Last night, we had a really interesting conversation at critique group on your narrator vs your point-of-view character. One of our writers is working on a middle grade novel. Her point of view character is gifted and mature. Every once in a while, she sounds a big “old” or at least older than her 12 years.
Then another writer asked the question that got the discussion going. “How old is your narrator?”
The woman writing the story looked blank and I’m pretty sure that I did too. Well, she’s 12 . . . right?
The answer to that is . . . maybe. The story is first person and the narrator is the 12 year-old point-of-view character. But the story isn’t present tense so she isn’t telling the story as it happens. So when is she telling it?
You may be wondering why it matters. It is all a matter of voice and perspective.
If your character is looking back on the situation as she starts high school, she will have a very different perspective than if she is looking back from high school graduation or the day her own daughter starts middle school. Not only will she be a different age, she will have a very different set of life experiences.
A high school aged narrator may give your 12 year-old POV character a voice that sounds slightly older than 12. A middle aged narrator may give her an older voice or a much younger voice, depending on how she sees her 12 year-old self. Does she see her as mature for her age? Or just a kid?
Although I’m still processing all of this myself, I do have a much better understanding of the fact that you have to know who is telling your story. And when. But I have to admit — it sure is making nonfiction look awfully appealing.