WRITING PICTURE BOOKS: Narrative Voice

There are many ways to write from a character’s point of view. This is referred to as the narrative voice. As I read many picture books, I realize that many are written from the third person’s point of view.

Question: How do you know it is written in third person?

Answer: The name is mentioned. Character driven books tend to be written in a formulaic way. We know the name of the character so we may connect with them immediately.

I am sharing my understanding of what I’ve learned about NARRATIVE VOICE.

When the writing is in first person, then the character uses I or we.

When the writing is in second person, the character uses you.

When the writing is in third person, the character uses name, he , she, and it, etc.

To show you what I mean, I am going to share a paragraph of my work in progress written in all three voices. This is called a HERO’S HOMECOMING. It is about a soldier coming home from the war and how his family and the community responds to his arrival. Maybe this can help clarify the three different voices.

ORIGINAL PIECE (WIP):  When you arrived from Afghanistan, you came in the middle of the night, while the children were asleep; you looked at them, and wiped the tears from your eyes, before it ran down your cheek. And I cried because you cried. “Don’t cry,” I said. “You are home now. You are safe. And I love you.” You turned, hugged me, and bawled your eyes out. “I missed you so much,” you said. And I believed you.

REWRITTEN IN FIRST PERSON:

When I arrived from Afghanistan, I came in the middle of the night, while my children were asleep. I looked at them wiping the tears from my eyes, before it ran down my cheek. My wife cried because I cried.

“Don’t cry,” she said. “You are home now. You are safe. And I love you.”

I turned, hugged her, and bawled my eyes out.

I missed you so much,” I said.

And she believed me.

WRITTEN IN SECOND PERSON:

When you arrived from Afghanistan, you came in the middle of the night, while the children were asleep. You looked at them wiping the tears from your eyes, before it ran down your cheek. And I cried because you cried.

“Don’t cry,” I said. “You are home now. You are safe. And I love you.”

You turned, hugged me, and bawled your eyes out.

“I missed you so much,” you said.

And I believed you.

WRITTEN IN THIRD (3rd) PERSON:

When Sergeant Jackson arrived from Afghanistan, he came in the middle of the night while his children were asleep. He looked at them wiping the tears from his eyes, before it ran down his cheek. His wife cried because he cried.

“Don’t cry,” she said. “You’re home now. You’re safe. And I love you.”

He turned, hugged her, and bawled his eyes out.

“I missed you so much,” he said.

And she believed him.

This was my understanding of narrative voice. As I write, I realize that I write more plot-driven stories than character-driven stories.  Next post will be PLOT-DRIVEN versus CHARACTER DRIVEN.

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