Getting the Narrator Right


I’ve been playing about with various incarnations of Animus for a while now, and have changed both the narrator and the start-point of the story several times. Every time I think I’ve cracked it, and then I realise that either there’s a better way to do it or this new version doesn’t cover an important element or the previous version was just plain better. It’s not unusual for me to have a couple of casts at the start of a project before finding the right one, but Animus is now breaking my personal best on that score. I’ve managed to narrow it down to three options and would now like to outsource opinion. If you’re interested, please take a look at the options below and let me know what you think.

OPTION 1: Sabine – A slave girl who comes to dictate the course of a war through emotional manipulation of her master, the warlord Leukus.

OPTION 2: Leukus – The warlord who pushes his friend and king, Hematus, into a conflict that will ultimately destroy the nation.

OPTION 3: Tatiana – A skilled mind-reader who, after the war, has taken Leukus captive and wants to learn why he did what he did, whilst her own people try to recover from the conflict.

The challenge is that Animus is both a sequel and an explanation. The initial idea – as shown in Sabine and Leukus’ versions – is to tell the war in Spiritus from the other side. Why the Court of Blood started a war in the first place, and what it meant to them when they lost. The third idea – Tatiana’s version – is to try and get some of that, whilst at the same time showing what the aftermath of the war was for the victors (thus setting up the new world order that is the setting for the final book, Corpus). Is that option trying to do too much, or is it important to have the juxtaposition of before and after? Is it more interesting to have the same historical events from a new perspective, or does that not give enough new story to the reader?

Bearing in mind that these are all rough drafts, which of the three opening snippets would make you interested in reading the rest of the story? Would any of them?

3 responses »

  1. I’m much more intrigued by Tatiana. I’m drawn to the idea of an in-world narrator being someone with a messed-up agenda.

    It also, perhaps, gives you the opportunity to mess around with things like chronology; unreliable memories; false (deliberately false?) recollections; outright denial (by Leukus) of what Tatiana knows to be true; etc. (If such tropes fit in with the story, of course. 🙂 )

  2. Of those snippets, Leukus definitely grabbed me the most, not because of the character, but because of how you approached the scene – straight into the action; good balance of action and characterisation. I thought it was by far the strongest start.

    I also like the idea of him as narrator best, as he’s right at the heart of two central conflicts – the war, and the process of deciding to go to war. It should help give the story immediacy and tension.

    I agree with north5 about the potential in using Tatiana as a narrator, particularly stuff around unreliable narrative, though I’m a bit wary about losing the immediacy of being in the moment of the conflict.

    If you’re struggling with which narrator to use, have you considered using more than one?

    • I hadn’t. I almost always stick to one narrator, and have always felt that the times when I don’t weaken the story. But in a way I guess that’s what I’m proposing with Tatiana, so it might be a question of just rejigging that approach to include Leukus’ memories as more immediate first-person accounts.

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