be perceived by the senses.
These two categories, about the person and the knowledge used by the narrator, are the typical formulas to create (or settle) the kind of narrator. But, during the last years, altogether with the new creative platforms that have come to live, I would like to discuss new kinds of narrators that can be found currently.
The 4th Wall Narrator
This type can be found, mainly, on interactive stories, such as those on videogames. They are going to interact and tell the story depending on the actions of the protagonist, a.k.a. the player. A huge example of this narrator is the one on Stanley’s Parable. This narrator tells what the protagonist does but you, as a player, can change your next action and avoid doing what the narrator wants you to do. If the player doesn’t do what is supposed to, the narrator uses expressions like “OK, so the protagonist wants to go to the other door, with some reasons that only he knows” and so.
The Voiceless Narrator
This narrator has been used immensely on movies, because there is no actual need of someone telling the story. The audience has all the tools to follow the movie and to understand the story behind it. In fact, it is kind of strange when you are watching a movie and there is a narrator, specially if the narrator is not talking on first person, but in second or third one. On this case, we can assume that the narrator is “the camera”, as in the camera shows key elements, specific background or landscapes and certain expressions from the characters.
The Crippled Narrator
This one is not complete, misses something. Please, do not mistake him with the Limited Omniscient Narrator. This narrator can know everything or nothing about something or someone, but his/her limitations are not attached to that characteristic. The Crippled one is incomplete because of some kind of disease, mental illness or amnesia. They tend to use the first person and examples of them can be found on movies like Fight Club or Memento. On Fight Club, the narrator, who is also the protagonist, suffers from esquizofrenia and, because of this, he misses half of his personalities when he narrates. The movie is told only using half of his self. On Memento, the narrator, also the protagonist, loses his memory so he can only tell what he remembers, but not the whole story.
Now it is your turn. Check your story, find the best narrator for it and write it.
I hope you find this article as useful as entertaining and I would be really happy to read your comments about this topic and the theories I have found on the recent years.
Have a nice day 🙂