Total control at your fingertips with no control over them. You can write whatever you want but that doesn’t mean it’ll be believed.
Six of Crows (a good read; picked up the sequel) pulled off the multiple character narration technique in engaging fashion. Every chapter a unique voice rotating between the main cast. Kept the pace up moving back to the ranch when two characters had to spend a good deal of time breaking a strong drawbridge chain.
I mention this over any George R.R. Martin book because I’ve yet to read one. I’ve Nightflyers in the que but I know that thin bone won’t quell the wolves. I’ll read the seven phonebook chronicle when I get to it. Switching off one series to something else is a tall order for me if a taunting sequel is on my shelf; what more can I say?
I can only wait so long for the characters I enjoy the most to have their next spotlight hour narrating the story—a worthy gamble to diversify nonetheless.
A new perspective on each event and interaction with differing interpretations from each narrator. Or at least in theory.
The limitation on the multiple narrator technique is the writer’s lack of ability to separate themselves from each character.
In a single narrator story, the writer has one point of view to maintain and develop as the plot progresses. The consistency of their manner of expression can be visualized or graphed. A main character’s perspective on NASCAR being an idiotic non-sport may change after a fun tailgate experience drenched in beer. Easy enough.
But write six accounts of the same tailgate from six characters’ perspectives and horseshoes can be described as a silly game meant to show how intoxicated someone is to a true test of skill in dead serious competition and everything in-between.
It’s where the individual mindsets of each character can be explored which carries great potential. Yet, describing the same event or object in the same manner due to the innate trappings of a writer’s style can yield cookie-cutter narration. (Cookie-cutter made me hungry as I write this. Just thought you should know.)
Take a simple box.
Character 1; a short person: I can use that to change the damn flickering lightbulb. It’s right in my eyes and I can’t read with it buzzing away.
Character 2; a soon to be parent: Are those corners too sharp? Is the baby gonna hit her head on it? The top part’s padded but… No, that feels way too hard, the padding doesn’t cover the corners. What if, I put a new cover on that would? How much babyproofing will this room need before we bring her home?
Character 3; a tired person; Screw that thing, I need a couch to crash on.
All varied, unique perspectives with different levels of interest in the box, how it should be used, and evaluations of its worth.
Now take another simple box.
Character 4; a gym rat: It’s about as tall as the boxes I use for elevated sit-ups.
Character 5; a drummer: It’s about as big as the one I use to carry my kick drum.
Character 6; a child: It’s about the size of my toy chest.
The differences here, while all apparent, fail to strike interest because all the characters view the box through the same lens of its approximate size. Performed once it can show the interests or hobbies of a character but with hammer-to-screw repetition it becomes trite and exposes the seams of how the writer shows the characters’ thought processes rather than the character existing, just being.
Extrapolate how odd people can be and apply it to the entirety of a narrated chapter. How long will the average sentence be? Would the character make common use of the semicolon? Do they second guess what they believe they saw? What kinds of verbiage would they use based on their upbringing and education; of what quality and variety? What would they notice in another person’s kitchen and what would they be oblivious to?
Unless you’re characters are twins or clones there should be no two matching prose styles. That is the main challenge and benefit of the multiple narrator approach. Be a new writer with every new narrator.
Sat in a writing class a few years back, I heard three people within the span of a couple minutes call someone’s short story “Kafkaesque.” Out of the desperation to find a joke somewhere in the dark mundanity of the day, I thought, “I’d rather read a Kaufmanesque story.”
Maybe that’s the way it outta be. Throw yourself aside entirely and write as the character’s mind. The most convincing act—so powerful, you’re lost in the shuffle. Embody the character.
But do the characters give a zit’s worth about the plot or themes of the story you’re trying to tell? Should they all be bent sideways and kneecapped into disjointed beliefs just to keep the progression alive? No.
There’s a balance there that can’t be grasped with haste less it be toppled one way or another. No point in trying. Write till you know it’s there and continue writing without acknowledgement. Enjoy the ride for what it is. Ask where it goes and you’ll realize it never existed.