On voices and narrators in #charliecub

(photo copyright: me; illustration copyright: sister)

But fate – or was it us? – had other plans for her.

This week, I’ve been editing Charlie & Cub. I’ve put myself on a tight schedule that I am already failing to live up to–but despite this failure, I feel the editing is going quite well. Each day, I put a chapter in my bag and head to a a cafe (usually a different cafe every day, just to spice things up) and edit that chapter. It’s currently taking me an hour per chapter, but this will change as the chapters start to become longer.

I have feared, sort-of but not exactly, starting my serious editing on the series. The main reason was that I knew what the first question I needed to tackle was. I needed to answer the question of voice.

In C&C, the story starts as a pseudo-prologue. A prologue that sits at the beginning of and part of Chapter 1. The prologue uses a very different voice* to the rest of the story.

The prologue is insanely important to the rest of the story. It needs to be in there. But it is told by a point of view that isn’t used again anywhere in the series. When I started writing, I think I was trying to be clever. I wanted to have a completely different voice. (Think of Markus Zusak‘s The Book Thief–a narrator kind of like that.)

But for the story, that kind of voice doesn’t work. The voice is not fast enough, it is not young enough, and is mainly a narrator that watches the story but very rarely participates.

When this prologue narrator does participate, it gets into a bit of trouble, but it uses a collective pronoun, and that makes it hard to handle. I am not a good enough writer with that kind of technical skill. (Yet.)

So I have left the prologue with its narrator as it is. I feel that it is important the prologue is told in that way. But I am trying to remove the remnants of this narrator from the rest of the story. The transition between the prologue and the real part of Chapter 1 is clumsy. I still have this ethereal quality of the writing and the text that I can’t seem to get rid of. The narrator still talks directly to you. But the narrator for the rest of the story is an omniscient third-person narrator. It’s not a real person, just a way to tell the story. The narrator is Charlie, but not Charlie too, because it observes things that Charlie doesn’t necessarily see. It’s a common voice and one that I feel very comfortable writing with.

It’s cathartic to write a blog post like this because as I’m writing it, I’m finding solutions to my problem. I can mash up Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 to become a single chapter (it solves my length issue, which is why they were split in the first place) and pull out the prologue so it becomes a real prologue. This would mean I don’t have to deal with the transition of the pseudo-prologue into the rest of Chapter 1, because the chapter break deals with it.

On the other hand, I can keep going with my editing as it is. I could also edit/write a parallel story but told from the point of view of my prologue narrator. Most of the story (especially the final three books) are told in the omniscient third-person narrator, so editing it into omniscient third-person is lessened as it was written with that narrator–unlike if I wanted to change it/edit it into the prologue narrator. My concern is that I will get to the end of editing the series and realise that I need to try it out in my prologue narrator’s voice and I’ll have to do the entire thing again.

But, I guess I won’t know until I’m at the end.

* Voice, in this context, means the tone of writing. It incorporates style and turn-of-phrase and beliefs and point of view. Essentially, it defines who is the narrator. Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City had a very distinct voice. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books have a very distinct voice. It is how something is told and by who–if Holly Black wrote the Harry Potter books, they would be very different books because Holly Black’s voice is very different. This being said, there are two voices at play–the author’s voice and the character’s voice, but that is a whole different discussion.

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