In Your Narrator’s Head

The fantasy chapter book I’m working on is my first attempt to write in first person.  When a critique partner asked me to add more detail, she gave me dock1several suggestions but I hesitated.  Were these details my character would notice?   How much would that matter?

Fortunately, Cheryl Klein did a session on voice and discussed how the author’s voice differs from the narrator’s voice.  She emphasized that your word choice depends entirely on who your narrator is, what the narrator’s backstory is, and what the narrator knows.

Think about it.  Next week when we go fishing, I would describe the dock and the lake completely differently from my son or husband. 

Me:  Is it solid?  Is the water cloudy?  If so, has it been warm enough to worry about a snake sneaking up on us?  Can I stay far enough from the edge to keep from tripping and falling in?

My husband:  Is the dock solid?  How can I keep them off it so they won’t stomp around and scare away the fish?  Can I stand far enough away to keep anyone from smacking me with their pole? 

My son:  Is there some place to sit?  This always takes forever.   A snake!  Cool!    Where’s Mom going?

Remember when you add detail to your story, not only should it move the story forward, it should be something your character would notice described in words he or she would use. 

Put away the thesaurus and get in your character’s head.

–SueBE