Saturday, January 10, 2009

The narrative voice

Taking on a different persona, the characters point of view, and the narrative voice…who tells your character’s story?

Looking through the lens, as we begin to write, first off we need to know who is speaking and from what point of view, too are we up close and personal, or far away and detached. I’ve written multiple beginnings to several novels and short stories both in first person, third person and ultimately a second person point of view, and have yet to settle on whose voice should tell the tale. Is it simply because I’m an aspiring writer who falters or am I trying to write above my character’s experience by adding more flavor and tone than actually exist within the characters mind?

As I read an excerpt from William Faulkner’s novel “As I lay Dying” the beginning sentence, where the “I” character expresses that he and Jewel come up from the field, I can sense where my own faltering begins.

Let’s look at the story I am writing now of an older man relieving his experience of the great depression, and being orphaned, and how he feels about today’s economic plight and what the world is suffering now. We don’t know the outcome or what will happen during this recession, but what Albert feels and senses is it something he never wanted to go through again not in this life. What I am attempting to do is show the process and the fact that I have written this story from a different point of view.

The first one is a first person point of view. The first paragraph or so shows the cloud of dust that blows across the prairie ultimately killing his father from dust pneumonia and his mother dying shortly after, leaving him an orphan. Albert is torn and talks to his mother as they bury her, and he is confused about the rightness and wrongness and feeling hard at the world and his circumstances. Albert curses God, the sheriff, and the land that his father held so dear and that ultimately took all that was meaningful from him. But Albert is young and virile and eventually meets a hobo named Jake the Bake along with his dog Prudence, who teaches him the survival skills of riding the rails and living off the land.

1st Point of View of a novel-in process… of a ten-year-old boy in the 30’s.
Pa scooped up a handful of dirt, letting it flow through his fingers, as if it were flour from Ma’s biscuit bend, there is no moisture in the air, and hasn’t been for sometime, and I poke at the seedlings with my toe for they’d died in the field, as soon as they broke through the parched earth.

Albert awakens to the news that the world is suffering and economic recession, he remembers living through a depression, and his heart is downtrodden having to experience what he thought that he never have to go through again. The memories flood him and he watches his daughter as he relives those memories and worries what it will do to those around him now. How society differs now, and what he sees as a society’s moral decline.

3rd Person of the same boy as an older man, some 88 years later.

Albert Feany wakes from his nap in the overstuff recliner, and stares out the window at the dark wintry gray sky and listens to the news reporter declare this economic turmoil, a recession. “This isn’t a depression folks, we’re far from that,” The man says. It strikes a cord in Albert, as the newsman continues to talk about the stock values dropping, and it being far worse than the crash of ’29, and he wonders whose head is screwed on backwards his or the newsman.

The question that arises for me as the author, is where to begin Albert’s story, is it with the growing recession that we are having now or the remembrance of his having the lived through the great depression and the struggle he had to survive. I believe the third person point of view will be the course best taken.

What I need to think about, as I ponder this is how Albert will say what he is saying, and expressing it effectively in the narrative tone, mood and atmosphere, as how an older man will see things today and how it is happening. Is the voice clear, believable and the voice of a real person.
Happy Writing!

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