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March 20, 2013



You know, I've read something very similar to this by you some time ago. That your narrator had different opinions than the main character in The Actor and the Housewife. That was the revelation for me. Author/narrator opinions aside, it hadn't ever even occurred to me that the narrator could have a personality, much less an opinion. When the narrator wasn't a physical character in the book, I always just thought of it as the narration: the part of the book that subjectively displayed what was happening when characters weren't speaking. The epiphany that there was another character in my story that I was never aware about helped me in overcoming my very weak narrating skills.

Jeff DeCoursey

I love the idea of a third person narrator who is uniquely different from the main character. The narrator can laugh at misfortune or make a joke about a shortcoming, or just remark on something commonplace that might be important later. The contrast opens up all kinds of possibilities. Great post!


This makes me think of Arrested Development...probably my favorite narrator of all time. :)

Jen Lehmann

I taught lit at a community college, and had a student write an essay blaming Poe for the murder in the Tell-Tale Heart. *sigh* You discuss some more delicate distinctions of narrator here, but it's an important lesson!


I never really think about narrators, but I recently noticed in a book when the narrator was telling a man's part of the story, it seemed to take a slight misogynistic tone. I was a bit taken aback because I was thinking of the narrator as a woman because the author is a woman. But then I noticed that it changed for every character. It was very effective, I thought. The book was "Splendors and Glooms."


The first time I read Austenland and read the line, "Sure, Jane had first read Pride and Prejudice when she was sixteen, read it a dozen times since, and read the other Austen novels at least twice, except Northanger Abbey (of course)," I thought to myself, "Shannon Hale doesn't like Northanger Abbey?! But I love Northanger Abbey!" Now I see--what did it have to do with Shannon Hale? In fact, it's not even Jane speaking!

Helen Ellison

When thinking of narrators with distinct personality I always thing of of "Canterbury Tales," the narrator is quite naive, yet witty.


The narrator of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" :)

Genevieve Ford

Peter Pan has a narrator with attitude. Sometimes the narrator (who feels like a "he" to me) talks over the head of adult readers and makes jokes to the child readers. Other times jokes are made that adults will enjoy but that kids won't get. The narrator in Peter Pan is mercurial and ironic, making wry comments on the action and the characters.


What a neat truth that I hadn't been conscious of before! Thanks for bringing it up, Shannon. Now I'm mentally going over all the books I've read recently in terms of narrator.


The narrator of "The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao" actually ends up being a character in the book, but you don't meet him in the story until much later. His voice is incredibly specific and unique, though, so you learn a lot about him before you ever know the part he plays in the plot.

Connie Onnie

Harry Potter "Harry was left to ponder in silence the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge."
Austenland "He had a dashing smile it nearly dashed off his face."
Pushing Daisies "The facts were these."
Georgette Heyer “No one could have called Mr. Standen quick-witted, but the possession of three sisters had considerably sharpened his instinct of self-preservation.”
Arrested Development "On the next Arrested Development, Tobias listens to a day's worth of his own recordings to see what Michael was referring to."
Jane Austen "Angry people are not always wise."


I love the narrator in the "Little House" Books. Very witty... especially when Laura has done something naughty.


Yes, Lee! I love "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", and one of the reasons is because of Yunior, the narrator, who ends up being a character, possibly an even more important one than Oscar. I'm so glad you mentioned that book: I did an entire semester paper on it in college, but have kind of forgotten about it. Now I want to read it again!
It's been a while, but doesn't the narrator of Pride and Prejudice have a wonderful, witty voice? Also, the Wee Free Men books (don't remember the names) by Terry Pratchett have a great, funny narrator.

Katie Rose

The musical, Into the Woods, is includes a noticeable narrator character. As a performance it's not the same thing but, your question made me think of it.


The author and the narrator, athough two seperate entities, are not exactly detached. Take Candide, Voltiare is obvouisly trying to make a point and the narratoration of the book is shaped to make the point discernible. Same with Vonnegut in Slaughter House Five. The author, just as they are the writer of the characters, is also the writer of the narration and in a way becomes the narrator. In other words the personality and objective of the narrator is often so reflective of that of the author that the line is very blurred.

With that said, this concept only works in omniscient, distant circumstances and in no way makes the narrator/author responisible for any events that happen to the characters within the contained universe of the story. The narration is only there to tell the story in a certain way, present it in a certain light, and shape the over all tone of the book. A big job, but one that is often ignored in young adult novels.

In essence, the words on the page are not the narrator's (althought most are their "lines") they are the authors and thus they must reflect the authors objectives, believes, and what not. So aren't they sort of the same person? Yes they are different in relation to the story but aren't they the same in the overall composition and tone of a work?

Just something I was thinking about.
Sorry for rambling a bit.


This made me think of The Chronicles of Narnia, in which the narrator actually talks to you (the reader).


Catherine Gilbert Murdock's "Princess Ben" and, even more so, its sequel "Wisdom's Kiss" are excellent examples of this. The first has the narrator the same as the main character, but she's telling the story as an old woman about her youth. The second has several narrators, each with their own point of view and personality. The vocabulary and wit really add to both stories.

Ani Brooke

The Hobbit and The Princess and the Goblin - a lot of older books aimed at children, come to think of it. I also love the narrator of The Princess Bride, though I feel like that's filtered through another lens of S. Morgenstern... things get complicated when authors are "relating a source" and "commenting" on it.


In THE BOOK THIEF, the narrator, Death, is a character with a strong personality.

I'm thinking THE GRAVEYARD BOOK's narrator has a distinct personality too. In the first scene, Bod is too young to have a voice.

Is this the kind of thing you mean?


have you ever written a narrator that you disagree with? was it purposely or did you realize it later?

Lisa Asanuma

The two examples that come to mind are a lot of Dickens, and then Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.


The narrator in Vanity Fair. I think that was my first time really noticing the narrator as a separate character.

Nick in the Great Gatsby also sticks out in my mind.

I love the narrator of the cartoon my daughter watches, "Peppa Pig." He has such a dry delivery, which is just great.


I love the narrator in all of Oraon Scott Card's books. SO witty and perceptive. The narrator of the Artemis Fowl series can also be quite hilarious. The narrator the the Narnia series also slips in fun little comments... And I love the perspective of the narrator of the Anne of Green Gables series. The distinction between author and narrator is so important. I'm so glad you're pointing it out!

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