Writing Through Multiple Narrators and Getting Their Voices Right, by Belinda Dorio
This month I reached 20,000 words on my manuscript and it signals the completion of ‘part one’ of Flesh.
Flesh has three narrators – one of which is a zombie and love interest of the protagonist, Talin. The most difficult thing about writing part 1 was getting the shift in narrators right. I was worried about chapter length and whether each individual ‘voice’ was distinct but equally engaging as the one before it. Talin (17) and Vea (15) the zombie-hunter sisters, run into a lot of trouble leading up to the end of part one and I really had to focus on the difference between their personalities. Both go through some sort of ordeal, but react in different ways: one may have more strength than the other, perhaps more humour, or more resilience. The two sisters have had very different childhoods and teen years, and I was really hoping to showcase that in this section, even though they seem quite similar when first introduced. Doing this made me realised that chapter one needs some work to make the characters consistent with my recent material.
Another challenge for me was writing from the perspective of the zombie, Rexan. I don’t often narrate from a male perspective, add the supernatural element to that and Rexan becomes great fun to write. He is stronger than the humans and has improved senses but struggles to hang onto his memories of being human. He learns that he can only retain memories of a few things, if he is lucky. Propelled by his love for Talin, he attempts to retain his memories of her and their relationship. He looks at photos everyday and keeps a journal where he writes any flashbacks or memories into. Rexan is struggling to keep himself tethered to his humanity, so writing from the perspective of a being who is becoming more and more instinctual everyday is both challenging and exciting. Rexan is also largely responsible for getting across the ‘rules’ of my zombies to the reader, which is incredibly important and needs to be clear and easy to understand (i.e – why they aren’t running around killing every human that they find).
I don’t want Flesh to be one of those books that you flick through to get to read your favourite character again (which I have been guilty of!). I want each character to be compelling enough that a reader will be happy to shift around, not annoyed or irritated at the change in voice. To achieve this, I’ve been reading a lot of books which use this technique. The last one I read was Careless by Deborah Robertson and I am currently reading a book by Kate Forsyth called Bitter Greens, I am intentionally reading books out of the YA/Fantasy genre that do this to make sure I get a feel for how different writers and genres use it.
I feel like I have worked my way through the voice issues and the set up of my supernatural rules; now I can go on with part two, the middle section, and really focus on making my characters shine as they battle the difficulties that come with living in a post-apocalyptic and zombie ridden world.
Wish me luck!