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  • Meg Howald

Narrative Voice - a Difficult Choice

The omniscient third person narrator can simultaneously unfold a variety of actions and speeches related to more than one character. They provide a powerful vehicle to explore exterior and interior ideas and actions. First person narrator can take you into the character’s deepest being as if they invited you alone to be their shadow.


Have a look at these two samples that develop the same situation and conflict. Which one works better for you?


First Person Narrative


I never won anything. I never found anything – no cash, or a lottery ticket or a watch or ring, so when I got to work and saw this iphone under one of the tables, I don’t know what happened to me. I looked around, then pocketed it and checked it out on my break. What idiot leaves trashy videos on their phone after uploading them? Obviously Larissa Baker did. But there was this one video that was seriously fucked up, cause if you looked close into the mirror hanging on a closet door, there was serious shit happening on the other side of the bedroom that no one was supposed to see. I guess you were supposed to be watching the action on the bed, but I saw someone being thrown against the wall. And a knife. And blood. It was real. I watched it over and over, then threw up in the bar sink in my boss’s office.


One of the bartenders knocked on the door and saw me puking and asked if I was all right and if I would check the lost and found. A woman was looking for her cell she left there earlier and wondered if someone found it. I told him I’d look.


Third Person Narrative


He grew up feeling unlucky, never winning anything like his friends did, never getting laid like his friends did, never getting his gut punched or his heart broken , or finding something lucky like his friends did, so when he saw this iphone under a table at work, he thought he had just graduated. He pocketed it and checked it out on break in his boss’s office.


Holy shit! You gotta be kiddin. He smiled at skin slamming on a king in someone’s bedroom. “Larissa Baker, you are one sick freak of the feminist movement.”


When he watched it again, he saw people, not the ones on the bed, but people on the other side of the room, whose reflections he could barely see in the mirror of a closet door. He played it again and paused. Again and paused. And again. He was sure he saw a murder. There was a fight. Someone was pushed against the wall. A knife, then blood. And the person collapsed.


He rushed to the bar sink and got sick.


Another bartender poked his head into the office, saw him puking and asked if he was all right to check lost and found for an iphone this chick left earlier. She was waiting at the bar.


“Yeah, give me a minute.”






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