Disclaimer: I do not own any of the novels mentioned below.

The Sane Writer's Guide To: Narration

Telling It Like It Is

Holding the mouse in hone hand, you doubleclick the link The digital page first goes blank, then slowly rematerializes. You scroll past the disclaimer, lean back in your chair, and begin to read. As you continue, you notice the self-demonstrating aspect of the first paragraph of the piece...

Narration is an integral part of writing. In some cases it establishes what the protagonist is like, in others it helps to paint the setting. There are many different styles of narration, including first-person, second-person, and the two variations of third-person.

First-person narration is one of the most popular narration styles. This type of narration uses the words 'I", "me", and "my"; unlike most other narration styles. It is designed to make the story sound as if it is being told by the protagonist by portraying the story's world through their eyes alone. Although this style was very popular in older literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee ("It was times like this when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived."), it is still fairly prominent today and is a common narration choice for young writers.

Writing first-person narration well usually depends on the author's ability to see the story through the eyes of their character. If the character and author are extremely different in terms of personality, then writing an accurate transcription of the character's views will be substantially more difficult than an author writing a character who is very much like them. However, it is important to note that an author who can write a dissimilar character well is a skilled writer, while an author writing a character with many similarities runs the risk of creating a Self Insert. Another problem, outlined by Superhero Nation, is that "first-person narrators usually intrude on readers with their thoughts." Thought intrusion often causes subtlety problems. To write first person narration, one must honestly understand their character, which is easy for some and difficult for others.

Second-person narration is rarely used, and its usages are normally for advertising purposes or for wish fulfillment in fanfiction. Wikipedia defines it as "a narrative mode in which the protagonist...is referred to by...second-person personal pronouns." It is characterized by words like "you" and "your". It treats the reader as the protagonist and was common on websites such as prior to its banning. Although virtually nonexistent in modern writing, the Choose Your Own Adventure series is a good example of second-person narration.

Writing second-person narration is relatively simple, but advised against. It is most common in the fanfiction world as a simple wish fulfillment device, and should most likely not be attempted in original work. Effectively, second-person narration is a gimmick and should be avoided.

There are two distinct subtypes of third-person narration: third-person limited and third-person omniscient.

Third-person limited narration is an extremely popular style, eclipsing first-person in use. It uses the views of one character, focusing only on their thoughts and actions. However, it is different from first-person narration in the fact that it narrates as if invisibly watching the character from afar, instead of the character literally telling their story. A good example of third-person narration is in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling ("Hermione looked ready to fling her arms around him again, but Harry was glad she held herself in as his head was still very sore.").

Writing third-person limited narration is usually more difficult than writing first person, although authors who are unable to accurately capture the thoughts of their characters in first-person might have an easier time writing third-person limited. Like with first-person narration, the author must be able to understand who their characters are in order to write third-person limited narration well. Overall, third-person limited is one of the most reliable forms of narration, merely by being relatively easy for an author to create.

The other type of third-person narration is commonly called third-person omniscient. Like third-person limited, its narrator figure acts like a watcher. What sets third-person omniscient apart from its counterparts is the way that it focuses on the viewpoints of all of the characters in the novel, as opposed to one. Novels using third-person omniscient will often switch between characters. Some of Jane Austen's works use third-person omniscient in order to convey the thoughts of multiple characters.

The third-person omniscient narration style is difficult for most young authors, and is extremely confusing if not written well. Superhero Nation describes it as "flitty" and "disorienting" when done incorrectly. It is advised that an author becomes skilled at other forms of narration before attempting it. Third-person omniscient is also hard to pull off in most works, as too many point of view characters will confuse the reader, especially if two characters are extremely similar. In short, third-person omniscient narration should mainly be used by veteran authors possessing the skill to pull the style off.

The above styles are the oldest and most popular styles of narration, although a few new types have surfaced in modern works.

Journal or diary style narration is relatively recent, although it is still found in some older works. It is similar to first-person narration in that it focuses on one character. True to its name, the story is written like the protagonist's diary. This style is common in female-oriented teen literature and more rarely in historical fiction, although it shows up in other genres from time to time.

Blog or chat style narration is journal narration's modern counterpart. It is effectively the same as its older relative, and gaining popularity. It is also common in female-oriented teen fiction.

Finally, some narration breaks the fourth wall. Within this narration the characters are aware that they do not exist or exist only within the book's This style treats the narrator as another character who the protagonists interact with. It is extremely rare and found only in works with a comedic tone.

Narration is an invaluable part of writing, and mastering the variations is the sign of a skilled writer. Some authors have an affinity for one type of narration and fail at writing others, while others can write the different types of narration indiscriminately. It's up to the author to find their narration niche and make the most of it.

Go on, give it your best shot.

You reach the final line, a word of encouragement from the guide's author. You scan the author's note following, then move the cursor over the backspace button. Will you leave a review for the author? You decide.

Author's Note: At long last, I have returned. My apologies for the wait.

Right now, I am in dire need of suggestions for Sane Writer's Guides. If you have any, feel free to make a request.

I have launched a writing advice forum entitled Dancing In the Kitchen. Link's in my profile, so why not check it out?

I hope this installment was informative. Thanks for reading. Reviews are celebrated, you know.