One of the choices a writer has when telling a story is with their narrative voice. Although the voice can manifest itself in different ways during the course of a story, the premise remains central. The narrative voice has to grip onto the attention of the reader and maintain it throughout the story. But this is not an easy task to achieve.
The book that really captured my imagination as a child was The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It mentions black spaces on maps – imagine! There actually was a time when the word Unexplored was commonplace, and Conan Doyle’s book was the adventure story of my dreams. I did think the premise extremely unlikely – a sheer-sided plateau, isolated, unexplored, full of prehistoric creatures? And then I went to Venezuela.
In the news recently, Anthony Horowitz reveals that his editor has warned him off writing a black character into his next book. As he comments, that would be a pity, because if he only wrote characters that he represented himself, he would be restricted to 62 year-old white, male, Jewish men living in London!
In the second part of this blog I will be discussing how the ‘voice’ of the prose can be put across using the third person. You might think that the third person has such a sense of distance from the character that putting across a ‘voice’ in the text will be hard – even impossible. Not so! It just takes some craft.
The idea of developing ‘your voice’ is not just an idea limited to X Factor. Or, for that matter, Britain’s Got Talent. It is a term publishers and agents often use when critiquing new writers. How strong is their ‘voice’? But what is meant by this term, and how can we develop our voice, as a writer, to make it stronger?
I’m not quite sure why this is an issue that has only been coming up recently with students of mine. Perhaps it is because some are now later on in their assignments, and are challenging themselves with new, technical ways to tell a story. But more and more of my students who now write in the third person have been wondering about Point of View.