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Techniques Story Writers Should Know Before Writing

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In fictional writings, the person who tells or narrates a story and how it is told are critical issues for an author to decide. The tone and the meaning or sense of a story are usually affected or determined by who is telling the story and from what perspective.

We should recall that someone is always between the reader and the action of the story. That someone between the reader and the action tells the story from his or her viewpoint.

This angle of vision, that is, the view from which the people, events, and details of a story are viewed, is what is known as a point of view, or narrative point of view.

Whichever point of view is chosen by the author, the principal thing he or she does is narrate a story. The difference is the stance or perspective from which he chooses to narrate his story.

Point of view is a narrative device which means the position at which one looks at anything. It is the way the novelist sees characters and, how he reveals them in his inner mind, which may differ from that of the reader.

Thus, the (narrative) point of view determines through whose perspective the story is told.

Point of view enhances our ability to identify the narrator of a literary piece.

The three major types of point of view in novels are first-person (observations of a character who narrates the story), third-person-limited (outside narration, focusing on one character’s observations), and omniscient, (all-knowing narrator outside the story itself).

Others are second person, objective, limited omniscient, and alternating person points of view.

First-Person Narration

FirstThe first person-narrative technique also known, as the autobiographical narration describes a situation where the protagonist speaks through the author who adopts the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘We’. From the first-person point of view, one of the novel’s characters narrates the story.

For example: a sentence in a novel in the first person might read as I stopped to stare into the river, I heard a strange sound behind me.

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The narrator of the story is the person who has experienced or witnessed the events he narrates, or in some literary pieces, the author may assume this position.

From time to time, the first-person narrative is used as a way to directly convey the deeply internal, otherwise unspoken thoughts of the narrator.

Frequently,  the narrator’s story revolves around himself or herself as the protagonist and allows this protagonist character’s inner thoughts to be conveyed openly to the audience, even though they may not be opened or revealed to the other characters.

It also allows that character to be further developed through his/her style in telling the story.

In some cases, the first-person narration may be told as a story within a story, with the narrator appearing as a character in the story.

The first person provides total subjectivity and all the immediacy, intimacy, and urgency an single individual’s conflicts. The first person also reveals a character’s awareness of narrating a story.

(David Copperfield, 1849-1850) by the English novelist, Charles Dickens is narrated by the title character and opens ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else, these pages must show.

Other examples of prose fiction in the first-person point of view are Gulliver’s Travels, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, etc

Second-Person Narration

This mode of narration is uncommon in literature. However, it is common in song lyrics. It is grammatically represented by the second person pronoun ‘you’, therefore making the audience feel as if he or she were a character within the story.

The second narrator can be a difficult style to manage. However, whenever it is used, the narration allows the reader to imagine himself or herself within the action of the novel.

The second-person narrative mode is often paired with the first-person narrative mode in which the narrator makes emotional comparisons between the thoughts, actions, and feelings of ‘you’ versus ‘I’.

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An instance of second-person narration could be found in Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.

In this novel, the second-person point of view is intended to create an intense sense of intimacy between the narrator and the reader, causing the reader to feel powerless against a plot that leads him, blindly, through his own destruction and redemption.

Although, second-person narration can be a difficult style to manage, when handled properly, it allows the reader to imagine himself or herself within the action of the novel.

It is capable of putting across strong accusatory tone, which can be achieved if the narrator condemns or express strong feelings about the actions of the focal character ‘you’.

It can also be effectively used to place the reader in an unknown, troubling or exhilarating situation. For instance, Iain Bank, in his novel, Complicity, employs the second person in the chapters dealing with the actions of a murderer.

The second-person narrative, although rare, can, if mastered, make a whole lot of aesthetic composition.

Third-Person Narration

This mode of narration occurs when the writer does not connect himself with the other characters in the novel. In this category of narration, the narrator does not take part in the action of the story as one of the characters, but let the audience know exactly how the characters feel.

We gain the knowledge of the characters through this outside voice. In this frame of narration, the author is provided with the greatest flexibility and, as a result, it turns out to be the most commonly used narrative mode in literature.

In the third narrative mode character is referred to by the narrator as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or ‘they’. Or example, a sentence from a story in the third person limited might read.

An example of the third-person narration can be seen in the works of the American writer, Henry James, who employs the third-person-limited point of view to a great effect in books such as Daisy Miller (1879) and The Portrait of a Lady (1881) with the central character as a person who can evaluate the significance of events and in turn transmit that evaluation to the reader.

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Omniscient Narration

In a novel written from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, the reader knows what each character does and thinks.

The reader maintains this knowledge as the plot moves from place to place or era to ear. An omniscient narrator can also provide the reader plays no part in a story but is aware of all facts, including the character’s thoughts.

It sometimes even takes a subjective approach. One advantage of the omniscient narrator is that it enhances the sense objective reliability of the omniscient narrator is that it enhances the sense of objective reliability of the plot.

The omniscient mode of narration is the least capable of being unreliable, although the omniscient narrator can have his own personal judgements and opinions on the behavior of the characters.

The omniscient point of view has advantages and disadvantages. Using an omniscient narrator allows a writer to be particularly clear as regards plot developments.

This point of view also exposes the reader to the actions and thoughts of many characters and deepens the reader’s understanding of the various aspects of the story.

However, using an omniscient narrator can make a novel seem too authoritarian and artificial, because in their own lives, people do not have this all-knowing power.

If clumsily executed, providing thick details may cause the reader to lose sight of the central plot within a mass of scenes, settings and characters.

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