Narrator One – “It was, I thought, as if they did not cast shadows. This kind of rather high-flown speculation is an essential part of my job…. What one is after when farfetching might be described as the intuitive perception of a moral entirety…” (LeGuin)

Narrator Two “I am not hopeful, yet all events show cause for hope.” (LeGuin)

The 1st person narration from multiple sources, as in more than a single character, is an interesting idea. Ursula K. Le Guin uses this concept in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness. She uses the stories of her two main characters, from their perspectives, to present information to the reader and it provides a level of depth to not only the characters themselves, but also the societies from which they come. I think that the tension between the characters in multiple 1st person is magnified because the reader has access to their inner thoughts and emotions, like stepping into their shoes, and it allows for us to experience both sides of a conflict without having them dictated to us.  Seeing a renowned author successfully use multiple points of view has sort of opened my eyes.  Now I not only know it can be done, but I’ve seen it done well and within the genre in which I plan to be writing. I originally planned on using a 3rd person point of view in my thesis work for a majority of the story, but I’ve not completely ruled out a mix of 3rd and 1st. Here’s a sample of the Captain’s entry.

Example – Captain Neeley’s image shimmered, flickering to life. “I don’t know about these people,” he started. “I think maybe they’re up to something more then they’re letting on. All the scientists tell me is that the experiment is perfectly safe but the container bots make the crew uncomfortable.  Jackson told me he thinks they’re too human looking… the container bot I mean. It’s like they’re staring at us all the time, even when the lights aren’t on in their eyes.,,” – and continue with the narration from the captain in 1st person point of view for a bit to really get across his emotions.

I may or may not slip a little 1st person into my novel, if it fits from time to time, in order to add a dimension of interest or convey information in a more impactful way.  Changing to another perspective would also be a way to change the tone of a moment in the book as the new narrator could feel differently than the main characters.  I could use the new speaker to shift the mood for a scene or two in anticipation of the next big plot point.  To possibly do this, I may use holographic journal entries.  An important scene already exists in the story where the protagonist is reviewing entries from a recording and that may be a good point to make a shift from 3rd to 1st person point of view.

Stories are told by an ‘I’ it’s just a matter of whether or not that person is actually in the story.  Every tale has to be told from someone’s point of view, whether it be an all-knowing word god or a character within the story.  Implementing point of view is simply telling a story.  One must decide which perspective, or mix thereof, would make for the most interesting read.

Point of view gets a little tricky when an author starts head-hopping or switching perspectives too much.  That’s something I want to avoid, so strategic changes are best and only for a specific effect.  An occasional point of view switch could add an audience appeal to a couple of different readers: those that prefer 3rd and those that prefer 1st. Best of both worlds and everyone gets some of what they want.

~Sarah

LeGuin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace Books, 1969.

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