brni (brni) wrote,

Ruminations on the Narrator, Part I

When I first started writing Fife & Drum lo these many years ago, I knew the main character was a woman, and I knew that the story wanted to be written in first person. And, being a White Male (Neo-Office very kindly auto-suggests “Malevolent” as maybe the word I'm looking for...), um, where was I? Oh yeah, being a White Male in Suburban Amerika, I wasn't sure that I could (or should) try to write a novel from a female character's point of view.

But why the hell not? I mean, men write female character POVs all the time, and women write male character POVs. And in Fife & Drum I needed to try to present Stacy's POV. But it occurred to me that anything I did with that wouldn't really be her point of view, it'd be my interpretation of her point of view. And I didn't feel qualified to make that interpretation and try to pass it off as uninterpreted. So I created a male character who writes her story, from his perspective. He reports events and behavior. He may theorize about the intentions behind the behavior, but no matter how sure he is of his understanding of her, the reader (one hopes) understands that he can't really know what's going on in her head. And sometimes he'll just come out and say, “this is what she did, don't ask me why, I don't know.”

So I've been thinking about this whole Narrator role thing for a long time now, possibly before I started Fife & Drum in 2003, but that's when I remember having to actually deal with it. For that novel, I clearly needed to avoid first person from her perspective and third person omniscient. And here's why:

(from jodi_davis): "So once again, just because I need to - the 'perfect' size 0 woman is really a tall 11 year old - developmentally pre-pubescent. Just saying."

Which the other women who commented just seemed to grok, but which prompted some men (me among them, tho not out loud) to ask, "What makes size 0 'perfect'?"

And I realize that until I can understand on a gut level what it means for size 0 to be "perfect," I don't have any right to be pretending that I can write the inner thoughts of a relatively contemporary female character from a Western culture with any degree of authenticity. Not for a tale of any great length, at least.
Tags: writing
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