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Narration: The Perfect Voice

Narration can be both the easiest thing in the world and the most difficult depending on who's telling the story. It's crazy how different characters can narrate in different ways. Some are eloquent and thoughtful and others just want to jabber away. Some implore the reader to understand, others ignore the reader completely. The only thing that matters is that you pick the right voice.

I find narration can make or break a story. A 'voice' that I love will have me reading and reading. A 'voice' that grates on me is unlikely to get read to the end.

The most important thing to do is to make the narrator engaging and relatable, whichever way you tell the story. Decide whether you want your narrator to be funny, dramatic, poetic, emotional, whatever it is that works best for your story. Why are they telling the story? Are they the best person to? Why?

I cannot stress how powerful it is to keep asking yourself that simple question. Why?

There are a few ways you can go about narration. You have two choices of tense: past or present. You also have two choices of person: first or third. (Don't get me started on second person and future tense. Last time I said they couldn't be used in a full-length novel, I had an uprising on my hands.) What you use is up to you, and I encourage you to try them all. Once you've had a go at everything, you can decide what feels most natural for you.

I always write in the first person past tense. The third person felt too distant to me, and I kept falling out of the present tense. Let me tell you, the past tense doesn't mean you're not right in the now. You can be clever and make the past tense sound immediate. And if you want to write from more than one person's point of view and you're using the first person, just have another point of view character (but make sure you have a break between the two voices!).

It's not for me to tell you how to do this. But please think about who's telling your story, what they're like, and why they're the one to be telling it.

Narration can make or break you, so pick the most qualified character for the job!


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