Who’s telling the story?
March 3rd, 2018
Someone asked me a question on Goodreads this week – why didn’t I give Sharkey a voice in Fetcher’s Song/Battlesong (The Hidden Series book 3)?
It’s ages since I read it, so I had to go back and check. But this was my answer:
‘There just wasn’t room to give Sharkey a voice in the third book. I needed to have Petrel’s and Fin’s voices, because they’d been in the story since the beginning. I needed to have Dolph’s because she was somewhere else doing different (important) things. And I needed to have Gwin’s because she was the main character in the third book. If I’d added Sharkey’s voice as well, it would have got too confusing. A pity, but when you’re writing a book you have to make these choices. Some people will agree with them, some won’t.’
Anyway, that question got me thinking about who tells the story. Because if you as reader can see into someone’s head, you’re much more likely to be sympathetic towards them. (Unless of course that someone is a psychopath, like the Harshman, in which case what’s going on inside them will probably make you want to stick your head under a pillow.)
When my editors read the second book in the Rogues trilogy, they were concerned about a character who was basically good, but was doing bad things to Duckling and Pummel. ‘Kids won’t understand why she’s doing these things,’ they said. ‘They won’t like her. We think you should give her a voice.’
My editors are generally sensible people, and they know what they’re talking about, so when I rewrote the book, I added in some new sections from this character’s point of view. And it made a huge difference – she immediately became more likeable.
At the moment, I’m working on the third book, and I’m coming up against the same problem with the same character. I wasn’t going to give her a voice until later in the book, but she’s behaving badly again, so I spent Friday rewriting a scene in her voice, so that we could see why she’s doing what she’s doing. (Hint: she’s scared out of her wits.) And once again, it makes all the difference.
I just have to be careful that I don’t end up with too many voices. Because I don’t want to drop any, especially the chicken. What’s going on inside her head just makes me laugh.