by A. T. Miller
| Some may call it "voice," but when I refer to a "Narrative Persona" I am not just talking about a specific way that one personally likes to organize their language on paper or a computer. It is about style, about allure, about tapping a truly engaging human role. As the author, I find myself lacking the ability, despite my years of research, to attract readers. What I believe I lack is a persona from which to write. I must become an actor of sorts, put on a mask and adopt a personality that will draw people to my work.
Reduced to the mere facts of events, stories tend to appear bland. It's difficult, if not impossible, for narrators to translate actions into imperical data while maintaining the flavor and passion of human experience. Better, then, that we as authors try not to write merely as uninterested observers. We can make judgements that we would like readers to share, as long as the writing embodies the conclusions we oblige.
Some of the best authors wrote from the perspective of a vaguely distant, but unfailingly wise narrator. J.R.R. Tolkien began more or less as himself, an older gentleman with decades of experience working with English, ancient languages and lore, folklore, and British history/legend. When he began "The Hobbit," he remembered a sentence he had scrawled on a napkin during a class he taught and gave it life. The spirit of that story was his own, and it filled the pages, drawing in readers from all walks of life. J.K Rowling begins "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" with a mysterious, unisex observer grabbing us, the first passers-by on the street during the celebration of the death of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, by the sleeve and granting us muggles the rare opportunity to visit the wizarding world.
Of course, once these personas have their say, introducing the reader, they mysteriously vanish, leaving us to wander the treacherous ways of the Misty Mountains with Bilbo Baggins or into the Forbidden Forest with Harry and Malfoy. I believe it takes a high measure of self-esteem to present oneself as an expert or a sagely observer. Would it be the same if I wrote from the "I don't really have a clue" perspective from whence I view my own world on a daily basis? I guess one could make the argument that, while I am not an afficienado of everything, I am the one and only expert on the matter of Volcolia, the fictional realm where I create characters, events, etc.. I am indeed an expert there.
How do I write, then? When I picture myself as a grandfather, a place from which to start narrating my stories, I see a venerable old warrior sage with a lifetime of worldly experience and hundreds of adventures under my belt. When I speak, my voice alone holds you, promising to divulge ancient secrets prized from the hands of kings long dead in their tombs. My hands shake of their own accord, my grip falters, but my eyes shine with the fire of youth.