The Craft of Voice: Part 1

This post by JJ Marsh originally appeared on the Vine Leaves Literary Journal on 9/8/14.

In this section, I’m looking at choices: person and tense, distinctive character voices, Point of View (POV) and how to make the reader take sides.

I assume you have a Work-In-Progress (WIP) or some material you can use to practise the exercises below. If not, use the exercises to create some, or play with an existing work.



The most popular ways of telling a story are in first (I) or third person (s/he), although second person (you) has occasionally been used to powerful effect in such novels as Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City. Some books make a feature of switching the person. For example, in Complicity by Iain Banks, the readers only know we’re in the killer’s head by the change to second person narration. Many writers have strong opinions on which is best and why. First person aficionados cite intimacy and identification with the narrator. Those who favour third quote the freedom of being able to change characters or observe things the narrator cannot see/know. (WARNING! See POV points below*.)

Publetariat Editor’s Note: asterisk refers to another section in the full post, linked below.




Click here to read the full post on the Vine Leaves Literary Journal.