You and me and him and her: My misadventures with multiple narrators

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It turns out my review of Pink is the very first review of Pink as Lili mentions here. Aren't I special?

A few things happened to me yesterday:
a) I witnessed a car accident
b) I washed my dog
c) I got a grey, cable-knit cardigan
d) I got a rejection letter for Book Number 2
(Not in that order. It happened d), c), a), b). I felt it worked better in the order I put it in, though)

a) No one was hurt in the car accident. A woman accidentally put her foot on the accelerator instead of the brake when she was parking and drove into the toy shop. A post supporting the awning came down, but otherwise everything was okay. She was in a bit of shock.

It scared me though, because I was sitting outside a cafĂ© about five metres away, and at first everyone thought there might have been someone pinned under the car, since she drove over a pretty busy walkway. It’s the first time I’ve dealt with the fact that things happen that are scary and abrupt and random, things that you have no preparation for. And even though I wasn’t directly involved, it was very confronting.

However, I am one to overreact.

I’m going to skip over b) and c) because they’re pretty self-explanatory.

d) I received back my manuscript from a publisher yesterday, with a very kind rejection letter and almost an entire page of feedback, which must have been very time-consuming to write, which I am infinitely appreciative of. If she’s reading this (which she probably isn’t, because I imagine she’s very busy and important), I want to say thank you. It means a lot to me.

It was disappointing, but not as much as I thought it would be. I know I can keep writing and submitting and eventually it will pay off. I’ve got the advantage of starting very young. I know I have a lot to learn as a writer. Who’s mastered anything but Halo 3 by the time they were fifteen? (Or for older readers of this blog, Space Invaders.)

Now, here’s the bit about multiple narrators:

My novel is written in first person, present tense, from four different narrators. I can see you cringing already. What was mentioned in the letter, and that I’ve been told recently by friends and family who’ve read the book, is that it becomes difficult to tell which narrator you’re hearing the story from, because their voices aren’t particularly distinct.

I really can’t pull off multiple narrators, let alone four.

I think it’s because I write the way I think; largely that hasn’t changed the better I’ve become at writing, I’ve just learnt to articulate it better. I like the way I think; in jokes and daytime TV references, thinking about things far away rather than what’s directly in front of me. I like the way I write; sure, sometimes I’ll write something that’s complete rubbish, but most of the time it’s fairly decent, and every now and then I’ll write something that’s so fantastic it makes me wonder whether I really wrote it at all. Those instances, however, are very rare.

The problem is four different characters that think exactly like me makes things confusing and unclear. Funny, but still confusing and unclear.

Which books have you read that have multiple narrators? Off the top of my head I can think of Cold Skin by Steven Herrick and Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. Drastically different books, nothing like what I write. I loved the first. I’m not so much of a fan of the latter (I could have written Breaking Dawn for Stephenie Meyer and it still would have sold. I think it would have been funnier, and there wouldn’t be any cradlesnatching).

Do you like multiple narrators? Can you think of any books where multiple narrators were used well? Can you think of any where they weren’t?

If I had a drawing board, I’d be going back to it. But really, I’m just sitting down at my laptop, making myself a peanut butter sandwich and getting started on rewrites. It’s going to be hard to decide which narrators will go. I might eat my sandwich first.
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