This week I spent hours rewriting sections of my draft novel – working title. This book is about a young, privileged teenager. She is at Catholic boarding school, but lives with her Grandmother in the holidays. The novel is set in a Central African country in the Great Lakes with a troubled inter-ethnic history. It is on the verge of civil war, but the teenager tries to ignore this out of deep-seated fear, hiding in pop music and school work. During her Easter holidays, the situation boils over and she finds herself the target of violence and persecution, fleeing to become a refugee in Kenya.
This week, I was worried that in the third person omniscient narration mode, readers will not feel they are sufficiently inside the protagonists head to care enough about her to read on. While writing ‘The Disobedient Wife‘, my debut novel, one of my editors told me to increase the voice of the British expatriate character as she was more ‘relatable’ to my ‘market’ than the Tajik. In this new book, my non-Western character will be going it alone… and will have to hold the reader until Chapter 8, when a French aid worker gets her voice.
She needs to be compelling and three dimensional, especially as she is a character from another cultural world than our own. It is up to me to ensure that the readers will feel an emotional bond for this young woman that overrides any prejudices or assumptions about her based on nationality, race or age.
With this in mind, I decided to embark on an experiment in Point of View (POV), transferring my novel, chapter by chapter into the 1st person immediate narrative.
There were results almost straight away. As I wrote in the ‘I’ format, I found myself relating to the character more as a teenager, a girl on the cusp of adulthood who is about to befall a huge, life changing calamity. I answered my own questions (how could she have been kept in the dark so long, how did she handle the increasing danger in her situation) and I discovered new facets to her personality and upbringing, including a rather snobbish attitude towards her fellow villagers and her politically extreme Aunt, the ‘peasants’.
She emerged from each scene as a fully fledged human being, with defined flaws and faults, insight and emotions. Those insights, moments of thought and reveals in dialogue have been reinserted in the third person omniscient narrative, with excellent results. In the end, I prefer the literary quality of this more traditional writing style, it suits me better as a story-teller. I find 1st person difficult to read and sometimes ‘slightly jarring’, as my Mother has put it.
Now, time to stop blogging and get back to the task… 100 pages down, 200 more to go.
Have a great week, bloggers 🙂