Friday, July 1, 2011

A Perfect Narrator (with imperfections)

I love when a novel's narrator has that certain something that just invites you into his/her interior world from the very first sentence. I'm currently reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and the narrator of this book is exactly like that. The narrator of Brideshead is Charles Ryder, and he reminds me of Stephen Daedalus from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses by James Joyce, a narrator who also has that special something. I suppose it's just about being able to relate to the character. Maybe it's a personality thing. My eager-to-please, introverted type understands those traits in Ryder and Daedalus. Both narrators also have a hearty appreciation for a good bottle of vin, so that also probably has something to do with it!

...relinquish control to your characters

(Speaking of which, I have an excellent glass of 2005 Ana Maria Chardonnay in front of me. Books certainly do pair well with wine!)

The narrating characters of these stories make me want to read slower because I don't want the narrative to end! I aspire to that kind of transparency in my characters when I'm writing. I hope someday I achieve that fluidity and authenticity of voice. As it is, I think that my characters come off very insecure, because I project my own insecurity onto them. They always seem tentative, which, if you're going for tentative, is fine. But I think my biggest area of improvement is in the confidence department. I need to build some confidence in myself as a writer and to learn to relinquish some control. Relinquish control to my characters, in fact. I need to let them be a little messy and unkempt physically, emotionally, spiritually, and so forth. We all know in our heads, as writers, that a character should have flaws. But I think perhaps it's a temptation for us as the ones creating these characters, to micromanage the development of these flaws. As oxymoronic as it sounds, I think maybe we--or at least I-- try to write my characters imperfections perfectly. So...I need to learn to relax. Pour another glass of wine, perhaps. And let the kids be kids on the page (even if they're 85 years old). I think that when I can do this, I will be able to create characters whose heads my readers can crawl into and relate to.


  1. Beautiful post, Laura! I can totally identify. I do not understand how people read novels fast - they're going to miss something! Even if it's just the particular way in which the author arranges his words. If you read slow enough you can really appreciate this.

  2. Laura,

    what you say is true. So many times even the nost heroic characters need flaws, unless they're gods. And even then...

  3. First off, I've been looking around your site, and I gotta say - I love it! Now, onto relevant things about this post. I think I'm actually scared of my characters, for whatever reason. I don't mean all characters. I just mean a particular set of characters in an idea I have for a book. I think I'm so afraid of messing up this idea that they're holding back from me, and they won't let me into their world until I chill out and am truly ready to creep into the furthest, darkest crevices of their beings. Maybe that's sounds crazy, but whatever, that's how I feel.

  4. Claudsy, I agree with the "even then--" part of your comment. Godlike characters always have a secret difficulty they deal with. They would not be compelling, otherwise, in my opinion!
    Lauren H., I have still not finished "Brideshead." Now I'm just being negligent! SUCH an amazing read, though. It's worth savoring!

    Lauren M., I'm so glad you are enjoying my little blogsite! I get scared of my characters all the time! I feel like it's what holds me back from writing them to their destination. I'm a writer in progress... :)

  5. Lovely post Laura. :-) Been relinquishing control to my hero lately, and he's definitely been a messy and unkempt man. But it's been fun.



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