After struggling to find my character’s voice, pretty essential for a first person narrative, I have re-written two substantial chapters, and the writing went fast and easily. The voice is stronger, but whether it’s totally believable I’m still not sure. However, despite working six nights a week (and three or four mornings) in a pub over the summer holidays, I’ve written more than ever, which has been both a relief and an incentive.
It’s always said that you cannot be a writer unless you read, and I find that reading teaches better than any textbook. In this case, several novels were extremely instructive, with the added bonus of being unputdownable.
The Butcher Boy, which I mentioned in my last post, was a great lesson in how to deal with first person narrative, with possibly the most unreliable narrator I have ever come across.
I carried on from there, and read and learned from a couple of Welsh writing in English books. One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard is The Butcher Boy in a Welsh setting. There’s a young Welsh boy, a mother who goes mad and a chilling and sad finale, but the main thing it shares is an amazingly convincing voice. The gaps are intriguing, the boy’s trajectory utterly believable until the final few chapters, where you are thrown off balance by the developments.
Similarly, The Schoolboy by Holly Howitt charts the obsessions and mental instability of a boy growing up. It was shocking, but convincing all the way to the end, which again threw a curve ball. The dialogue was particularly interesting, with the monosyllabic exchanges of teenage boys used subtly and effectively. This is what I am trying to do myself, and shows that staying true to what I hear used, really used in daily conversation, will produce genuine character interactions. I actually have a notebook (in Evernote) which holds all the little sayings and original turns of phrase that I’ve heard and thought notable, and I intend to expand it.
All of these texts, as well as Rachel Tresize’s In And Out Of the Goldfish Bowl (with a narrator I didn’t like one bit) and Robert Lewis’s The Last Llanelli Train (with a total anti-hero saved for me only by his humour), have inspired me to carry on and just try to write true, keep myself out of it and let my character have her way.
Having said all this, let’s see what my supervisor says before I can say I’ve nailed first person narrative!