Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A thought on Narration

I have returned, sun burnt and happy, with a touch more rowing experience and hair that is far less frizzy than I expected. 

I seem to have left epics behind with the cord grass (well, I did pick up a copy of El Cid at a used bookstore during my vacation.  Finds like that make me all warm and fuzzy!  But I haven't read it yet, so I can't post my impressions.) and turned my attention back to mid grade books and something interesting I've noticed about narration.

I was re-reading 101 Dalmatians (I know -a winter story in the middle of July.  I had my air-conditioner on so I didn't break the mood too badly.) when I noticed how very present the narrator is in the story.  She tells us a great deal about how dogs see their people, and the society of the time.  The Rescuers is the same.  The author isn't afraid to skip in and tell us things.  It's like she never heard that old `show don't tell' rule.  And the thing is, the style really works in both cases.  The books are witty and fun and a lot of that is because the narrator makes all sorts of wry observations about the characters. 

There's been a push in recent times to go with a `just the facts' type of writing and let the readers make up their minds about the characters, and for a lot of stories that style works really well.  But other stories need an omniscient narrator who isn't afraid to hop in now and then and give his opinion.  (Can you imagine The Princess Bride without all the asides?  Or Lemony Snicket's books?)  When it comes to style, there are a lot of options.  It's important not to forget that when you sit down at your keyboard.


  1. "Redemption in Indigo" by Karen Lord is another book where the narrator calls attention to himself at times. If you aren't familiar with it, it starts with a folk tale, and goes on from there. Maybe that's part of why the very present narrator works in it. {Smile}

    I've never tried an obiviuos narrator in third-person, but I think sometimes my first person writing goes that way a bit. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. I love that about `Redemption in Indigo!' :)

    I've mostly done obvious narrator when I was trying to be funny. I have this kind of mid-grade fractured fairy-tale based world that I write about when I feel fluffy where the narrator is always making asides. It's a lot of fun.

  3. That does sound like a fun world to write in. I think retold fairytales lend themselves to obvious narrators very nicely. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin