I have another great question on writing that absolutely must be answered.
Karli from Arizona asks: What are different narrative forms? How are they used?
The first one I'll list here is first person narrative which is told from the character's point of view using words such as I, me, and my. It can be used in two different ways.
In the first instance, the narrator of the book is simply observing events. An example of this is Nick from The Great Gatsby.
The second way happens when the narrator is actively participating in the events, conflicts, and resolutions. I use this type of narrative for my main character, Hope, inThe Healer Series.
Some authors don't like to use this form and some readers don't enjoy the book when the narrative is utilized in this fashion for various reasons. The most common reason being the limits this narrative places on the story as a whole. Some readers want to know what's going on in the heads of other characters. What are they thinking and feeling? How did they just internalize the latest event or situation?
To counteract this one-sided way of narrating the work, many authors will switch the POV in the next scene or the next chapter. For example: in The Healer Series, most everything is seen from Hope's POV, but there are moments when it is necessary to see things from the love interest's POV. So in other chapters we get the narrative from Tie. We are able to understand his reasoning, motivation, and internal thoughts concerning the situation that he and Hope have found themselves in.
Note: Do not switch POV's within the same scene. That kind of head jumping is super annoying since we aren't sure who is telling the story. It's also a clear indication that the author in question is a bit of a rookie.
With first person narrative there are also different tenses you can use. First person past tense is used in books like Twilight, where everything is being told as if it happened in the past. I use this in The Healer Series.
Tie shook his head and opened his mouth as if to say something, but all that came out was a wheezing noise and then an alarming amount of blood. I looked at the gaping hole in his chest and began to panic.
“Victor, why isn’t he healing himself?” I asked anxiously.
“He can’t,” he said. Victor opened his eyes and sat back looking defeated.
“Then you do it!” My voice sounded raw and tense to my ears. I was about two seconds away from becoming as unhinged as Angie.
“I can’t do it. I can’t heal him.” He buried his face in his hands.
“Quit telling me what can’t be done, and tell me what can!”
“Nothing can be done, okay?” The look he gave me was awful. A look of defeat. “There is absolutely nothing that anyone can do. The sword that stabbed him was forged in the land of the dead, and I only have so much power at my disposal. What little power I did have, I used to heal you when we were at the hospital.”
I swallowed down the lump of guilt forming in my throat and let out a trembling breath.
“Even if I hadn’t healed you tonight, I still wouldn’t be able to help him. You can’t heal a stab wound inflicted by that kind of sword,” he whispered. “Tie is going to die.”
In the present tense events are being told as if they are happening right now. The Hunger Games are a great example of this, but I'm not going to copy anything from the book. Instead I'll just use my own work above and switch it from past tense to present. It reads like this:
Tie shakes his head and opens his mouth as if to say something, but all that comes out is a wheezing noise and an alarming amount of blood. I look at the gaping hole in his chest and begin to panic,
“Victor, why isn’t he healing himself?” I ask anxiously.
"He can’t,” he says. Victor opens his eyes and sits back looking defeated.
“Then you do it,” I cry. My voice is beginning to shake. I'm about two seconds away from becoming as unhinged as Angie.
“I can’t do it. I can’t heal him.” He buries his face in his hands.
“Quit telling me what can’t be done, and tell me what can!”
“Nothing can be done, okay?” The look he gives me is awful. A look of defeat.
“There is absolutely nothing that anyone can do. The sword that stabbed him was forged in the land of the dead, and I only have so much power at my disposal. What little power I did have, I used to heal you when we were at the hospital.”
I swallow down the lump of guilt forming in my throat and let out a trembling breath.
“Even if I hadn’t healed you tonight, I still wouldn’t be able to help him. You can’t heal a stab wound inflicted by that kind of sword,” he whispers. “Tie is going to die.”
Some people like this form and others don't. Personal preferences. I'll admit that it took me some time to get into present tense, but now I dig it. I think I owe that to The Hunger Games.
Third person is a different animal all together. This is the most commonly used narrative form and is the traditional form for academic writing. Authors and composers will use words like he, she, or it when referring to a person, place, idea or thing.
I use third person narrative in Marry Your Billionaire. Here is an example of this.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to decline the offer, Mr. Prescott. If the outcome of this entire exchange is for you to end up a bachelor once again, then having me as your fake girlfriend is going to be problematic for you.”
“Why is that?” he asked.
Midge leaned forward, reached for his hand that rested on the table and turned it palm up. She then drew lazy circles around his palm and up his wrist. His eyes darkened a bit with a heated look that communicated her affect on him.
She continued that soft contact as she said, “Spend enough time with me, and you’re liable to fall desperately in love. How will you be able to let me go after that?”
Without hesitating, he captured her fingers in his grasp. Raising them to his lips, he softly kissed the tips of them, never breaking eye contact with her. She hadn’t been prepared for him to rally like that, and she found herself just as mesmerized by his actions as he had been with hers.
“Maybe I’m okay with the idea of never letting you go.”
Now this is all in past tense. The only time I have ever seen anything written in third person present tense is when I've read screen plays or scripts for musicals I've been involved in.
Midge leans forward, reaches for his hand that rests on the table and turns it palm up. She then draws circles around his palm and up his wrist.
Do you notice the difference? It sounds more like stage directions and blocking you might read within parenthesis right after the dialogue in a script.
I once tried to read a book written in third person present tense, and can I tell you...it was ugly. Don't do it.
With third person you can also switch POV's with each new chapter or each new scene. Just remember to never switch POV's within the same scene or you're going to give your readers some serious whiplash.
Thanks for the great question, Karli.
Remember to send your writing and marketing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org