One of my highlights from Nine Worlds was seeing my friend A C Macklin talk about narrative techniques. She did an excellent job of getting into the technical nitty gritty of things I’ve seldom even considered, but that are important in shaping a story.
You can read the slides and Macklin’s commentary on the talk here and I heartily recommend reading it. But here are a few things I picked out during the talk, useful points to consider as a writer.
Firstly, storytelling is about getting a particular reaction. You can get different reactions by varying:
- narrative structure
- level of emotional engagement
- level of self-awareness
- level of deceit.
Building an emotional bond between the narrator and the audience is important. People instinctively want to bond with other people and things, and this is a powerful tool.
Some types of narrator to consider:
- Dramatized narrator – they’re deep in the action.
- Reflector narrator – the sort who speculates on the perspectives of other characters instead of just showing their own.
- Observer/frame narrator – someone entirely outside the story.
- Self-conscious narrator – someone telling you the story with a reason or agenda.
Each of these will draw different emotional reactions from readers and give you different narrative tools.
Unreliable narrators should generally be reserved for when you want to feature a particular twist. They can be unreliable for a bunch of different reasons:
- in denial
- speaking with an agenda
- outright lying.
I never realised there were so many options for unreliability until this talk. Now I half want to invent a bunch of stories just to try them all.
And perhaps the most useful overall lesson I took from this – consider the balance between the audience’s bond with the narrator and the space they need to reflect on what’s happening. The bond is useful and powerful, but that doesn’t mean it should always dominate. It depends upon the sort of story you want to tell.
They say there’s a library at the end of the world. After the final war comes the Cold. Humanity struggles to survive in the frozen wasteland they’ve made of the world, squabbling for resources and jumping at shadows. So much has been lost – it’s only a matter of time before we lose the rest. But there’s a fragment of civilization left. Urban legends about The Collection, a sanctuary of knowledge which appears where it’s most needed. And the stories about those who guard it are even stranger…
The Collection is a series of interconnect short stories about a world that’s fallen into trouble and the people holding knowledge and hope together. Edited by my ridiculously creative friend A C Macklin and illustrated by the immensely talented Andrew Cradduck, it contains tales by a collection of writers as eclectic and fascinating as their stories. I don’t have a story in this one but I wrote the introduction, which was a new and exciting experience. If you like your stories thoughtful, wild, and fascinating, then check it out.
Would you give up your idol’s soul to save those around you? How about if that idol was the love of your life?
I’m very pleased to announce that I have a story in A C Macklin‘s new anthology Moonlight is Third. This is a fascinating project where the editor invited us to write stories with the same title. The result is an intriguing mix of magic and murder, to which I’ve contributed my own mix of historical fantasy and emotional struggle, as a blacksmith tries to unravel a deadly magical sword – a sword that still contains the spirit of her dead master.
As well as stories by myself, A C Macklin, Charlotte Bond, Francesca Kilpatrick and Andrea Cradduck, the anthology has a beautiful cover by the aforementioned and ridiculously multi-talented Andrea Cradduck.
Moonlight is Third is out now as an e-book or print book. If you’d like a little more magic in your life, or to see what happens when five creative minds riff on the same phrase, then please check it out.