Which person narrative?

My last two published novels, ‘A Retrospective’ and ‘Ladybird, Ladybird’  have been written in first person narrative style.  ‘I’ am the character which is to some extent an easy way for the writer to reveal thoughts, feelings and actions.  The reader can also travel with that character allowing all others involved in the plot to be viewed through that one person, a narrow lens.  They will often be an unreliable narrator giving a false perspective, as what is in the mind of the other characters or are their intentions is filtered by supposition and reported speech.

This is exactly Greta’s point in ‘Incident on the Line’ (coming out soon).  That she is unreliable in telling the readers of her relationship with Roger worries her.  Can she know what he thinks and feels?  His past history will only emerge through her questioning. This can, of course, build up a tension for the reader who will have already seen through the characters wilful need to exaggerate and to look at things from their own point of view.

With ‘A Retrospective’ the novel is divided into two parts; the first written from Edward’s point of view, the second from Eleanor’s.  The reader here has a wider view of and can judge more fully their different perspectives as they report on the same scenes and actions.

‘The Angel Child’ was written from an authorial point of view; the setting, nature and the weather, carry the weight of their feelings. Most of the chapters focus on one character, the plot proceeding through their actions and relationships.

I recently read ‘HHhH’ by Laurent Binet, a superb novel which discusses the way in which factual events can be conveyed accurately.  The author here writes from every perspective; as author commenting on his concerns of what he has read and how he should write, and as the characters in the first, second and third person. It is fascinating and compelling.

I am not working on anything as ambitious.  My novel will be totally fictitious with only the smallest glance at what was happening at the time through which the characters are living and how it affects them.  In what may become ‘The Greenhouse’, I wish to write from several characters’ points of view.  In following Gina, then Ivan, I am finding my plot is enriched as I can reveal their thoughts and feelings at the same time as being allowed the writer’s overall command of the plot. It is satisfying to create other people, Elspeth, George and Kenneth as well, to let them speak, to be inside their heads.  Backwards and forwards from one to the other.  I feel excited at the prospect.  However I hope that my readers won’t become baffled as they hear or become one character and then another.  Will I need to be in the background saying; ‘Keep up, keep up!’

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