10.05.2013

Shine a light

Artist unknown.
After I finished reading Christopher Rice's The Heaven's Rise, I was left puzzled by the author's choice of narrator. There were three main narrators, with some sections narrated by secondary characters; but the character I would have liked to hear from didn't get to tell his side of the story. Of all the other choices an author has to make--setting, characters, starting point for the story, etc., etc.--choosing a narrator is one that I can't recall an author botching before.

In fairness, there are a lot of choices an author has to make even in creating a narrator. You have to decide if there's just one, or more than one. Then you have to decide if you're going to narrate in the first or third person. (Or, if you're an experimental writer, you can choose to write in the second person and freak out your readers.) After all that, you need to decide if your narrator has a limited or omniscient perspective.

I suppose it comes down to finding out where your story is. After all, I have seen authors start their story years (or centuries, in the case of James Michener) before the actual story begins. I've seen other authors drop readers in medias res and leave them clueless for chapters before the backstory starts to fill in. But it's a frustrating experience to be stuck with one narrator's perspective when all the action seems to be happening to someone else.

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