How to Read Fiction Step 5: Narrators and Point of View
Wading into a new fiction, it’s natural to size up the characters and get a bead on the story line. Who’s the central character? What is her problem or goal? Then off we go, following the storyline up and down until we find out how it all comes out in the end.
But before launching out into the plotline, there’s one big question we need to ask first, and keep asking all the way through: who is telling this story, anyway?
Is it someone who is in the story with a limited view of events, or someone outside looking omnisciently down? Is it someone we can trust or someone we must question?
A work of fiction is not just a description of a series of incidents; it is a description of a series of incidents as told by a particular teller. Sometimes a fiction is more about the teller than it is about the events in the storyline itself. Whatever the narrator choice or mode of telling, this important aspect of great fiction is something we don’t want to miss.
In this post I’m going to talk about the many different types of narrators an author could choose when constructing a fiction, and how that artistic choice influences the story that we experience as readers.
Mary Jane is a longtime literature lover who lived in the Cincinnati area for many years, then in central Louisiana for three years (what a treat!), teaching literature classes at universities in both locations. Now back in the Cincinnati area, she pampers her grandchildren, experiments with cooking, and visits art museums as often as possible.