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Effective narratorial voice causes readers to share in an experience and hence feel what the characters are supposed to feel. An essay, novel, short story or any other literary work is a way of embarking on a journey. The narrator must take readers on that journey with him or her.
It is never enough to recollect a series of events; the story teller must share how an occurrence changed, affected or strengthened a character. It is this quality that gives readers a sense of living the plot.
Three ways in which narratorial voice accomplishes this effect
Narrators can cause readers to live the plot by maintaining the right balance between crucial information and tedious details. Readers do not necessarily have to know the identity or background of the narrator. However, they need to be furnished with just the right amount of information to understand the plot.
Since audiences are unfamiliar with a narrator’s background, it essential to let them know about this information at the right time. For instance, in the story “A family supper” by Kazuo Ishiguro, one learns that the narrator had lost his mother, yet he knew about the cause of her death two years later (Ishiguro 167).
Readers can then decipher that the ‘family supper’ mentioned in the title would be a tense and constrained one. It is then possible to relate to the effects of immigration between family members, as a theme in the novel. Through this careful placement of information in the novel, the narrator was able to convey information about the constrained relationship with his family.
Readers did not need to know about why Kazuo left Japan for the US as this was not essential to the story. The events of interest were his relationship with his family, and this took place after his mother’s death. This narrator started with the issues that were pressing his family rather than the occurrences that led up to their loss. Using such an approach locks readers into the book because it dwells on consequential issues (Eakin 33).
A good narrator must refrain from overpowering or dominating the story at the expense of certain characters in the play; instead, one should combine characters’ experiences in an effortless and rich way. A good way of accomplishing this goal is through paragraphs that have varied subjects.
One such strategy is in the short story “A man to send rain clouds” by Marmon Silko. “Before they wrapped the old man, Leon took a piece of string out of his pocket and tied a small gray feather in the old man’s long white hair. Ken gave him paint.” (Silko 65). The point of view in this narration is third person.
In one small paragraph, the narrator has talked about three characters that were essential to the story. However, instead of dominating the work through the narrator’s descriptions, the author opted to show the actions conducted by Ken and Leon rather than expounding on them.
For instance, instead of adding comments about why it was necessary to place a gray feather in the old man’s hair, the narrator simply described what the characters did. This minimized the level of dominance that the storyteller would have added to the story.
Readers continue to follow the story because few unnecessary explanations from the third person narrator exist (Altman 19). This individual only states what needs to be said and allows readers to deduce the characters’ motivations.
Scene clarity is a priority in engaging readers through narratorial voice. Audiences should be able to see the image of a certain character, event or setting as the narrator describes it (Wyile 200). In essence, visualization of the story’s plot must occur seamlessly throughout the story.
Some narrators achieve this by following a character as he or she gets into a scene and then describing what the narrator does in that circumstance. Alternatively, a storyteller may choose to give details of a conversation as it unfolds in a certain scene. Clarity is evident in the story ‘A family supper’. The narrator describes the family meal lucidly: “What is it?” “Just fish.” “It’s very good.”
The three of us ate on in silence. Several minutes went by. “Some more?” “Is there enough?””There’s plenty for all of us.””(Ishiguro 168). The storyteller gave a step by step description of what went on during the meal in order to convey his main theme. These short exchanges between the narrator, his father and sister demonstrated how each of them related to their father.
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The fact that the conversation largely revolved around food also proves that there was a loose connection between these individuals. Readers can experience the sense of uneasiness, loss and uncertainty that these family members have around one another because every aspect of the conversation has been covered. Therefore an accurate and clear scene description is essential in engaging readers.
Effective narration works by providing the right balance of information to readers. Storytellers must not give too much away, but they should also share what is essential to the plot.
Additionally, effective narratorial voice is accomplished by merging different characters’ predicaments; unnecessary explanations by the narrator would delineate readers. Finally, an effective narrator can engage readers by explaining scenes clearly as this enables visualization and hence connection with readers.
Altman, Janet. Epistolarity: Approaches to Form. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1992. Print
Eakin, John. How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1999. Print.
Kazuo, Ishiguro. “A family supper.” Esquire Nov. 1990: 167-169. Print.
Silko, Marmon. “The man to send rainclouds.” New Mexico Quarterly 1981: 65. Print.
Wyile, Andrea. “Expanding the View of First-Person Narration.” Children’s Literature 30.3 (1999): 185-202. Print.