The narrator guides readers through
the story journey just as a trail guide
leads hikers through the forest.
The narrative voice is just as important in memoir as it is in fiction, for memoir is a true story.
Writers need to think who is telling the story.
What point of view should they use?
First person; I, me, through the speaker’s mindset only.
Third person; he, she, Victoria, through his or her mindset only.
Omniscient; think God here, the narrator knows all and can think and see the action through the minds of more than one character.
This is just a quick stroke from the point of view narrator palette. The main point is for the writer to focus in and realize whose eyes the writer is looking through to make the story exciting for the reader.
A good way to find the narrator of a story is to determine who changes the most in the story.
Most times, memoir is a first person account of a particular time in the writer’s life. Remember that memoir is only a slice of life story and not the entire life of the writer. Sometimes the writer can act as an observer of another in a third person account of the time being remembered. For my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, I am the narrator who is experiencing each of the lessons in the story as they unfold.
Like any important character in the story, the narrator must be well-developed for readers to stay connected. He or she needs to be the guide in the story, taking the reader along the journey of events. The reader needs to be immersed in the scenes, feeling what happens.
To do this, the writer must provide specific details to flesh out the scenes and make the world real to readers, details that encompass the senses—not forgetting taste and touch. The narrator’s primary job, according to John Gardner in The Art of Fiction, is to convince the reader that the events she recounts really happened.
Beth Kephart says, in her book Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, the narrator needs to remain vulnerable in order to learn, along with the reader, on the journey of the story. The narrator must discover something new, something surprising—even to her. This shows the growth and development of the narrator character throughout the manuscript. The narrator can find the order in the disorder of story life.
This is how good authors write. We want the readers experiencing the drama right along with the narrator.
Is it easy to do? Hardly! If it were, writers would have a seamless time of it.
By the way…my “seams” are in tatters after all the comments made in my synopsis.
However, instead of revising and getting yet another copy of the same manuscript with the same flaws, I decided to send my 73,099-word, 237-page memoir about attending college as a mother of five for a developmental critique by professionals. The Author Accelerator group says it will take about a month to get back the critique. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
In the meantime, do you have any thoughts on the narrative voice that you’d like to share? They would be greatly appreciated.