Developing the skills to utilise and be comfortable with several narrative styles, POV and tense, has been a focus for my development since I began writing three years ago.
Initially, third-person, past tense had been my favoured narrative style, but after a deliberate effort to broaden my skillset during writing my last three projects, I’ve become comfortable switching at will between third and first person – present and past tense.
Practice does make perfect. Hundreds of hours of screwing up and writing something new, has taught me to use these styles effectively as the scene, chapter or novel permits.
Having said that, I’ve still got a lot to learn, so I set myself three tasks with my current project, titled ‘Wake Up and Smell The Coffin’.
First, I’m writing in 2nd person/present tense. Wholly unfamiliar (to me at least) and seldom seen, it’s a narrative style that can utterly throw the reader (in a bad way) or completely immerse them if done well and in the right scenes. So far it’s been fun and I’ve left a Wee except below.
Second, I’m employing every narrative style I’ve learned in the book, including the ‘unreliable narrator’. So far it’s working well and giving the different characters and settings very distinct voices.
Thirdly, I’ve set the book in ‘real time’ with each segment containing a word count that reflects the time that’s passed in the main character’s present.
Here’s the unedited, 2nd person narrative excerpt from ‘Wake Up and Smell The Coffin’:
The Garage, Glasgow
The venue is entirely familiar to you. Its floor area, filled to capacity tonight, stretches out wide and long. The brick walls hug the crowd. Purple lights sweep the faces. Your eyes scan the faces beneath the stage. Each of them looks to you excitedly…expectantly.
It’s not uncommon during a gig, this feeling of connecting with audience members, but something feels…different tonight. More personal. You work your fingers quickly along the fat end of the fret, sending a ripple of excitement as the opening notes hit the air, charging the muggy air as surely as it does the hearts of the people assembled. They point their fingers at you in time and hit the opening line in synch with you.
“Drinkiiiing with my frieeends.”
Something, primal and wholly ancient stirs in your sub-consciousness. Carried on a surge of adrenaline, catalysed by the thrill of your own words being sung at you, you almost knock the microphone from its stand.
You throw the crowd an appreciative grin. “Tonight…Toniiiight!”
Stepping back from the mike, you let the crowd sing.
“We’re gonnaaa beee the ones, yeah!”
Fuck, you feel great. This is where you belong, always has been.
A young woman up in the balcony locks her eyes on yours. Her name comes to you suddenly.
The crowd disappears. The lights come up. You’re on stage alone and empty-handed, looking up at her. Her eyes are kind and sad and forgiving. The silence and her familiarity make your skin prickle. You stand with your arms palms-up at your sides, craning your neck to look at her, then say her name say before falling to the stage.
End of Excerpt
Mark is the author of ten works of fiction and one non-fiction.
He also writes Thrillers under the pseudonym CP Wilson.
Including the medical thriller, The Girl Who Sold Her Son and the psychological thriller Ice Cold Alice, which is due for release by Bloodhound Books on April 20th.
You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.