The second part of my series on differing perspectives in stories, focusing on first person narrative.
I gave a quick example on First person narratives in the first part of my series. In this second part I’ll be going more into detail about first person narratives, I’ll cite a few example and give my take on it.
First off, first person narratives are nothing new, they’ve been in use for a long time, while I’m not quite as well read of the classics as I should be, even Mark Twain wrote in first person on occasion.
While Mark Twain wrote about his travels in first person, describing what he saw and giving his take on it, he also wrote ‘Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc’ in first person, telling the now familiar story of her through the fictional eyes of a friend who followed her into battle. It is one of the best examples of first person narrative that I’ve ever read and I heartily recommend it to everyone who wants to read a well written story in first person.
Another well written novel in first person is ‘The Woman in White’ by Wilkie Collins. In this book Wilkie Collins managed to go a step farther with a first person narrative, while not changing style, he allowed other voices to take over the narrative in certain chapters, allowing the reader to hear the statements of the witnesses and suspects in the case.
The Woman in White is another book that I’d recommend to those interested in reading a story in first person as it’s one of the best examples that I’ve read.
While other authors have tried to copy Wilkie Collins’ style of first person narrative, I’ve found few that have come close. I did recently read one that seemed as if it used the same style, the characters related their part of the story nicely, but in the end nearly all of them were killed off, as it was written in a way that it seemed like a flash back, reading the death in first person was jarring to say the least.
Now for the pros and cons of first person narratives:
- As it focuses on one point of view, the reader can get a better feel about the narrating character.
- It tells the story as seen by the character (or characters depending on style), which can reveal details that the character(s) feel are important.
- First person narratives can develop a better understanding of the narrator, how he thinks and feels.
- It can allow for certain facts to be concealed as the narrating character doesn’t know about those details until later on in a story.
- It offers a lot more challenges to a writer as the world is revealed through only a single character in most cases (if using the Wilkie Collins’ method this problem is slightly reduced as there are multiple views points).
- You are stuck with the narrating character (or characters) even if something important is happening a thousand miles away.
- You don’t get quite as good of a feel for other characters is the story.
- Certain facts are hidden from the reader and it might seem as if the author changed something major at the end when something is revealed.
All of the above challenges can be avoided by good writer of course, say by hinting about certain facts before they are revealed.
I hope that you’ve found this article interesting and informative, next week I’m tackling third person perspectives.