Reading Aloud 12: Narrating with first person

The tricky thing with reading a story written in the first person is that your narration has the same voice as your main character’s dialogue. There is a simple trick for differentiating when your POV character is narrating and when she is addressing someone else.

For the narration, think, “I am having an intimate conversation in a quiet room.” For the speaking voice, think “I’m talking in a public space.” Without having to do anything fancy, you’ll cause a slight shift in the tone quality of your voice. That sort of shift can serve as a clear marker for which is which.

You’ll want your narration to be more emotionally invested than in most third person stories, but
besides that, it’s pretty much the same as handling any other story.

Yes, it’s a short lesson this week. I’m building a Polar Bear.

Next Friday, I’ll be traveling back to the U.S., so I have an assignment for you.

Download Audacity, which is a very easy (free) digital editing program. Pick one of your short stories and record it using all the things we’ve gone over with these lessons. Then comes the fun part; if you send me the link, I’ll give you a critique.

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7 thoughts on “Reading Aloud 12: Narrating with first person”

  1. That subtle distinction between narrator’s narration and narrator’s speech is something I evolved over time without much thought. With the Sherlock Holmes stories, which I’ve been reading aloud to friends and occasionally live audiences for years, and have begun recently to record for a Web site for children, I made a different choice: Narration (by Watson) in my fairly normal American voice, dialogue (by Watson) in a somewhat overstuffed British dialect. Watson SHOULD have a distinctive character voice, but to put the entire narration into that dialect would be distracting and make listening more arduous for American listeners, certainly, and perhaps even for folks in the Empire. And the narration is technically written prose, which helps merit a more neutral delivery. Much easier for a listener to distinguish the two fairly radically in vocal delivery, even though ostensibly it’s the same character “speaking.” This is going to become even more interesting when/if I get to the two stories that are narrated/written by Holmes himself. . . .

  2. “Technically written” is ambiguous. I should have said, “And technically, narration is written prose, which encourages a more neutral delivery” (as opposed to dialogue).

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