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Narration’s Perspective

I ran across a blog the other day that set me to wondering. Heaven knows it doesn’t take much sometimes, but this time was different because it concerned narration.

One of the things that has bugged me about that subject in the past several years is how the term is used. I remember the term”‘narration” as meaning a specific type of writing. The writing centered on the author telling a story from his/her own perspective, though not as one of the major players in the story.

Those types of stories are sometimes hard to find nowadays. At least they’re hard for ne to find. There are other types of narration to consider.

Probably one of the most famous narrative novels was “The Great Gatsby.” It was most definitely written through the eyes of a major player. It’s lure, at least for me, was the fact that while we saw the whole story through the narrator’s eyes, we also saw only memory. It acted as a memoir(fictional, of course,) novel, and commentary all rolled into one neat package for consumption.

At the other end of the spectrum is omniscience; also a type  of narrative which comes from the viewpoint of the cosmos telling the story to whoever will listen. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy this type because I get to know each major player in the story on a personal level through their thoughts.

When I was reading Laura Page’s blog about narrative, http://literarylegs.blogspot.com/2011/07/perfect-narrator-with-imperfections.html, I realized that I’ve been narrow in my view of the term and its use. Oh, I probably  already knew about my personal prejudice toward expanded definitions for the term. I admit to being in denial about encroaching changes in word usage.

Her discussion of narrative, however, allowed me view my own relationship with that writing technique. She spoke about characters with flaws that humanize them and make them more attractive. Now I’m wondering about all of those characters that have held me in thrall for so many years.

The late Janet Kagan drew characters that will live in my memory forever. Her SF book “Mirabile” is a study in how to write funny, memorable, and carry a reader to a place you want to live. Did the main character/narrator have flaws. I suppose she did, but they were so well woven into the stories she told that the reader would be hard pressed to pluck them out.

Elizabeth Moon’s “Deeds of Paksenarrion” is a framed series of books that follow  a young warrior through her trials to become a paladin and her first quest. Paks had plenty of flaws and she struggled with them on the pages, flaunting them before the reader so that all could witness her struggles and find strength within themselves to fight the good fight.

Whether light humor and mystery are on the plate with such writers as Susan Albert Whittig and the late Lillian Jackson Braun or an epic such as Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series, some genres lend themselves naturally to flawed main characters that grab your by the throat and refuse to let go. Grisham and Patterson, too,  create characters that stick with the reader.

Literary novels, oddly enough, seem to hold a different kind of following and expectation. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for instance, asks the reader to sit in a courtroom and witness drama unfold toward an end that, in many ways, satisfies no one but leaves the flavor of characters and story forever imprinted in one’s forebrain. The imperfections, as Laura calls them, come in both the setting, circumstances, social commentary, and the characters. A writer just can’t get more sweeping that in 296 pages.

I am learning to stretch my definitions and expectations of term usage. I know. It’s taken me long enough. It’s that Midwestern training I had so long ago. I’ve had to reframe my use of word poem this week, too. That experience left me ripe for this.

So, whatever fare you, as the reader, choose to slap  on your before-bed snack plate, decide for yourself if you prefer the hero/heroine to be perfect or to have flaws. You’re going to  anyway, but now you may stop  and ponder the question.

Until later, a bientot,


  1. Christian Nathan
    July 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Thank you very much. If my aunt had been a man, she’d have been my uncle😮

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