Who's telling the story? Why? And how?
From various sources, collated on Dictionary.com, we get the following definitions:
One who narrates; one who relates a series of events or transactions.
A person who tells a story; in literature, the voice that an author takes on to tell a story.
To narrate is:
- To tell (a story, for example) in speech or writing or by means of images.
- To give an account of (events, for example).
|1.||a category of verbal inflection that serves chiefly to specify the time of the action or state expressed by the verb.|
|2.||a set of such categories or constructions in a particular language.|
|3.||the time, as past, present, or future, expressed by such a category.|
|4.||such categories or constructions, or their meanings collectively.|
These are all things you need to consider when you're deciding who's going to tell your story. Will the narrator be seen or unseen? Reliable or unreliable? Are you telling it in first person or third, present tense or past?
The decision to tell a story is fraught with mines: step on one and you find that people have Really Definite opinions about stories should and shouldn't be told - and what's 'allowed', and what's not. Tell a story in present tense and you'll find a whole host of people ready and more-than-willing to expound to you about how present tense is 'unnatural' and 'difficult'. Tell a story in first person and then have the narrator die - and oh, shock! Oh, horror! People will be climbing over themselves to tell you how illogical your story is, how the narrator can't be narrating the story if they're dead, how they can't narrate events as they happen...
But here's the thing: All stories are equally illogical.
Because really, when you get down to it, unless you are absolutely 100% specific with your intent and audience, ANY story is implausible to tell. Unless you're going to frame your past tense narrative in terms of, for example, a journal, or a record for a specific purpose, then it's just as implausible, just as 'randomly floating out there'.
John sat at the piano, contemplating the neat rows of black and white, wishing his life was so ordered.
make any more logical sense in terms of 'being told' than:
John sits at the piano, contemplating the neat rows of black and white, wishing his life was so ordered.
Neither of them directs your attention to a specific audience, neither of them gives a 'reason' for the story being told, and neither of them, since they aren't in first person, has any trouble with the logicality of having the narrator narrate the events - the narrator can narrate them after the fact, or, since the narrator isn't actually the character and therefore isn't involved in the action, the narrator is perfectly capable of narrating the action as it happens.
Neither is better or worse, more logical or illogical, natural or unnatural. They are merely different tools, used for different purposes. And either can work well, if done well.
So next time you read a story, ask yourself - does the story actually address the question of who's telling the story and why? Most, I think you'll find don't. And really - does it even matter?
PS - The next poll is up in the sidebar. Please vote for your favourite sentence! (And yes, sorry, it's still black-on-black :S Just highlight the area in order to read the text. Think Top Secret Polls, remember? O:)) Results will be collated and announced after three polls.