Apart from a few preliminary jottings and an introductory chapter, I haven’t committed much of the new novel to paper or screen just yet. Something is preventing me from getting started and the nub of the problem is this: I want to explore the use of various narrative voices and experiment with different points of view, but I’m not sure I have the expertise to do this. On the other hand, if I don’t try, I’ll never know.
The novel has three main characters. Each has a secret that the other two characters know nothing about, although all three women and all three secrets are inextricably bound together. Obviously the secrets are revealed or uncovered as the story unfolds. My original idea was to write the novel from the points of view of all three women, in alternating chapters, where each character takes their turn to tell the story. What I can’t decide is how to do this for the best effect.
Do I stick to the third person pov for all three characters? Or should I tell the story in a combination of the first and third person? What about second person? (Tricky to handle and dismissed almost immediately.) Do I decide at the beginning that one character is more important, and give her the first person narrative? I admit that when I started planning this novel, I had one main character in mind. As the story has grown, and the cast list with it, I’ve had to accommodate other characters with equally valid stories and equally strong voices. Hence my dilemma. Who gets top billing?
I’d like to be even-handed. I want all three characters to be of equal importance on the page, and they must all get their five minutes in the sun, so to speak, but does that mean that I should keep to the same pov throughout? I think not. I would be too confusing to have the different strands of the story told by three different people, all in the first person. I’m not Jodi Picoult, after all – each chapter would have to be printed in a different font to differentiate between characters. But without being too ambitious, I think I could pull off a story that’s told by the main protagonist in the first person, and by the other two main characters in the third person.
That still means three distinct voices. It also precludes any of my characters insisting on showing me how they want to tell the tale. But they’ll just do as I say, won’t they?
That’s settled then.