Monday, September 10, 2012

How Do You Choose a Narrator? Guest Post from Sarah Skilton


I'm so happy to have the amazing Sarah Skilton on my blog today answering Julie Musil's question:

Who is the narrator of your story, and how did you decide?

Thanks for having me at your blog, Lisa! This was a terrific question for me to get, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to answer it.

In BRUISED, my contemporary Young Adult novel, the narrator is 16-year-Imogen, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do who freezes up at an armed robbery and is left to wonder if martial arts failed her or she failed it.
  
To tell this particular story, my narrator couldn't be anyone else. Imogen is defined -- and more importantly, defines herself -- by her all-encompassing love of martial arts. When I'm writing, I ask myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen to this particular person?" If you don't write about the worst thing that could happen, you may lose the chance to push your characters to their limits in terms of drama and storytelling. Who wants to read about an event that doesn't affect the narrator very much, or change him or her in some way? If it doesn't affect the lead character – really affect them – it won't affect the reader, either.

Because Imogen's identity is so wrapped up in her martial arts abilities, her failure to use those abilities when it really matters destroys her in a way it wouldn't destroy someone else, someone who hasn't spent the last six years training four times a week and dreaming of opening her own martial arts school one day.

I also chose a 16-year-old girl for my narrator because at that age the question of identity is especially important. The teenage years are the ones in which we try to figure out what kind of person we want to be. Coming-of-age / Young Adult novels tend to focus on defining moments, first moments, in a way that "adult" novels can't always do.

It was important to me to write the story from the point of view of a young person who still has an idealized view of the world, of herself, and of her place in that world. How will she react when that idealized view is fundamentally challenged? I wanted to pose the question, "If you're not who you thought you were, then who are you?"

Imogen as a narrator gave me the chance to do just that.


Sarah Skilton lives in Southern California with her husband and son. She has studied Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do, both of which came in handy while writing her martial arts-themed debut YA novel, BRUISED, due out March 2013 from Amulet Books

Bruised is now available for pre-order from B&N or Amazon

You can also add it to your IndieBound Wish List, or GoodReads.

22 comments:

  1. Such a great question to ask. What is the worst thing that could happen! And making this list before we start writing! Bruised sounds intense with a great character arc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Laura! There's definitely some angst in the book, and hopefully readers will enjoy the character arc. I really appreciate your comment.

      Delete
  2. Great question Lisa. And I love Sarah's answer. I can totally see why she chose Imogen as the POV character.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Natalie, and thanks! I tried to apply the theory that "plot is character, character is plot" for this book.

      Delete
  3. I love Sarah's answer. And I love kick ass characters. Literally, a kick ass character (marital arts results in kicking some asses, right?) :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stina, I'm happy to report that there is much kicking in BRUISED. I'd love to know what you think if you decide to give it a read! :)

      Delete
  4. Thanks for sharing your insights and experience with us, Sarah! It's wonderful to meet you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice to meet you, too! I hope my thoughts were helpful.

      Delete
  5. I like how you thought about your narrator--and knew it couldn't be anyone else. My most recent MS is just like that. Some of my earlier MS's I pushed the narrator to who I thought it should be instead of letting the story dictate it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The same thing happens to me when I'm trying to figure out the beginning. Sometimes I have to start writing first, and then figure out which scene best sets up the characters and story. Kudos on figuring out your narrator in your most recent MS!

      Delete
  6. Great post! I think the wrong character as MC can ruin a book, or make it.

    I'd love to see a post about unreliable narrators one day, because I'm currently planning a dual-unreliable-narrator book, and it's scaring the heck out of me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Amy! Glad you liked it.

      A dual-unreliable-narrator book sounds amazing. Have you read "Inexcusable" by Chris Lynch?

      Delete
  7. I love the premise of this book. So crucial and compelling--so many young people (and my-age people :)) confuse who we are with what we do. I'm going to add this to my TBR pile right now! It sounds great.

    Martina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Martina! I'm thrilled you're adding it to your TBR pile, and I hope you enjoy the book. Really appreciate your comment.

      Delete
  8. Love - first moments as defining moment - life is so big and endless at that age. You put it beautifully. I am DYING to read Bruised. Both my kids were in Martial Arts and it did consume our lives.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are unbelievably sweet, Leslie. Thank you! :D

      Delete
  9. Sarah, what a great answer to my question! Thanks. And I also can't wait to read BRUISED. Great premise, great title, and I'm sure it'll be a great story :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad I got to answer it! You're the best :)

      Delete
  10. Thanks, Sarah. This is just what I needed today. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you, Linda. What a nice thing to say. Glad I could help.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I like this story line. It's different and interesting. Glad I stopped in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much! I'm grateful Lisa invited me to answer the question.

      Delete