He’s Not Omniscient, He’s Just A Very Naughty Boy


This week’s creative writing class got into some excellent debate about narration, voice and point of view and I learnt something very interesting about my style of writing. A brief discussion of the main options available to the aspiring author can be found here . I for one am extremely glad I did no research on this before starting as it would have confused the hell out of me and even worse I may have adopted a style that I thought would be appropriate rather than just get on with telling the dammed thing in a way that felt right. However hindsight being a wonderful thing and the fact that I am now approaching 15k words means I feel confident to find out just what I am actually doing.

Apparently I am not using the most popular technique of the third party omniscient narrator but a somewhat weird hybrid of first person free and indirect speech or discourse but in the present rather than the past tense. I know, I have no idea what it means either, but there is a wonderfully up it’s own arse definition  that you can find here. Anybodywhocantranslatethatintoengishpleaseletmeknow.  Better by far is this blog which gives some excellent worked examples and illustrations of various authors styles. However none of them seem to actually match how I am choosing to tell my story, or perhaps I’m just being thick.

From my perspective what I am actually trying to do is tell the story from one characters perspective (his name is Francis Perrin a young Victorian gentleman scientist) with access to his inner voice but describing the events as they happen around him as if he had a go-pro recording the whole thing. The use of the present tense to my way of thinking gives the story more immediacy and presence. The reader is right there with him experiencing what he does at the very same time and like real life the future will only be understood when you get there.

Here is a short example: First in the present tense in italics followed by the same passage rewritten in the more familiar past tense.

Order whatever you want, The Cadre are paying, it’s mostly good, especially the chops.” Babbage is keen to seem helpful and placate their guests. To Perrin the menu is a revelation, brought up to eat whatever was in front of him whether at home or in University rooms the choice is bewildering, roasts, soups stews, pies and more than one type of fish identified by name no less. Free will when it comes to ordering food is an alien concept to Perrin and although suddenly utterly ravenous he struggles to choose.

“Steak” says Salt, “rare.”

“Certainly sir” replies the waiter, “and for the vegetables?”

“Oh, they can order for themselves.” Says Burton with an evil grin.

Perrin, grateful that someone has made a choice dutifully follows suit.

“Order whatever you want, The Cadre are paying, it’s mostly good, especially the chops.” Babbage was keen to seem helpful and placate their guests. To Perrin the menu was a revelation, brought up to eat whatever was in front of him whether at home or in University rooms the choice was bewildering, roasts, soups stews, pies and more than one type of fish identified by name no less. Free will when it came to ordering food was an alien concept to Perrin and although suddenly utterly ravenous he struggled to choose.

“Steak” said Salt, “rare.”

“Certainly sir” replied the waiter, “and for the vegetables?”

“Oh, they can order for themselves.” Said Burton with an evil grin.

Perrin, grateful that someone had made a choice dutifully followed suit.

Dunno about you but to me the first version is more alive and immediate, you are moving through time with Perrin experiencing what he sees and feels as he does whilst the second reads as if you were watching through the window or on a TV screen at characters in someone else’s story. So if someone out there can tell me the official classification for what I am writing and how I would be eternally grateful.

See you next week.

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About lighthouseindesert

I am a recently deliberately unemployed individual who has decided somewhat foolishly to write a novel
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