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Writing Books/Narrative structure for a fictional novel

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Question
M. Wales,

I want to write a book (a political novel) about the life of a fictional political leader, from the time of his birth to his death.  But my BIG problem is that I canít find an original narrative structure or style that can present the life of the main character and, at the same time, present all of his political ideas and reforms (which is actually the real goal of this book). I just donít know how to do both.

I donít know if I should give an identity to the narrator or if I should make him impersonal. also I donít know if I should use a different narrator for each parts and if I do so, if I should use different individuals that knew the main character and are telling their stories?    

I was hoping that you can maybe give me some advice or give me interesting links that could help me find an original narrative style.

I hope my question was clearÖenglish is not my first language.      

Thank you,

C.P.L.  

Answer
Carl:

This is not an easy question to address, since there are no true answers.  There is no easy way that you can decide what type of structure to use for the story... no checklist or decision tree that will guide you into making that decision.

The questions you need to ask are ones that only you can answer.  You mentioned not knowing what sort of narrator to have.  The answer to that is plain: Your narrator should be whomever is the best person to tell the story.  Of course, determining who that person is... maybe not so easy.  Keep in mind it does not have to be your protagonist.  It could be someone close to him (such as a friend or family member) or someone who has never met him (such as a biographer).  I don't recommend using multiple narrators unless it serves a clear purpose.  If there's a good reason to do so, that's fine.  But don't decide to do it arbitrarily.

Similarly, your decision about the structure is going to largely depend on what type of story you're telling.  Again, it boils down to what method will be most effective.  If you can think of other books out there that are stories generally similar to your own, you might analyze them for ideas.  Otherwise, you may be stuck with the old trial and error method.

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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