E6 | Books | Narration: The Telling of a Story
We've been looking forward to researching and discussing this week's topic - Narration Styles. How is a story told? How do we, as readers, interface with the story and grow to love the characters? We are exploring this topic over some choice beverages and looking forward to sharing our thoughts!
What's on our Flight:
Dalton’s drinking: Jefferson Reserve (Very Old, Very Small Batch). I am loving this bourbon! It is spicy, but not in a burning way. It leaves an aftertaste of sweet cinnamon. A bit pricier than my typical purchase, but well worth it for the sweet caramel taste and delicious cinnamon finish.
Nelson’s drinking: Dogfish Head Brewing's Raison D'Extra, and "Extra Raison" it is! At 16% ABV, this beer is NOT smooth, but it is effective! With an obscene amount of malt, brown sugar, and raisins, we both enjoyed this heavy beer, though it may effect Nelson's efficacy by the end of the show.
What's on our Mind:
Dalton finished the 5th book in the Lightbringer series, The Burning White, by Brent Weeks. This series ended well, incorporating elements of soft magic in the final story lines despite the very hard initial magic system. Highly recommend this series if you are looking for a new adventure to explore! In keeping with the theme this week, this series is written in one of our favorite narrative styles, Third Person Limited.
Nelson is wrapped in several fantasy topics this week!
Listening through A Storm of Swords, part of the familiar Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.
Getting excited for Rhythm of War, the upcoming 4th book in the Stormlight Archives series by one of our favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson. If you are interested in checking out this series, we suggest looking in to the r/StormlightReadalong subreddit which will get you all caught up in preparation for this exciting release!
Our recent trip to Universal Orlando had us talking about both parks and Harry Potter world. If Harry Potter is dear to your heart we can't recommend this trip highly enough!
The icebreaker question for this episode was posed by Dalton:
What would you change to improve one of your top 5 books? (You can listen to our episode on our 2nd episode where we describe our top 5 books here).
Nelson: The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, is Nelson's #1 book, so it is difficult to propose an improvement. However, the story is told from the perspective of a character discussing the events of his past. By the end of the second book, much is left still to explain with few connections made to the conditions of the present day. A longer first or second book would be acceptable to keep the reader hooked until the 3rd book releases. As it is, the first two books show only rising action with no climax approaching.
Dalton: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is Dalton's #1 Book! We are showing a trend of being especially critical of our favorites. This story follows a boy genius as he is trained to lead Earth's forces against an alien invasion. The children are engaging, intelligent, fulfilling characters that you grow to love. However, as a point of contrast, the adults are frequently shown to be incompetent, lacking depth and warmth that lets the reader identify and understand them. They come across as oafish and frustrating. In some cases this makes sense as the adults are meant to be antagonistic towards the children, but the extent to which it is done feels unrealistic.
Our fascination with narrative styles began when we both realized our love for the narration employed by Brandon Sanderson and George R. R. Martin. In fact, many if not most fantasy novels are written in this style (we now know this as Third Person Limited, which we will get in to later). We wanted to provide you with a brief summary of common narration styles so that we can talk intelligently about the differences and advantages of each style in future episodes.
Three basic styles are commonly described in schooling - First, Second, and Third person narration. These form the basis for our discussion.
First Person narration is a familiar style, using "I" and "My" statements to make the reader feel like the character is telling them the story personally. The biggest strength of this style is the intimate relationship the reader builds with the character, making it Dalton's favorite style (especially when told in the present tense!). However, this style is limited by the view of the character, meaning when larger issues or issues outside the characters perspective need to be described an alternate narration style or point of view may be needed.
Favorite First Person Examples:
The Martian by Andy Weir
Red Rising series by Pierce Brown
Pendragon series by D.J. McHale
This is an odd and difficult style, not often used. Telling a story using "You" statements creates an awkward dynamic between the reader and the narrator which is difficult to recover from. The best example we've found is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis where the reader is intercepting communication between two characters. Other examples include instructions (e.g. recipes), and "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, though we personally have not explored that genre so don't have any to recommend.
Favorite Second Person Examples:
Recipes (author talking to the reader)
Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (one character talking to another)
"Choose Your Own Adventure" style books
Note: These show notes are often written in this style!
Third Person (Limited)
When the narrator is using "They / He / She" statements, but the internal dialog of the narration is limited to a single character at a time, the story is being told using Third Person Limited. This is an extremely popular style in modern fantasy, making it one of our most visited styles. Nelson personally adores this style as it allows the narrator to develop personal relationships between multiple characters and the reader while exploring how the characters view situations and relationships differently. This style strikes a natural balance relational character development and story telling through multiple perspectives.
Favorite Third Person (Limited) :
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
Stormlight Archives and other novels by Brandon Sanderson
The Demon Cycle by Peter Brett
The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Third Person (Omniscient)
Third Person Omniscient is another familiar style characteristic of old fantasy and story telling. Again characterized by "They / He / She" statements, this style is removed from any character's specific point of view and is instead told from the perspective of an "Omniscient" narrator. An advantage of this style is that all information comes across as true when the narrator is fully trusted. However, the narration can feel aloof and distant from the characters emotions and internal dialogs, making it difficult to establish personal relationships with the characters. In modern fantasy and sci-fi, this method has largely fallen out of style.
Favorite Third Person (Omniscient) Examples:
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Scenes in Harry Potter that aren't told from Harry's perspective
All other perspectives in The Martian outside Mark Watney's diaries
We hope you enjoyed this discussion and learned a bit about how you personally interface with a story. Log in and leave a comment below if you have a great example that was left off our lists (especially for Second Person narration)! Cheers!